Ray Reardon at 80


Ray Reardon at 80

As Ray Reardon prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday, he visits the Welsh Open championship in Newport to reflect on a career that brought him six World titles.


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Transcript


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Relaxed...cool,

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just waiting for the world title.

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At the table, taking the last four balls

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is a former champion on five occasions,

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Welshman Ray Reardon.

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There you go.

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I've still got it.

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And there it goes.

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Throughout the 1970s, Ray Reardon dominated the world of snooker.

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He won the World Championship six times.

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The game became hugely popular on television

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and he was its biggest star.

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CHEERING

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-What is the fascination of this game to you?

-It's colourful.

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It's artistic. You can...should...

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or try to make the white ball do what you want it to do.

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Oh, it's ambiguous.

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How do you mean, ambiguous?

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One day you can do everything, and another day you can do nothing.

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-You know, it's as frustrating as it is fascinating.

-Yes.

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The tough competitor with the twinkling eyes had been shaped

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by his early years in the South Wales valleys,

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where he was born in 1932.

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Tredegar, where I was born, what a lovely little place.

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It had a population of roughly about 15,000, I suppose, in those days.

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And going back to 90 in the mid '40s, if you like.

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This is where it all happened, right behind me,

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number 57, Whitworth Terrace. My word,

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that's going back a few years.

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As I look down here, I can see there's all sun patios and everything out here.

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They must be expecting hot weather sometime in any case.

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But that's nice because this is where it all happened, where I learned to play.

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I made my own little footballs out of pieces of paper

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and marbles and the usual games that kids do.

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And Uncle Dan who came to live with us later on was a master chess player.

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He was the one who got me going in the world of billiards and snooker.

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He got me a small 3 by 2 billiard table

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and we played with balls that wouldn't go in the pocket.

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And he said you want smaller ones, like little marbles.

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And as a result they went in the pocket, and if it works

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and you make them go in the pocket, it encourages you to play more.

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And all the other brothers took me to the billiard hall

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and it was absolutely magic.

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I tell you what, these steps didn't used to be there at the start of it.

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It makes it very hard these days coming up here.

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That was just a run down there, there was nothing,

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there was no road, this was just mountain.

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And just up there, we used to be in the mud,

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we used to dig holes in the mountain, where we used to put seats in it,

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have a pipe coming out...

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Cooked some nice jacket potatoes.

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Smoke paper, brown paper.

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Naughty, isn't it?

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I remember your face like it was yesterday.

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But names, well, I can't remember what happened yesterday sometimes, can I?

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-There's not many of us left.

-There isn't at all.

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They said they were going to come and find people, and here you've turned up.

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How wonderful, isn't that fantastic? Next-door neighbour.

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70 bloody years ago and he wants me to remember his name.

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I can't remember what happened yesterday.

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Sometimes I forget my own name.

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See how Tredegar has changed over the years.

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Going into the '70s and '80s, it really changed.

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And as I'm walking up Castle Street here, and I look down at

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the clock tower in the middle there, that used to be the bus station.

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All the bus stops, wherever you wanted to go, were parked around the clock.

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And there was pubs on the corner,

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everything evolved around it,

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it was a hive of activity. I look down here today and I see it

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boarded up here, closed there, nothing here, the buses are no more.

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And I thought how sad this is. What do people do these days?

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Ray Reardon is a highly intelligent person

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who still regrets not having enough education.

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But he passed up the chance to go to grammar school, following his father

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down the pit at 14, and free to pursue his passion for snooker.

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Of course, going down the mines,

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you just followed in your father's footsteps, really.

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You didn't know the dangers or the pitfalls that were there.

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You didn't realise what type of hard, hazardous life,

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risky life, it was going to be

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because of the fact that you followed in your dad's footsteps.

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If it's safe for him, it's safe for me.

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And of course I started off, as you say, 14 years of age, 1946,

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I started in Ty Trist.

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And when you go onto the coal face, you're assigned to a collier.

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You become the assistant, for want of a better word.

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I went with a guy, he was a scrat.

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In other words, he was mean and he put me above all people with him.

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So the first week I worked my socks off,

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expecting to get a decent pocket money.

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I would say a decent pocket money would be something like a pound.

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£1.25p.

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He gave me 50p.

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Very disappointed.

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So the following week, I'd still been assigned to him,

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I didn't work so hard that week.

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Eventually, I was there by myself.

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So I became a coal hewer, at an early age of 16.

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My money went up

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and suddenly I'm earning something like three pounds a week.

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I went home with three pounds a week, in something like 1948.

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It helped my snooker. I could play more games of snooker.

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It would take a bit of pressure away, you know.

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The young Reardon's game developed steadily in the snooker halls of Tredegar,

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especially the Workmen's Institute, with its seven tables.

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Then, at the age of 16, he made it through to the Youth Championship of Great Britain,

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an all-Welsh final between Ray Reardon of Tredegar and Jack Carney of Pontardawe.

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We go to Langham House, the BBC,

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Sports Report on a Saturday.

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Introduced by Angus Mackay. Do you remember Sports Report?

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# Brump a dum, brump a dum... #

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And here I am in Langham House!

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We got up to the top tower where he is, and you go into this huge room

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and there's an enormous mic hanging down from the ceiling

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like a Lord Haw-Haw mic, when he used to broadcast over the war.

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And there he is, and he's talking to the viewers and he says,

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"We've got an all-Welsh final of the Youth Championship of Great Britain

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"and in the final we've got Jack Carney of Pontardawe and Ray Reardon of Tredegar.

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"Tredegar," he says. "Ebbw Vale, that's the one," he says, "that's where Nye Bevan was born."

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He doesn't know where Nye Bevan was born. He was born in Tredegar.

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Ebbw Vale was his constituency,

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so here I am, 16 years of age,

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from now on I'm not going to trust any interviewer at all, because they don't know anything.

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APPLAUSE

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I don't believe it.

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Are there certain shots that are foolproof?

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-Those are very easy, as you can see, first time.

-That's amazing.

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Are there any shots that are foolproof

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in the sense that a fool like myself can do them?

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Oh, yes, I can set you up with a shot that you can do yourself.

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-Would you like to try one?

-I would, sir. Let me get a cue.

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Get a cue.

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LAUGHTER

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They set me up for that.

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These days, the hub of the game in Tredegar is the Mark Williams Snooker Club.

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Ray visits the club on a day when he's one of three world champions on view around the tables.

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There's the club's owner, of course, and the great Stephen Hendry,

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who's practising with Mark.

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And there's even another local hero on hand - an old friend of Ray's.

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It's Doug Mountjoy.

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I haven't seen Doug for years and it's nice to see him back in the game again.

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And one of the reasons why he's come back in the game again is because of

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the conditions that they have here at Mark's club.

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I remember coming here five, seven years ago,

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and I can assure you, it was the pits.

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It was awful, it was disgusting.

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So the effort they've put in to make this as it is now has been tremendous,

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it's been enormous.

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And you can see, you've got young people in here of 8, 10, 12, 14 years of age.

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This is where the business of the game starts, you know.

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I learnt to play in Tredegar Workmen's Institute,

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which is not far from here, just in town.

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And when I was there, all my ambition was to become champion of the club.

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And I'm sure these young, aspiring players,

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that should be their aim, to be champion of the Mark Williams Club.

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Bearing in mind that I had two shillings a week pocket money,

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and it was thruppence a game,

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so loser pays.

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So you could have eight games of snooker for two shillings.

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But if you lost them all, you're skint for the week.

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So you'd better learn to play quick or take up something else.

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All your other players, your mates as you'd call them,

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on a Saturday night they'd say to me, "Ray,

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"we're going to go to the dance hall at Herbie Jones in Tredegar here.

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"But first we'll have a couple of pints.

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"We'll meet at seven o'clock around the clock tower."

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And I would say, "Which pub are you going to use?

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"The Punch House, the Golden Lion, the Cambrian," and they'd say,

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"No, we're going to the Punch House, have a game of snooker and darts, a few pints and a game of pool."

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And I said, "I'll be there at nine o'clock."

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Because I will come here, into the billiard hall,

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and have two hours' practice, then I'd pick them up,

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have a game of darts, have a few pints and go to the dance hall,

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look for a girl, as you know.

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And so I missed out on nothing.

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Being a miner did have a lot of influence on my snooker career.

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Merely the fact that you play with all these working-class people.

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They were so supportive of you and you didn't realise it

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until you went back down the pit the next day and everybody would be asking,

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"How did you get on yesterday? Did you win?"

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"No, I lost, but I'll get him next time."

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And that helped my attitude to snooker, to make me more competitive.

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Ray's snooker was thriving,

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but the pits of South Wales were going into serious decline.

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The young miner went to the Midlands to find work.

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You could make a living there, but the pit was still a dangerous place.

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Something serious happened to me in the mines.

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And that changed my life altogether really, because I got buried.

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And when you're buried in the mines,

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you're under about four or five tonnes of rubble

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and you can't move a muscle and you're doubled over, and you can feel

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your blood going out of your system, you open your mouth to breathe

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and all the particles of dust goes into your mouth

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and you think I mustn't do that, I must breathe through my nose.

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And my blood pressure was soaring

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and I had to concentrate on something.

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And I was lucky to have a brother who was 17 years younger than I,

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brother Ron, and I played marbles with him in my mind.

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Thousands of games of marbles.

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And eventually I got my blood pressure right down, I nearly stopped by heart rate,

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I got it down low and I survived.

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So I said, "I don't think I'm worried about a game of snooker,

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"there's other things in life, it's not the end of the world, a game of snooker."

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But it's so essential to those who play it.

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-It's been a pleasure.

-Any time, Ray.

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We've seen Doug over there, we've had a word with him.

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Full of legends in here today.

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After being buried alive in the pits, Ray Reardon left coal mining in the late 1950s.

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Education and experience hadn't prepared him

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for any other career, but he hit on the idea of the police force.

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The training regime came as a bit of a shock.

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It was unbelievable, the guy in charge of the keep-fit -

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don't forget, I'd been down the mines for 11 years,

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I'm not going to be fit, I can't have, in those conditions.

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Anyhow, I'm at the college

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and on the Wednesday they went on a three-mile run.

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For the first 150 yards, I'm all right.

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Then, after that, I walked.

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So I'm going to walk three miles, it's going to take me an hour and a quarter, hour and a half.

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So when I got back, he's still there.

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I go to gate, and he goes click.

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He said, "PC Reardon," he said, "You're not going to become a policeman."

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And I looked at the sergeant and said,

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"I'm going to become a policeman." He said, "How do you make that out?"

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I said, "When I'm out on the beat and I get a call

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"to go down to trouble at a pub somewhere, I'll walk down.

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"By the time I get there, they'll have hit holy hell out of each other, and I just pick them up."

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He said, "I think you may become a policeman."

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And of course, I continued my snooker.

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In fact, I achieved my ambition of winning the English Amateur Championship in 1963/64,

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whilst I was in the police force.

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And then later on, some good luck came to me

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to go on a tour of South Africa.

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As a result of that, of course, I eventually turned professional.

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And then along came colour television.

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Pot Black was a sudden-death competition, which transformed

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the fortunes of snooker.

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But taking part was a risky venture for Ray,

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who hadn't long turned professional.

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What if I take part in Pot Black?

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It's a one-frame knockout, sudden death, and you lose in the first round.

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So you don't pot many balls.

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And you're try to sell yourself by advertising, sending circulars

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out to clubs, to secretaries.

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They see this Pot Black, and you've gone out first round

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and you haven't scored anything and they say, "We don't want him in our club."

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That's a very dodgy, that's very risky. So I took the risk.

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I was one of the lucky ones because I won the first one.

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In 1969. And I'd have to change my career.

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The 1970s saw the World Championship become a big TV event.

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The long, intense battles of these snooker finals were perfect for Reardon.

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He was a great potter, but he also had the gritty determination

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and the tactical skill you needed to win.

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CHEERING

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But above all, Ray Reardon was an entertainer.

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In the '70s and '80s, the snooker calendar wasn't jammed with tournaments.

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So Ray spent the summers on the holiday camp circuit,

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entertaining the crowds with his repertoire of trick shots.

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And an invitation to all-comers to have a go with a world champion.

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Snooker has transformed itself

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since those early days of celebrity in the '70s.

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It's fast, dynamic and full of appeal to young and old alike.

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It certainly appeals to Ray Reardon,

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who relishes the new style of the game.

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Coming to the Welsh Open, I love that, especially in Newport.

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It's great to see the passion for the game still strong in Wales.

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Thank you. Thanks, Ray.

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I like just slipping into the auditorium when it's empty.

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Before the crowds come.

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It's great to get a feeling for the space, it's like theatre really.

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And for a long time, it was my stage and I loved every moment.

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At the moment, I'm just absorbing what is here,

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what I can use for myself when I'm playing.

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I mean, where we are now, we've got an empty arena.

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Imagine it full.

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You can imagine goose pimples coming on your face

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and up the back of your arm, and I look around and I think,

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"Wow, this is going to be something today!"

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And then I want to just get the general feeling of how far I am away from the audience.

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I don't like to be too far.

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If possible, I like to communicate with them in some way, shape or form.

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Yes.

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Yes.

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This tells me which pocket to play, which is more friendly than the other one.

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Just by general looking at it, feeling it.

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It's a world of experience which tells you...

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that I'd be better potting them up there than in here,

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and I'd be better potting them in there than in here.

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It favours you fractionally, marginally. I'm talking...

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Oh, a 128th of an inch or something, you know.

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Something infinitesimal, really.

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I now look where the cameras are.

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I know there will be three of them.

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There'll be one coming down the table, elongated sort of thing.

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And you'll have two coming down as far as the middle pocket, I suppose.

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That's very general. And I want to know where they are

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for my purpose, not for their purpose.

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Here is a media which I'm going to exploit.

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I'm going to sell myself to the public just by doing various things.

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Where I twaddle my ear or pinch my nose,

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or go in your pockets for a bit of chalk or something, adjust your tie.

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I'm doing it to attract attention,

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that they will focus on me rather than him.

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I mean, this is free.

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Sell yourself. I mean, you've got to pay a lot of money

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to get on television. I can do it for nothing.

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You're aware of it, you know.

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You make sure that the cameras will find you.

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Because when you get up, they're not expecting you to get up.

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Get on him, where's he going, what's he doing?

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What's he doing over there?

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And suddenly they become aware of this person here.

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I mean...a bit of mileage in you, isn't there?

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And you've just got to exploit it, I'm afraid.

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Sometimes you may have heard...

0:19:330:19:35

or people may have heard one of the commentators say,

0:19:350:19:38

"My God, he's gone into the zone by the look of him."

0:19:380:19:40

In other words, he's not aware of anything that's going on around him.

0:19:400:19:44

When he's playing in this sort of form,

0:19:460:19:48

you can't afford to let him in with reds spread all over the table like this.

0:19:480:19:53

He's right in with... like if the balls are his.

0:19:530:19:56

And he's nurturing them,

0:19:560:19:58

and I'm going to take you on, come with me and do this.

0:19:580:20:01

And they do exactly as he says. It's wonderful.

0:20:010:20:03

And it isn't very often you go into that zone,

0:20:030:20:07

but when you get in there...

0:20:070:20:09

Oh, I can't explain it, it's... You never miss anything,

0:20:090:20:14

your positional play is accurate, it's spot-on,

0:20:140:20:17

within inches of where you want it to go, nothing is difficult.

0:20:170:20:21

And you're playing so well that even if you did make

0:20:210:20:24

a bit of a loose shot, you're playing so well

0:20:240:20:27

that you can recover from it because you're on form, as they say.

0:20:270:20:31

-You're looking well.

-Amazing, isn't it?

-Bloody hell. How old are you now?

0:20:310:20:34

I shouldn't say, that's a bit rude, really.

0:20:340:20:37

I'll be 80 in October, let's put it that way.

0:20:370:20:40

Yeah, you don't look a day over 60, love.

0:20:400:20:43

He's a flatterer.

0:20:430:20:46

Do you still get the buzz when you walk out

0:20:460:20:48

and you see the arena glistening, ready to go?

0:20:480:20:50

You're bound to really, aren't you?

0:20:500:20:52

It's always changing, but it's changing for the good.

0:20:520:20:56

I've only put one tweet out today, and look, there it is. How's that?

0:20:560:21:00

-And I've got a plug there.

-That's the only tweet...

-I've got a plug

0:21:000:21:05

-on the Facebook. What do you think of that?

-Hi, boss.

0:21:050:21:08

Surely, you'd say the word "legend" is grossly overused in sport.

0:21:080:21:13

But for a man of that stature and character and personality

0:21:130:21:18

and warmth, legend is the right word, isn't it?

0:21:180:21:20

-That table was so fast.

-It was, wasn't it? Lightning.

0:21:200:21:24

You just rolled out and it kept rolling.

0:21:240:21:27

And you only get this limited time.

0:21:270:21:30

I think the thing that Ray developed first, more than any other player,

0:21:300:21:34

he dominated the table.

0:21:340:21:35

Even if he wasn't actually on the table playing,

0:21:350:21:38

he kind of had an aura, walked around the table, laughing with the crowd.

0:21:380:21:41

All of a sudden, you're almost frightened to play against him sometimes.

0:21:410:21:45

"Oh, it's Ray Reardon at the table, I'll wait till he gets away from the table before I come to the table."

0:21:450:21:49

He had that wonderful aura about him.

0:21:490:21:51

He'd give you a steely look sometimes if he thought

0:21:510:21:54

you'd played a foul and you didn't admit it or something like that.

0:21:540:21:57

He'd give you the eyeball.

0:21:570:21:58

So everything was precise with Ray, everything had to be done right.

0:21:580:22:01

All on the last two balls then.

0:22:010:22:03

The little forced smile sometimes, I knew it wasn't always

0:22:030:22:07

the happy-go-lucky, jovial chappie he portrayed sometimes because he was a...

0:22:070:22:11

I'm just trying to think of the right word.

0:22:110:22:13

He was a gritty, determined character,

0:22:130:22:15

that was the thing about Ray.

0:22:150:22:17

Yes.

0:22:170:22:18

'Do your remember I played you in Pontins?

0:22:180:22:21

'I was English amateur champion,'

0:22:220:22:25

and the amateurs qualified and played against the pros.

0:22:250:22:28

And you got starts there.

0:22:280:22:30

Anyway, the draws come out and who have I drawn?

0:22:300:22:33

Ray Reardon, the world champion. I was absolutely thrilled, honestly.

0:22:330:22:37

Just what you needed.

0:22:370:22:39

The good news was, we were playing next morning at half past ten,

0:22:390:22:43

which, as you know, you had a reputation of not being very good in the morning.

0:22:430:22:47

-I like them thinking that.

-I'm getting up, I'm thinking 25 start.

0:22:470:22:51

-Hey-hey!

-I like that, I like that.

0:22:510:22:54

Anyway, I won one frame on the black when I cleared up. I got a 25 start.

0:22:540:23:01

To be honest with you, I did not see you. You gave me a lesson, right.

0:23:010:23:05

-And I understood that.

-But you need that.

0:23:050:23:07

But what you told me afterwards always stayed with me.

0:23:070:23:10

I said you played really well, Ray, and the words you said to me was...

0:23:100:23:14

.."Played well? I had to play well to beat you, giving you 25 start."

0:23:160:23:22

Well, I felt ten foot high.

0:23:220:23:24

Honestly, I've gone from being on the floor like that.

0:23:240:23:27

It was a very nice thing for you to say

0:23:270:23:29

because I've learned from it, I learned from what you'd done to me.

0:23:290:23:33

It's so important, isn't it, really?

0:23:330:23:35

I think six times champion of the world is a wonderful achievement,

0:23:350:23:40

and what I see about great champions is

0:23:400:23:42

they always seem to find something at the right time in the match.

0:23:420:23:46

It doesn't have to be the last frame,

0:23:460:23:48

-but you find something when you need it the most.

-Yes.

0:23:480:23:51

It's not at the end of a frame always or the end of a match,

0:23:510:23:54

it's when they really need it, when they struggle a bit, or they can see their opponent

0:23:540:23:58

starting to play well, they find something, and that's why they're champions.

0:23:580:24:02

But sometimes it doesn't go as you'd like it to go,

0:24:020:24:05

and somewhere along the way, you've got to find a way to learn to win when you're slightly off.

0:24:050:24:11

Would you like to have played against these players today? You'd have loved it, wouldn't you?

0:24:110:24:15

I'd have loved it. I'd absolutely love it.

0:24:150:24:17

But I don't know how I'd cope with them because

0:24:170:24:20

I was only looking at it the other day

0:24:200:24:22

and looking at the speeds of the table,

0:24:220:24:25

how the balls open up when you go into them, and they just spread.

0:24:250:24:29

-They didn't spread in our days.

-No.

0:24:290:24:31

So the tables are friendly, everything is straight.

0:24:310:24:35

-There's no nap on the table like in our day.

-That's right.

0:24:350:24:38

They can back their ability of hitting the ball straight,

0:24:380:24:41

so you've got to be a good cueist, have a good nerve, back your ability and you can pot it

0:24:410:24:45

-because the white will go straight.

-Dead straight.

0:24:450:24:48

But having said that, it makes potting a little bit easier.

0:24:480:24:51

-But it also makes it far more difficult to defend.

-Yes.

0:24:510:24:56

Ray Reardon stayed at the top of the game right into the mid-1980s.

0:25:100:25:14

But in 1991, he retired and has spent the last two decades

0:25:140:25:19

on the balmy shores of Torbay,

0:25:190:25:21

where he enjoys his life to the full.

0:25:210:25:23

People have often asked me why did I go to Torbay,

0:25:250:25:27

the English Riviera. I never knew it was the English Riviera

0:25:270:25:31

until I got down here, and that was a result of my holiday camp playing.

0:25:310:25:36

I'm the president of Churston Golf Club.

0:25:420:25:44

That's one of the reasons I came here in the first place.

0:25:440:25:47

'It's a friendly place that caters for players of all ages.'

0:25:470:25:51

-Are you all right?

-Very well, thank you.

-Excellent, good luck.

0:25:510:25:54

'I often play a round of golf with the manager.'

0:25:540:25:57

Great shot.

0:25:570:25:59

'Simon Bawden. And of course, I've played loads of golf with the members.'

0:25:590:26:03

Nobody more surprised.

0:26:030:26:05

'I'm not bad, I'm playing off 13 at the moment,

0:26:050:26:08

'which for me at my age, it's not about handicap, quite good, really.

0:26:080:26:12

'I don't hit it far enough.

0:26:120:26:14

'There's people up there can throw it further than I can hit it.'

0:26:140:26:17

-What a junior side we've got here.

-We've got a hundred juniors now.

-A hundred now?

0:26:170:26:22

-100, of which 12 are young girls.

-I mentioned earlier on 80-odd.

0:26:220:26:25

-It's a hundred now? Fantastic!

-But 12 of them are young girls.

-Young girls.

0:26:250:26:30

Some of them, the bag's bigger than... I mean, they're this size.

0:26:300:26:33

Seven or eight years of age.

0:26:330:26:35

The thing is, the club's got to be very accessible.

0:26:350:26:38

-And it's got to live in modern times now.

-Absolutely.

0:26:380:26:41

Oh, yes. That's a cracker! That's a beautiful shot.

0:26:430:26:48

I came on the practice green the other day on the putting range

0:26:480:26:51

and I saw one of our lads and I said, "Hello, I haven't seen you for a while.

0:26:510:26:55

"How are you keeping?" I said, "You look well." He said, "I'm all right."

0:26:550:26:59

I said, "How's your game?"

0:26:590:27:01

He said, "It's awful at the moment, I can't play at the moment,

0:27:010:27:04

"I've got a new job and I haven't got time to practise."

0:27:040:27:07

-Haven't got time to practice?! You FIND time.

-Yeah, of course you do.

0:27:070:27:12

You make your own time. That's the passion, the love, the affection.

0:27:120:27:15

-It's not going to come to you.

-How often did you practise, Ray?

0:27:150:27:19

You could never get me off the table.

0:27:190:27:21

OK, Ray, two putts.

0:27:220:27:24

That's not bad.

0:27:260:27:27

Oh, go on then, knock it in.

0:27:300:27:32

-Well done, Ray.

-Well done. How about that?

-Excellent.

-Thank you.

0:27:380:27:41

-Thank you, Mr President, very kind. Cheers.

-Thank you, Simon.

-Pleasure.

0:27:410:27:45

Yes, well, it's been a bit of a journey, hasn't it?

0:27:520:27:55

Absolutely magic,

0:27:550:27:56

from Tredegar, Whitworth Terrace, I've been around the world 12 times.

0:27:560:28:02

Met some wonderful people, feted everywhere.

0:28:020:28:06

I couldn't have wished for better.

0:28:060:28:08

I've been such a lucky chap, it's unbelievable.

0:28:080:28:11

And here we are now, down in Devon, retired here,

0:28:110:28:14

and it's absolutely glorious.

0:28:140:28:16

Somebody once said snooker was a sign of a misspent youth.

0:28:180:28:21

Well, all I can say to those people is I wish I'd started earlier.

0:28:220:28:26

It's been a great trip, I've loved every moment.

0:28:280:28:31

I'd love to do it again.

0:28:310:28:33

Subtitles by Red Bee Media

0:28:400:28:43

Ray Reardon, one of the legends of Welsh sport, prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday. The tough competitor with the twinkling eyes returns to his home town of Tredegar and visits the Welsh Open championship in Newport, where he reflects on a glittering career that brought him six World titles.


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