The Game Changers Talking Snooker


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The Game Changers

Alistair McGowan looks at the legends of the green baize who helped make snooker both a national obsession and a television phenomenon.


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Pot the reds, then screw back for the yellow, green, brown, blue,

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pink and black.

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-He's done it!

-It sounds so simple,

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and the top players in full flow, sinking ball after ball,

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have always made snooker look deceptively easy.

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But, in truth, it's one of the most

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tantalising and testing games there is,

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demanding skill, strategic thinking and immense concentration.

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And, over the years, the masters of the game,

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with their different temperaments and styles of play,

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have frequently had millions of fans, like me,

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glued to our seats into the wee small hours.

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Here, we look at the personalities responsible for some of snooker's

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biggest breakthroughs.

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They set new standards of play,

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helped to win massive television audiences

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and made the game the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

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For those of you in black-and-white,

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it's the green over that bottom pocket that he's looking at.

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This is how snooker used to look and it could be argued that

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snooker's enduring popularity today is down to

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one man, Sir David Attenborough.

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AS DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: How on earth is that the case?

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Well, here's Stephen Fry with the answer.

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You may not remember, or know, that in the 1960s,

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Sir David was a senior manager, an executive at the BBC.

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And indeed, he served as the second

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controller of the channel and director of programming.

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And when BBC Two became the first channel under his aegis,

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in 1967, to broadcast in colour, not just the first BBC,

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but the first European channel,

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it was Sir David who is credited with taking advantage of this new

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technology, colour,

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by choosing snooker with its own bright colours as a showcase.

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So, on the 23rd of July 1969 on BBC television,

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Pot Black was first broadcast.

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Televised snooker was born and from there countless careers were forged.

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Yet another reason for the world to be grateful to

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Sir David Attenborough.

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But don't just take Stephen Fry's word for it.

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AS PARKINSON: Here is the winner of the very first Pot Black

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trophy, the great Ray Reardon,

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talking to Michael Parkinson on a similar theme.

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When it first started, it was black and white, mostly.

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And then colour television came in and people could see the colours and

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distinguish one ball from another.

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It attracted the elderly ladies, the young ladies, the elderly people.

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And they loved it because, I suppose...

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I remember once being in Australia

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and this isn't so long ago, not even ten years ago.

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When coming out from the store, and

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elderly lady's coming, so I sort of held the door open for her, you see.

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And she says, "Oh, thank you very much".

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And then she said, "I know you."

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She says. Oh, I said, you know, "Impossible.

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"This is the first time I've ever been to Australia".

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Oh, she said, "I've seen you on the box."

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She said, "What do you do?" I said, "I play snooker."

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She said, "Pot Black, that's who you are."

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Just like that! I know that's 11,000 miles away.

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I mean, I think that's terrific, isn't it?

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Well, what is, in fact, the

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-fascination of this game to you, though?

-Ah, it's colourful.

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It's artistic.

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You can... Should, or try to make,

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the white ball do as 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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Well, one day you can do everything

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and another day you can do nothing.

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

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-Yes.

-Ah, it just drives you round the wall sometimes.

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Welshman Reardon was the first player to dominate snooker in the

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age of colour. Alex Higgins was the game's thrilling genius,

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but Reardon brought a smiling consistency to the table,

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winning the World Championship six times in the 1970s.

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His nickname may have been Dracula,

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but he was one of the game's nice guys

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and had a touch of the old school entertainer about him, too.

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Did I ever tell you that story?

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-What story?

-There's a story about a company director, actually,

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and he employed this new secretary, you see.

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Tell me the story as we walk over to the table because, you know,

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we've been sitting down. Go on.

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Well, they all were at work one night and

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the director said to the secretary, he said,

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"Look, I'll take you home". Hello. What was that?

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-That was very unfriendly.

-"I'll take you home."

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He said, "Oh, it's late and I've been working hard all day".

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So they get to her flat and she said,

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"Would you like a cup of coffee?"

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Said, "Love one." So they go in and she said, "Look,

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"we've been working very hard today.

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"Would you like something to eat?" So they had something to eat,

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then he had some wine and liqueurs,

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and of course eventually he's taken her to bed and made love to her.

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And then he said to her, he said,

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"Look, it's two o'clock in the morning,

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"I must go home now to my wife."

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He says, "Have you got some whiskey?"

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And she said yes. So she... Dabs it all over his face and under his

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chin, you see. Then he says, "Have you got a block of billiard chalk?"

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-She said, "Yes."

-Billiard chalk!

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Look, she's got a block of green billiard chalk, you see.

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So he goes all down his front with this billiard chalk.

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And he goes home to this very irate wife

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and he says, "Look, darling, you're not going to believe this".

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"But you know I've got a lovely secretary,

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"we worked late today and I've taken

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"her home and she's prepared me a meal,

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"we've had some wine, liqueurs.

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"I've gone to bed and I made love to her."

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She said, "You tell lies." She said, "You reek of whiskey, you're covered...

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"You've been down the club again."

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LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

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Is there much gamesmanship goes on in this game of yours?

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It seems a sort of gentle game, you know.

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-Is there...?

-I suppose psychologically there is, of course.

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But on the table, they play in a very gentlemanly fashion, actually.

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-Yes.

-I mean, if someone was to foul

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the ball with their finger or piece of their apparel,

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they would get up even if the referee hadn't said anything.

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Say sorry. It's so personal to

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interfere with the balls itself, actually.

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Yes. But, I mean, whatever cheating if you like goes on,

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-goes on in the mind?

-Yes, yes.

-Between players.

-Yeah, right.

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But you could get a situation like this that, if you didn't have a

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referee and he wasn't actually on the ball.

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Then he's saying, well... As you can see, I can't pot the leading red

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because I'm behind the front red.

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So what you do, you just get down nice and steady, and...

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And pot the red, of course, you know.

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I see.

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I think I see. But how was that cheating?

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Well, because... I'll play that in a sort of a slow motion.

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Right. What really happened was that I struck the white ball...

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..and then went like that.

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Sorry about that!

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Now, of all... Ray, of all these tricks that you do...

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Well, they're not tricks, actually,

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they're shots that you do in the exhibitions.

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..which is the most difficult one to do?

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That would be the machine gun shot, actually.

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-What's that?

-Well, I was afraid that you were going to ask me that.

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That involves the use of all the colours.

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-Just the coloured balls.

-Coloured balls. Fine.

-Now then,

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this is a... This is not a trick shot at all, actually.

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-No.

-This is just a purely...

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..a touch shot, quick eyesight, quick reflexes.

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As you can see, I've spread the colours out,

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leaving a gap in-between each one...

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..in order that one can pass one another to go to the far pocket.

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And what we're going to do,

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we're going to hopefully strike the white first.

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The white to go into the pocket last.

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So we strike the white, pocket the coloured balls

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and the white goes in the pocket last.

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Well, that's what should happen, as we said.

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Oh, dear.

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That's the first time he's done it right today!

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The '70s and '80s saw Ray Reardon

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and the rest of snooker's elite become

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as familiar to TV audiences as the cast of a hit sitcom,

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with their unfashionable waistcoats and carefully fashioned nicknames.

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As well as Dracula, there was The Hurricane...

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Tony "The Cat" Meo...

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Jimmy "Whirlwind" White and

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"Big" Bill Werbeniuk,

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who seemed to down a pint with almost every frame he played.

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And then there was the unlikely superstar with more nicknames than

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all of them put together.

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Steve Davis was variously known as The Nugget,

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Romford Slim, the Plumstead Potting Machine and the Ginger Wizard,

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but the name that really struck home with the public was...

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Interesting. It was coined by those wags at ITV's satirical show,

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Spitting Image, although Steve Davis sometimes only had himself to blame

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for his somewhat nerdy image.

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Well, George, how do you set up a computer to judge the comparative

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difficulties of pots on a snooker table?

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But what "Interesting" Steve and his

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maverick manager Barry Hearn were doing

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to the game was genuinely interesting,

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helping to turn it into a serious money-making industry.

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We join them here in 1981,

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the year Davis first put a stranglehold on the game,

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winning both the World and UK Snooker Championships.

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What has it done to you, do you think?

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-What's it done to me?

-Fame.

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Lots of pennies.

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Were you aware that all this would happen?

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The, the razzmatazz and the...

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The offers and that all coming in?

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-Yeah.

-Really?

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Hmm.

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I've got a good manager.

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Is that what you were aiming at -

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making a lot of money?

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No. I was aiming to become the best snooker player in the world.

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My job was to win on the table because that's enough of a job,

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as far as I'm concerned,

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and that's a full-time occupation, is playing snooker.

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PHONE RINGS

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The good manager.

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Hello, Barry Hearn.

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Also known in the business as Barry Earn.

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Yes, well, if you're talking about...

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No, if you're talking about an afternoon and evening,

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see I do, if we were in your area, we'd do 1,250 for the night-time.

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But an afternoon session would be an extra 500, so that's 1,750 plus VAT,

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plus any expenses that Steve incurs.

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We don't do anything cheap for Steve Davis.

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The first year, we set their income level.

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So, I can't even remember the figure.

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I think it was £20,000 - we went well past it.

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The second year, we said, "We should do 50" -

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and we went well past it. This year, we've set a quarter of a million

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and hopefully we'll go well past it.

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Snooker's first millionaire in the

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making learned the tricks of his trade here in Romford

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at one of Barry Hearn's halls.

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The game has always been popular,

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but when television coverage turned top players into superstars,

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lads all over the country started

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dreaming of being the next Steve Davis.

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They, too, seek fame and fortune,

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although he insists that money isn't really the spur.

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Obviously, once you attain a certain level of money,

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or you're earning a certain level of money,

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if that was to drop down by any sort

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of appreciable amount, you'd miss it.

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But, um... I don't wake up in the morning and think, "Ha-ha!"

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Like, I can go out and buy something if I want to.

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I might wake up in the morning and think, "Yeah,

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"I'm world champion today".

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But not actually... Not actually think of the money.

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It's nice to have it, but it's much nicer to be

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the world champion at something that you fell in love with at 14,

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and all of a sudden, nine years later,

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you've won the biggest competition in the world at snooker.

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That's more important to me.

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-Yeah.

-I just happened to pop upstairs to the club in Romford

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and there was this tall, skinny kid playing snooker.

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Great long locks of hair.

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I wouldn't say his backside was coming out of his trousers,

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but it was close. And he just...

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I don't know, you find this with champions, they just seem different.

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They exude a charisma of...

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unbelievable control.

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I mean, he just looked so dedicated.

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Steve Davis goes three points ahead.

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The curtain is now beginning to fall on the

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Coral UK Championship 1980.

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As the 23-year-old Londoner from Plumstead,

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Steve Davis, making his debut in a big-time championship.

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The first time he's appeared in a final

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is about to don the crown of UK champion.

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I'm sure, as the years go by, you will see him, as I hope to...

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..wear the world crown.

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November last year and the beginning of a bonanza.

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Steve now holds seven major professional titles.

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Nobody frightens him because, in the early days,

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all the champions have been lured to his table by the astute Barry Hearn.

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It was nice because he turned

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Romford into what was then called the

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graveyard of the professionals

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because he went 13 games without being beaten.

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And, of course, it was not only a costly experience for some of these

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players, but also, from a prestige point of view,

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as far as the media was concerned,

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there was this young kid coming along and beating six-times champion

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Ray Reardon...or annihilated Terry Griffiths.

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You know, these are the sort of things we wanted

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because, unless the press report

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accurately and often enough on a player,

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you just don't get the invitations into major tournaments.

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So really, in those early days, it was a question of experience,

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trying to put him through arduous travelling, big money matches,

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knowing that there was thousands of

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pounds of working class people's money on it.

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And it's a...

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A type of pressure you can't begin

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to explain when someone walks up to you

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and says, "Best of luck, Steve. I've put my last £10 on you."

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And, you know, it really is his last £10.

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I mean, that's an added dimension of pressure.

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But he came through it all very well and,

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of course, he learned as he went.

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You get this terrible quote in snooker about a misspent youth

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and the only person that's never

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said it to me is Steve's bank manager.

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He loves it, he thinks it's the best spent youth you could ever have.

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Take this off. Oh, yes, that's nice.

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Listen, I'm a little bit worried about the gloves.

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Barry Hearn controlled everything off the table

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and was determined to turn the Nugget into a gold mine.

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Do you want to take off the gloves?

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The gloves get the Big E.

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All pictures must reflect the clean cut image of Barry Hearn's boy,

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who gets £25,000 a year to appear in the Star newspaper.

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That's lovely.

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Is this outfit all right?

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-Yeah...

-We've lost the gloves, we're all right.

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The only thing I'm worried about is, you know, is the side

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because I think a lot of Steve's...

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The 15 and 16-year-old fans will, you know,

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they will be getting very jealous.

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The good manager always tries to please the fans,

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so does the Daily Star.

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It's strange what is a turn on to women, isn't it?

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Because we carried, the morning after he won the

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World Championship, a pin-up picture, which he laughed about

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because he makes fun of his own physique,

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because he's a very slender lad,

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but we had him bare-chested.

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We had him topless on page one

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and awarded him a Gold Star -

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we have some certain Gold Star awards for people who make major

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achievements - and the response to that picture was unbelievable.

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And the response was all from young girls and young women

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because they thought it was very appealing.

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You've got a reputation of being really cool, haven't you?

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You look... Some people misinterpret it as cocky.

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Yeah, they do. Well, that's...

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That's something I'm not particularly bothered about

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as far as if people want to think that, they can think about.

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Um...

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You can only play the game the way you can handle the pressure.

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The way I handle the pressure is by playing it as cool as I can.

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Steve's schedule now is so hectic as to be suicidal.

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Absolutely suicidal.

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I appreciate this is a potential problem for normal players.

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It's not a problem for Steve Davis...

0:17:030:17:05

..because he's not normal.

0:17:070:17:09

HE PLAYS THE HARMONICA

0:17:090:17:10

He gets tired, the same as most humans,

0:17:190:17:21

but you've got to look at him as a night worker.

0:17:210:17:23

When you or I are in bed, he's driving home from somewhere.

0:17:230:17:25

And when you and I perhaps get up in the morning, you know,

0:17:250:17:28

Steve's not up till midday.

0:17:280:17:30

You know, lots of people have said to me, "Don't work him too hard,

0:17:300:17:32

"two days a week's enough". To me, that's a load of rubbish.

0:17:320:17:35

Absolute rubbish. You're there to do a job, you're there to play snooker.

0:17:350:17:38

A year later, Davis showed he was

0:17:410:17:42

definitely the man for the job when he made history

0:17:420:17:45

by completing the first maximum break in an official competition,

0:17:450:17:49

which also just happened to be the first 147

0:17:490:17:52

to be captured by TV cameras.

0:17:520:17:54

You can imagine the tension that's building up

0:17:550:17:58

in young Steve at the moment.

0:17:580:18:00

125.

0:18:000:18:02

Well, Steve is looking very, very calm.

0:18:020:18:04

Normally this would be elementary, but, under these circumstances,

0:18:060:18:09

every pot is so difficult.

0:18:090:18:10

Come on. Come on round.

0:18:130:18:14

129!

0:18:160:18:18

That a bit further.

0:18:180:18:19

Well, if anybody can knock these three balls, then this man can.

0:18:210:18:25

Now, we're going to have to see a super shot here.

0:18:280:18:31

Well, come on, Steve.

0:18:340:18:36

Pull...

0:18:360:18:37

Pull a fabulous shot out, I'm sure you can do it.

0:18:370:18:40

Come on, get in. Fabulous shot!

0:18:420:18:47

Fabulous shot! And this is the first

0:18:480:18:52

147 break on television.

0:18:520:18:54

-140!

-Well, I'm shaking.

0:18:570:19:00

And I'll bet...

0:19:000:19:01

-Quiet, please!

-I'll bet Steve at

0:19:010:19:03

this moment can see the pocket closing up

0:19:030:19:05

-and closing up and getting smaller.

-Come on, Steve.

0:19:050:19:08

Beautiful 147!

0:19:100:19:13

A year later came another 147 milestone -

0:19:180:19:22

this time pulled off by Canada's Cliff "The Grinder" Thorburn.

0:19:220:19:26

In 1980, Cliff Thorburn had become the first player from outside the UK

0:19:270:19:32

to win the World Championship.

0:19:320:19:34

His defensive tactics frustrating

0:19:340:19:37

the quixotic brilliance of Alex Higgins.

0:19:370:19:40

And then, three years later,

0:19:400:19:42

Thorburn notched up the first ever maximum break in the

0:19:420:19:45

World Championship. His careful, measured approach helping to see him

0:19:450:19:50

through the almost unbearable tension.

0:19:500:19:52

Have a little break here.

0:19:520:19:54

A difficult...

0:19:540:19:55

Well, what a...

0:19:570:19:58

What a sensible fellow.

0:19:590:20:00

At a stage like this, with just one red left,

0:20:020:20:05

he stops and blows his nose and says, "Let's have a break".

0:20:050:20:10

And if he can take this red and the black,

0:20:100:20:14

the colours will be on their spots.

0:20:140:20:16

Oh, what a moment this is.

0:20:180:20:20

It is truly electric here.

0:20:200:20:22

If only we could tell the audience

0:20:250:20:26

not to applaud just for the remainder of this break.

0:20:260:20:29

Oh, wonderful! That is really, truly wonderful!

0:20:440:20:49

He's being hugged.

0:20:530:20:54

Just look at the pictures.

0:20:570:20:58

Well, well, well.

0:21:030:21:06

Thorburn went on to reach the final in 1983,

0:21:090:21:11

but was thrashed by Steve Davis.

0:21:110:21:14

In 1984, Davis won the title again, beating Jimmy White.

0:21:140:21:19

Then, in 1985,

0:21:190:21:21

he reached yet another final and was looking to make it three in a row,

0:21:210:21:24

the clear favourite against Northern Ireland's Dennis Taylor.

0:21:240:21:27

It looked like being another, perhaps,

0:21:280:21:31

less than interesting victory.

0:21:310:21:33

Instead, the underdog in the upside-down glasses overturned

0:21:330:21:37

all expectations.

0:21:370:21:39

It all came down to the 35th and final frame,

0:21:390:21:42

and the final black ball,

0:21:420:21:44

which seemed remarkably resistant to being potted.

0:21:440:21:47

Even though they tried...

0:21:470:21:49

Oh!

0:21:510:21:53

..and tried...

0:22:030:22:05

..and tried...

0:22:200:22:21

..and tried...

0:22:300:22:31

..and tried.

0:22:350:22:37

No.

0:22:380:22:39

This is really unbelievable.

0:22:410:22:44

He's done it!

0:22:450:22:47

It was probably snooker's greatest night

0:22:510:22:53

and it turned Dennis Taylor into a national hero.

0:22:530:22:56

The World Snooker Champion

0:22:580:22:59

Dennis Taylor has returned to his hometown for

0:22:590:23:02

the first time since his victory over Steve Davis.

0:23:020:23:05

The townspeople of Coalisland in

0:23:050:23:07

County Tyrone turned out in their thousands to

0:23:070:23:09

welcome their most famous son.

0:23:090:23:10

Neil Bennett reporting.

0:23:100:23:12

There wasn't a place to be had in the tiny town square

0:23:120:23:15

as Coalisland welcomed home it's conquering hero

0:23:150:23:18

and his reception was fantastic.

0:23:180:23:21

With calm restored,

0:23:210:23:22

the celebrations began and

0:23:220:23:24

Dennis Taylor was made mayor for the day.

0:23:240:23:27

When finally he could make himself heard,

0:23:270:23:29

he spoke to the town which he has put on the map.

0:23:290:23:33

I'm not usually lost for words,

0:23:330:23:35

but it's a little bit difficult to find words to describe...

0:23:350:23:39

I mean, I was brought up here and

0:23:390:23:41

was here until I was 17,

0:23:410:23:43

and spent many happy hours round the town here.

0:23:430:23:46

In fact, I think I might even have pinched a packet of sweets

0:23:460:23:49

out of McGlinchey's there.

0:23:490:23:50

They'd have given him the entire

0:23:520:23:54

contents today and a lot more besides

0:23:540:23:56

after a day and a week in which the town of Coalisland

0:23:560:23:59

will never forget.

0:23:590:24:01

Now, when you returned to Coalisland, to County Tyrone,

0:24:010:24:04

it must've been an enormous, very emotional reception.

0:24:040:24:07

Well, it was... It was just like a dream

0:24:070:24:09

because I was only in there for two and a half hours.

0:24:090:24:11

And the first trip back was to Belfast,

0:24:110:24:14

where I was playing the Shankill Leisure Centre,

0:24:140:24:16

which was a terrific reception,

0:24:160:24:18

and then to go to the actual hometown.

0:24:180:24:20

How they organise that in a couple of days I'll never believe it.

0:24:200:24:23

The population of Coalisland swelled about 20 times.

0:24:230:24:26

That's right. Well, there's about seven or 8,000,

0:24:260:24:28

and I think there must have been

0:24:280:24:29

25-30,000 people in the town.

0:24:290:24:31

I was lucky enough to talk to Barry McGuigan some time ago,

0:24:310:24:34

and he's a man who manages to

0:24:340:24:36

transcend the religious and political

0:24:360:24:38

boundaries in Northern Ireland, and you're another one.

0:24:380:24:41

-You can...

-I think that's probably why there were so many people in

0:24:410:24:44

Coalisland because Coalisland's 99% Catholic

0:24:440:24:48

and the Shankill, where I played, is predominantly Protestant.

0:24:480:24:52

And, over the last ten years,

0:24:520:24:54

I've had some of the top players over there,

0:24:540:24:56

and we get a fantastic reception no matter where we go to.

0:24:560:24:59

And to win the World Championship and get that reception was amazing.

0:24:590:25:02

It's funny, sport seems to get over

0:25:020:25:04

-all the barriers in Northern Ireland, doesn't it?

-Yeah.

0:25:040:25:07

Well, it gives you a personal,

0:25:070:25:08

a nice feeling inside, to see everybody together there.

0:25:080:25:11

-If only...

-I think that the biggest one was that...

0:25:110:25:13

I don't know whether they showed it on the television,

0:25:130:25:15

but the Reverend from the Church of Ireland,

0:25:150:25:18

I thought he was going to fall off the platform.

0:25:180:25:20

He was over... He said I was the most famous person in the world!

0:25:200:25:23

That was going over the top, wasn't it?

0:25:230:25:26

What about Steve Davis? Has he spoken to you since?

0:25:270:25:30

Yeah, Steve's back to his old self again.

0:25:300:25:32

He's quite a nice fellow.

0:25:320:25:33

-A lot of people get the wrong impression of Steve Davis.

-Yeah.

0:25:330:25:36

And he gets a little bit uptight on the snooker table,

0:25:360:25:39

but, yeah, he's a...

0:25:390:25:40

He's a family lad, he's got a good family, nice lad.

0:25:400:25:42

I think it was slightly unfair that he took a lot of stick for his

0:25:420:25:45

reaction on the big night,

0:25:450:25:47

but, I mean, he must've been drained of all emotion.

0:25:470:25:49

Well, he was. As I say,

0:25:490:25:51

he's that type of character that he lives for snooker,

0:25:510:25:53

as he'll tell you himself. I mean, I'm a little bit lucky.

0:25:530:25:55

I've got the three children and the wife to go back to,

0:25:550:25:58

and it makes you forget about the snooker when you lose.

0:25:580:26:01

So... He loves the game of snooker and lives for it.

0:26:010:26:05

The family don't take any nonsense

0:26:050:26:06

from you just because you're the world snooker champion.

0:26:060:26:09

I can forget about that.

0:26:090:26:10

If I start getting on cloud nine, they'll sort me out.

0:26:100:26:12

So attitudes haven't changed at home, have they not?

0:26:120:26:15

Not yet, no.

0:26:150:26:16

-I don't think they ever will.

-You don't think they're going to?

0:26:170:26:20

I was just thinking that you won the Snooker Championship,

0:26:200:26:22

but most of the contracts you will have signed prior to winning will

0:26:220:26:25

have been for a certain fee. And now you're the world champion,

0:26:250:26:28

you'll probably go to work for the next six months

0:26:280:26:30

-for less than you should be.

-That's right.

0:26:300:26:33

What, is it £20 we get for tonight?

0:26:330:26:34

Is it?

0:26:340:26:36

LAUGHTER

0:26:360:26:37

TERRY LAUGHS

0:26:370:26:39

I have a very special award to make to you now and I am...

0:26:390:26:44

Why are you crawling on the floor?

0:26:440:26:45

LAUGHTER

0:26:450:26:47

I mean,

0:26:570:26:58

I'm not used to women crawling up to me like that, are you?

0:26:580:27:03

Actually, it's a right pain in the...

0:27:030:27:05

To be giving you this, to be honest,

0:27:050:27:07

because it's for the highest ever

0:27:070:27:09

British television audience at midnight.

0:27:090:27:12

Is that right?

0:27:120:27:13

How many viewers did we get?

0:27:130:27:15

-Was it...?

-Only 18.5 million.

0:27:150:27:17

Well, I'm only allowed to appear on programmes that get more than

0:27:190:27:22

18 million viewers. How many do you get, Terry?

0:27:220:27:25

Do you mean if you add the month together?

0:27:250:27:27

Add all. We don't do badly, but 18.5 is something else.

0:27:290:27:33

And, in fact, you beat Coronation Street at midnight, Dennis.

0:27:330:27:36

-Amazing.

-And I think that that pastor was right when he said,

0:27:360:27:40

because when you did win it, you certainly, you were the most...

0:27:400:27:44

Certainly the most popular man in Britain.

0:27:440:27:46

Congratulations and well done.

0:27:460:27:48

-Thank you very much.

-That's a simple gift from the BBC.

0:27:480:27:51

APPLAUSE

0:27:510:27:52

MUSIC: Snooker Loopy by Chas & Dave

0:27:560:27:58

If snooker had been soaring in popularity before,

0:28:000:28:03

now the whole country seemed to have gone snooker loopy.

0:28:030:28:07

Barry Hearn was managing not just Steve Davis,

0:28:070:28:10

but many of the other top players

0:28:100:28:12

under the banner of the Match Room Mob,

0:28:120:28:14

which was great for them but less good for music lovers.

0:28:140:28:18

Although Steve Davis did claim he

0:28:180:28:20

had some musical ambitions of his own.

0:28:200:28:22

I would like to be... I would have liked to have been a DJ, actually.

0:28:240:28:26

I was chatting to somebody, trying to get on Round Table.

0:28:260:28:29

But, um... I'm not too sure,

0:28:290:28:31

I think really what I would have done would be to work just to play

0:28:310:28:34

snooker and sort of lived out of my own hobby.

0:28:340:28:37

But, um... I wouldn't have minded to be a musician,

0:28:370:28:40

or perhaps a psychiatrist.

0:28:400:28:41

LAUGHTER

0:28:410:28:42

# Snooker loopy nuts are we

0:28:440:28:46

# We're all snooker loopy. #

0:28:480:28:50

But Barry Hearn and the Match Room

0:28:530:28:55

didn't have a total monopoly on talent.

0:28:550:28:58

Some 400 miles north,

0:28:580:29:00

the player who would eventually match Steve Davis's dominance

0:29:000:29:03

of the game was already starting to generate a lot of attention.

0:29:030:29:07

And as this fly on the wall documentary from 1988 demonstrates,

0:29:070:29:11

Stephen Hendry also had a manager

0:29:110:29:13

who could rival Hearn when it came to steering a career.

0:29:130:29:16

Coming to the table is the little giant of snooker...

0:29:200:29:23

..looking even younger than his 14 years.

0:29:240:29:26

Still going to school, he...

0:29:280:29:30

I was very nervous before I went on, but it made me play better.

0:29:300:29:34

Um, I got on the table and I was potting balls

0:29:340:29:36

because I was concentrating so much on trying to play well

0:29:360:29:39

and trying to make a good impression.

0:29:390:29:41

Now this is absolutely amazing, Ted, there. I mean, for somebody...

0:29:430:29:46

Going back to the very first night and seeing Stephen,

0:29:460:29:50

I knew that I'd seen something very, very special.

0:29:500:29:53

I mean, obviously I'd watched White, Davis, Higgins,

0:29:530:29:56

but Stephen was something very, very special.

0:29:560:29:59

Absolutely magic.

0:29:590:30:00

And another beauty.

0:30:020:30:03

For me, it was like probably, if you're into ballet,

0:30:040:30:07

going to ballet and watching Nureyev.

0:30:070:30:10

He was just absolutely magnificent round the table.

0:30:100:30:14

I don't think...

0:30:140:30:16

even today, the thrill you get just watching him in a match.

0:30:160:30:21

The highs when you win,

0:30:210:30:24

the lows when you lose, it's something special.

0:30:240:30:27

55.

0:30:300:30:31

I think, to be involved with somebody with the talent

0:30:330:30:37

that he had, subject to them going down the right roads,

0:30:370:30:41

being directed down the right roads, success was...

0:30:410:30:46

It was there. I mean, there was no ifs, buts or maybes.

0:30:460:30:49

He just had to succeed.

0:30:490:30:51

A magnificent display of potting

0:30:510:30:54

by Stephen Hendry to pick up the Scottish title and the trophy.

0:30:540:30:59

Well, a magnificent performance, then,

0:31:090:31:12

by 17-year-old Stephen Hendry, hugged there by his father.

0:31:120:31:16

And he overcomes Matt Gibson of Glasgow at ten frames to five.

0:31:170:31:22

He has a natural temperament, which is his greatest asset.

0:31:330:31:38

His temperament is absolutely perfect.

0:31:380:31:40

Naturally, as a young man, he's got a very, very keen eye.

0:31:400:31:43

He pots everything in sight at the moment.

0:31:430:31:48

I think maturity will alter his game slightly.

0:31:480:31:51

He will learn to be more cautious on certain occasions,

0:31:530:31:57

which will win him more matches.

0:31:570:31:58

But there's just a natural ability.

0:32:000:32:03

It's just some charisma that young Stephen has.

0:32:030:32:06

I was...

0:32:090:32:11

very pleased to be on the end of the microphone when he won the Scottish

0:32:110:32:14

professional title a couple of years ago.

0:32:140:32:16

I hope I'm on the microphone when he becomes world champion,

0:32:170:32:20

but it's my guess he'll be a

0:32:200:32:22

millionaire before he becomes world champion.

0:32:220:32:24

In terms of total earnings,

0:32:250:32:26

it's very difficult to say just

0:32:260:32:28

exactly what the final figure would be.

0:32:280:32:30

But I think, during the course of this year,

0:32:300:32:33

particularly with his progress in the rankings and his tournament

0:32:330:32:37

winnings, I think we've probably got to look at a figure of somewhere

0:32:370:32:42

around 600,000.

0:32:420:32:43

Ian knows that he can trust me playing at snooker and I know that I

0:32:430:32:47

can trust him doing the business.

0:32:470:32:50

Obviously, I have ups and downs all the time,

0:32:500:32:52

we have our little arguments about things,

0:32:520:32:54

but more or less, in the end, we always come out friends.

0:32:540:32:59

The cameras then went on to capture one of those little arguments after

0:32:590:33:03

Hendry lost a match to the 1986 world champion Joe Johnson.

0:33:030:33:07

And I mean, I couldn't believe that last frame, that yellow.

0:33:090:33:12

I mean, what possessed you?

0:33:120:33:13

I couldn't believe it, you did my brains.

0:33:130:33:15

But you can improve your cue ball control, you can improve everything

0:33:210:33:25

by practice. But most of all, you can improve the concentration.

0:33:250:33:29

I don't think you can just make

0:33:300:33:31

excuses in terms of the amount of work.

0:33:310:33:33

-I'm not making excuses for the work.

-HE CLEARS HIS THROAT

0:33:350:33:38

Well, what are you saying?

0:33:390:33:41

I'm saying there's a different situation then than there was now -

0:33:410:33:44

that's all I'm saying. I'm not making excuses

0:33:440:33:46

for the amount of work I'm doing for getting beat.

0:33:460:33:49

Of course it's a different situation.

0:33:490:33:51

Absolutely. And the amount of practice time really is down to you.

0:33:510:33:54

And you must learn...

0:33:550:33:57

You don't go on practice tables at tournaments with players.

0:33:570:34:01

Now, seriously, you've got to stay away from them.

0:34:010:34:05

Most of the top players know how good you are.

0:34:050:34:08

Let them worry till match day.

0:34:080:34:10

Let them sweat it out.

0:34:110:34:12

You don't want to be building up their confidence.

0:34:150:34:17

It's your confidence we're building up, not theirs.

0:34:190:34:22

It's OK if you know you've played bad and the other player's played

0:34:220:34:25

well to beat you, and he deserved to win, there's nothing you can do

0:34:250:34:28

about it. But when it's your own stupidity,

0:34:280:34:31

it's very frustrating. I remember the time in the World Championship,

0:34:310:34:34

against Joe Johnson, where I had a chance for an easy black to make it

0:34:340:34:39

7-7, but I missed it and he potted it to make it 8-6.

0:34:390:34:44

I went in the dressing room, Tommy was waiting for me.

0:34:440:34:46

I threw my cue across the room and it was lucky he caught it.

0:34:460:34:49

Kicked the door with my foot and I thought I broke my toe

0:34:490:34:52

because, for the next four frames, I was limping.

0:34:520:34:55

But, um... It got rid of some of

0:34:550:34:56

that anger and I went out and I managed

0:34:560:34:58

to play well, because I ended up

0:34:580:35:00

only one frame behind going into the next day,

0:35:000:35:02

so I think it must have helped me a bit to get rid of some of the anger.

0:35:020:35:05

In those early cheap jewellery wearing days,

0:35:090:35:11

it wasn't just his manager who was urging Hendry on.

0:35:110:35:15

The young star was also unerringly

0:35:150:35:17

driven by a simple desire to topple the great Steve Davis.

0:35:170:35:22

Oh, he's destroyed me, really, every time I've played him

0:35:220:35:25

and he's just played brilliant.

0:35:250:35:27

Although I've played the wrong game.

0:35:270:35:29

I've went out and I've not gave him the respect he deserve,

0:35:290:35:33

so...

0:35:330:35:34

I suppose he is my bogeyman in a way.

0:35:340:35:37

-One.

-That's enough!

0:35:370:35:39

The world champion and favourite for this tournament

0:35:390:35:45

has been toppled by the 18-year-old young Scottish sensation,

0:35:450:35:49

Stephen Hendry, who goes into the

0:35:490:35:52

last eight having taken victory at five frames to two.

0:35:520:35:57

So, his all-round game was much better, so deserved to win.

0:35:570:36:00

I think 5-2 was probably about right, really, I think on the day.

0:36:000:36:05

If he keeps on putting in performances like that,

0:36:050:36:08

I think we'll have a few battles in the future.

0:36:080:36:11

Is it a coming-of-age, do you think,

0:36:120:36:15

-for Stephen Hendry?

-Um... I don't know, really.

0:36:150:36:18

No, I just...

0:36:210:36:22

I just... I just changed my game completely on the night, that's all.

0:36:220:36:26

I know you've said before that it's not a question of, sort of,

0:36:260:36:28

psychological things, but now you've done it, it's out the way now,

0:36:280:36:31

-isn't it?

-Yeah. Definitely.

0:36:310:36:34

I wasn't really consciously thinking about it.

0:36:340:36:36

Steve's always beating me, like.

0:36:360:36:37

But I just went out there and I played out of my skin, really.

0:36:370:36:43

The young challenger would

0:36:430:36:45

eventually beat Davis in two consecutive UK Championship finals,

0:36:450:36:49

but it was Jimmy White who would suffer most

0:36:490:36:51

at the hand of Hendry.

0:36:510:36:53

Jimmy White's always been my hero, since I started.

0:36:540:36:57

I seen him in an exhibition in Scotland when I was 13

0:36:570:37:00

and he could do things with the cue ball that I'd never seen

0:37:000:37:03

anyone else do, and it was unbelievable.

0:37:030:37:05

From then on, he's been my idol.

0:37:050:37:07

So I can identify most with his game because it's the way I play.

0:37:110:37:15

I've never been coached, neither has he.

0:37:150:37:17

I just sort of learned everything myself.

0:37:170:37:19

We're playing a fiver a hole, yeah?

0:37:210:37:23

Yeah, OK.

0:37:230:37:25

Where did you go, Tom?

0:37:250:37:27

-I'm up the middle.

-Young Tom is dead.

0:37:270:37:30

I met Stephen when he was about 14...

0:37:330:37:36

with his father, and I've seen him progress from then.

0:37:360:37:39

And now he's one of probably the strongest...

0:37:390:37:42

one of the strongest players in the game. He's fearless, he's...

0:37:420:37:45

Also has a good attacking game

0:37:450:37:48

and I love to see players like that, you know.

0:37:480:37:50

I don't like to see players that, no disrespect,

0:37:500:37:52

they are good in their own right,

0:37:520:37:53

but they don't really give the thrills that the public want to see.

0:37:530:37:57

And Stephen is like a prime example of, like, you know,

0:37:570:38:01

just pure brilliance. I enjoy his game all the time.

0:38:010:38:04

Although maybe not all the time.

0:38:060:38:08

Hendry and White met in four

0:38:080:38:11

World Championship finals and Hendry won all of them.

0:38:110:38:14

White's inability to triumph over his friend was painfully

0:38:140:38:18

captured on children's TV show Record Breakers.

0:38:180:38:21

Are you ready?

0:38:230:38:24

The great comeback merchant, digging deep for glory again.

0:38:260:38:31

He's absolutely right on the brown, if he can get round for the blue.

0:38:310:38:34

That's going to be the key shot.

0:38:340:38:35

Is he on the blue? He's round very fast.

0:38:350:38:39

Stop that cue ball! It went on and on for ever.

0:38:390:38:43

In goes the blue. 17.71,

0:38:430:38:46

perfect on the pink.

0:38:460:38:47

He's now on the black.

0:38:470:38:49

White had held the speed record for potting all the colours

0:38:520:38:56

in 26.01 seconds.

0:38:560:38:58

That's it, you've got him. 25.90. 25, that was really good.

0:39:020:39:06

-You are pleased with that?

-Absolutely, yeah.

0:39:060:39:08

You must have been. Well, Jim...

0:39:080:39:10

-He's done me again.

-Your last chance, you can do it.

0:39:100:39:13

Don't let him take this off you.

0:39:130:39:17

-Are you ready?

-Yeah.

0:39:240:39:26

The Whirlwind's title has been taken away.

0:39:270:39:29

This is the last chance for Jimmy White to regain it.

0:39:290:39:34

The Wonder Bairn has beaten him in

0:39:340:39:35

the World Championships and is beating

0:39:350:39:37

him for the fastest player on earth.

0:39:370:39:38

But Jimmy White won't have that, he doesn't like the blue.

0:39:380:39:41

The blue is in terrible trouble for him.

0:39:410:39:43

His chances are ebbing away.

0:39:430:39:45

His title has gone! The new World Speed Snooker Champion is the

0:39:450:39:50

Wonder Bairn, Stephen Hendry. Jimmy White loses his crown.

0:39:500:39:55

There it is.

0:39:570:39:58

Gosh. That was exciting, wasn't it?

0:39:580:40:02

Well done. Thank you, Mike Clark,

0:40:020:40:03

for coming along and refereeing for us, that's kind of you.

0:40:030:40:06

Commiserations to you, Jim.

0:40:060:40:08

I'm terribly sorry.

0:40:080:40:09

And the new Speed Snooker Champion is now Stephen Hendry.

0:40:090:40:13

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:40:130:40:14

Stephen Hendry is undoubtedly a contender for the title of snooker's

0:40:190:40:23

greatest ever player, having won

0:40:230:40:25

seven World and five UK Championships.

0:40:250:40:29

When he announced his retirement in 2012, it was the end of an era.

0:40:290:40:33

I'm officially retired now from tournament snooker.

0:40:330:40:35

I made the decision about three months ago.

0:40:350:40:37

I told two or three people, but, yeah,

0:40:370:40:39

this is me finished from tournament snooker.

0:40:390:40:42

What an ambassador he has been for

0:40:450:40:47

our game of snooker and he's helped to

0:40:470:40:50

grow the game all over the world.

0:40:500:40:51

Wherever he's gone, he's been very,

0:40:510:40:53

very popular and well done to the King of the Crucible.

0:40:530:40:58

I think the snooker world will just respect this man

0:40:590:41:03

for what he's achieved.

0:41:030:41:04

He's done it!

0:41:100:41:12

He was something special, the best player, the best match player,

0:41:120:41:15

the best competitor I've ever known.

0:41:150:41:17

I've had so many great memories, the youngest world champion,

0:41:190:41:23

three maximums.

0:41:230:41:25

Absolutely fantastic!

0:41:250:41:28

There's only one Stephen Hendry.

0:41:280:41:31

The '90s, I think I won five in a row here.

0:41:310:41:34

You know, it's...

0:41:340:41:37

There was a time when I just felt invincible.

0:41:370:41:39

It's a magnificent seven times for Stephen Hendry in the '90s.

0:41:390:41:45

At the end of the day, the record books

0:41:470:41:49

will tell you what Stephen Hendry was

0:41:490:41:51

and it will leave a hole in snooker.

0:41:510:41:53

It's for people's opinion who is the best player,

0:41:550:41:57

but as long as I'm in that discussion

0:41:570:41:59

then I've done all right.

0:41:590:42:01

And what of our other all-time greats?

0:42:050:42:07

Ray Reardon and Cliff Thorburn are retired and enjoying their status as

0:42:070:42:11

legends of the game.

0:42:110:42:13

And Steve Davis finally saw those DJ-ing dreams realised,

0:42:130:42:17

even entertaining the crowds at the Glastonbury Festival in 2016.

0:42:170:42:20

And Dennis Taylor, darlings,

0:42:230:42:24

swapped snooker balls for glitter balls on Strictly Come Dancing.

0:42:240:42:28

Hmmm.

0:42:280:42:29

Then, in 2010, came this.

0:42:290:42:32

Dennis Taylor!

0:42:320:42:33

Davis and Taylor - the rematch!

0:42:560:42:59

A reunion for the 25th anniversary of that unforgettable final.

0:42:590:43:04

It was only a bit of fun,

0:43:040:43:05

but it showed just how much affection remains for all these

0:43:050:43:09

game-changing players who turned snooker into a national obsession.

0:43:090:43:14

And made it as unmissable as...

0:43:140:43:16

Well, as a long black,

0:43:170:43:19

off the top cushion, into the bottom corner pocket!

0:43:190:43:24

Alistair McGowan looks at the legends of the green baize who helped make snooker both a national obsession and a television phenomenon.

Alistair's exploration of the BBC archive's deepest pockets uncovers rare interviews with the players who set new standards in the game, from the explosion of characters and colour in the 1970s to the dominance of Davis and Hendry in the 80s and 90s, and the famous black-ball final of 1985 that shattered nerves and TV viewing figures.