Happy New Year.
When I wrote for Pot Black magazine, perhaps my greatest moment was inventing Mystic Mog, the office cat, who would make predictions before each tournament as to who would win.
This was ten years ago when sticking your neck out was a much easier business than it is today.
(For the record, Mystic Mog was, sadly, killed off, as I probably should have been for inserting the gag that her favourite player was Tony Miaow).
Right now, snooker does not have a dominant force like Ray Reardon in the 1970s, Steve Davis in the 1980s and Stephen Hendry in the 1990s.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is snooker’s leading figure at the moment but, as he explained recently on the BBC’s Inside Sport, is not driven to be a relentless winner in the Reardon/Davis/Hendry mould.
O’Sullivan is, of course, good enough to win a fourth world title at the Crucible in May but, equally, this doesn’t mean that he will.
In the 80s it was a major shock if Davis turned up in Sheffield and did not head home with the trophy. The same applied in the 90s with Hendry.
With the likes of Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Ryan Day, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui yapping at his heels, not to mention his contemporaries John Higgins and Mark Williams, O’Sullivan cannot be regarded as such a certainty although he will, rightly, start as title favourite.
Anyway, the fun for us snooker fans comes in the finding out, and believe me the World Championship will come around sooner than you’d think. It’s just three months away in fact...
The first action of 2009 comes at Crondon Park Golf Club in Essex where the Championship League cues off for another year on Monday.
It kicks off with a bona fide ‘group of death’: Murphy, Selby, Day, Hendry, Ding, Joe Perry and Ali Carter.
Williams, Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins enter the fray for group two on Wednesday.
It’s all live on a number of betting websites and will be the perfect warm up for those players involved in the Wembley Masters (all except Williams and Hawkins).
I wish there was more top level snooker, as do we all. The global economic downturn makes this unlikely in the next year but it’s worth remembering that there is more to the game than the professional circuit.
All around the world, there are snooker tournaments being played in some form or another, from a club handicap on some rainy Saturday afternoon to the world final on the May Bank Holiday and everything in between.
People talk from time to time of snooker dying (indeed it appears to be a given fact in many newspapers).
But we should remember this: as long as people play the game it will always survive.
At what level remains to be seen and I have a hunch that 2009 will be a very important year for the sport one way or another.
I can’t predict exactly what will happen but I sense a groundswell on the circuit that things are not as good as they should be – especially after the recent match fixing claims, which have seriously damaged snooker’s reputation – and the time has come to properly sort it out.
What exactly will transpire I don’t know, and unfortunately Mystic Mog isn’t around any more to ask.
But we’ll see in due course during what I’ve no doubt will be another fascinating year for the sport.