Sports editor Mark Lea’s column: The standard is even higher and O’Sullivan is a genius
For three hours on Sunday night there was only one TV channel worth watching.
Apparently there was also some dancing, a karaoke show and a bunch of ‘celebrities’ in a jungle (conveniently close to a luxury hotel).
On BBC2, the greatest snooker player of all time claimed his fifth UK Championship title.
Despite a stunning fightback by Judd Trump to force a final-frame decider from 5-1 and 9-4, Ronnie O’Sullivan somehow did enough to win again.
The pure drama simply made a nonsense of claims in a national newspaper last week that “the colour is being slowly drained from snooker – and the players are to blame”.
Unsurprisingly, World Snooker’s chairman Barry Hearn followed that up by saying how he wants to put some showbiz back into the game.
But it’s ridiculous to even suggest that ‘characters’ such as Alex Higgins and Bill Werbeniuk have been replaced by ‘low-fat, dairy-free versions’ like Neil Robertson and Peter Ebdon.
The standard is higher than ever and O’Sullivan is a genius on the green baize – as shown in his maximum 147 break last week.
Ebdon became a friend of mine when he also lived in Northamptonshire and I regularly spoke to him for the evening newspaper.
He is highly intelligent and great company. Even if you don’t like his playing style, you can’t argue with a record of nine ranking titles
– including the 2002 World Championship.
Another player who I have got to know well is Shaun Murphy who, since turning professional in 1998, has been a great ambassador for snooker with his insightful comments as well as charity work.
There are characters in snooker these days but instead of hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, they know how much they need to work hard on the practice table to even try to compete with O’Sullivan who is so naturally gifted.