Darren Morgan is a proud man with snooker running through his veins. His capture of the Wyldecrest World Seniors Championship in Peterborough tonight will mean a lot to him, not least because he beat Jimmy White in the semi-finals and Steve Davis in the final.
Morgan has not played on the professional circuit for a few years but still competes below the radar on the amateur scene, where he has had success in international seniors events.
He decided not to attempt any comebacks as a pro but proved he still has the appetite for competition by completing an impressive victory over Davis from 1-0 down.
Morgan was world amateur champion in 1987 and reached eighth in the world rankings.
He never won a ranking title, losing in two finals, but triumphed 9-8 on the black over Davis in the 1996 Irish Masters.
Darren won various events which were then discontinued: the Welsh Professional Championship, original One Frame Knockout and Pontin’s Professional Championship.
As owner of a snooker club, Morgan gets the chance to play regularly and although snooker has frustrated him at times, he will never lose his love for the game.
I enjoyed the tournament. It was nice to see the old stagers out there again and overall the event should be judged as a success.
The snooker wasn’t always of the highest quality but the players were competitive and there was a good mix of fun too.
There was also packed house for every session, and you can’t argue with that. There is clearly a market for seniors snooker.
The whole thing was slickly packaged by Sky Sports, as you would expect. It’s worth recording how pioneering their early coverage of snooker was in the 1990s, which in turn had an effect on the BBC, whose coverage in those days was a little staid by comparison.
But Sky’s understandable desire to make their events different has led to rules being introduced which nobody asked for.
The 30 second shot-clock added nothing to the tournament other than a stern rebuke from Cliff Thorburn and the ‘beeps’ putting off White at a crucial moment in the first frame of his semi-final against Morgan.
And there were farcical scenes in the other semi-final between Davis and John Parrott when Parrott was informed after two misses that a third would result in Davis being able to place the cue ball anywhere on the table during the first frame.
The two players were unaware of this rule. After a lengthy consultation with referee John Williams, who had the rules in his pocket, Davis declined to put the cue ball in a position where he could pot a red.
This was sporting of him but the incident underlined the dangers of messing around with a game which has more than proved its worth over the course of the last century.
There have been rules changes over the years – the miss rule an obvious example – but by and large the game of snooker is the same now as when Joe Davis won the first world title 84 years ago.
Snooker has had many problems and will doubtless still have them but one thing that has survived intact is the game itself.
It is the game that fascinates as the cast of characters changes over the years. And the game is bigger than any of them.
If you start messing around with it then you risk devaluing the very thing that drew everyone to snooker in the first place.
When you say this you get labelled a ‘traditionalist.’ Good, I take that as a compliment.
It is the traditionalists who stand up for snooker in the face of cheap, cosmetic attempts to dumb it down, which thrive despite there being no actual evidence that this is what people want.
I’m not against variant events. Just as other sports look for new audiences by providing a more ‘fast food’ version so can snooker.
So by all means have your Power Snookers and your Premier Leagues and your Shootouts.
But the championship game is the only true test and the only version which should be taken seriously. Once this version starts being diluted then, frankly, the sport will lose its credibility.
I recognise that World Snooker have to be alive to commercial pressures, particularly from television companies who effectively bankroll the circuit, but very much hope the established game of snooker as we know it, which has provided entertainment, drama, heartbreak and joy for so many, will outlive us all.