Talking Sport Now & Then: Memories of how Doncaster went snooker loopy for Steve Davis

I always enjoy the World Snooker Championship and this year was no exception with Ronnie O’Sullivan, without question one of the country’s most gifted sportsman, proving a deserved champion.

By Steve Hossack
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 7:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 7:40 pm

The standards increase every year and there is far more strength in depth at the top of the game than when Steve Davis reigned supreme in the 1980s.

Slightly surprising then that the sport, although still very popular, doesn’t seem to have the same mass appeal as it did then.

Snooker was huge with the top players enjoying the status of today’s top footballers.

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Ronnie O’Sullivan poses with the Betfred World Snooker Championship trophy after beating Judd Trump in the final. Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty Images

I witnessed that at first hand when covering a visit to a Hatfield area pub by Davis.

Despite it being a mid-afternoon the place was packed with fans and a half-a-dozen or so media.

Davis was there to play a couple of exhibition frames against locals who had won through to play him but a lot of the media, mostly new reporters, ignored his requests to wait until he had finished playing.

I did as he asked and was rewarded when Davis invited me into the pub’s back room where the landlord had laid on a good spread.

I was told to tuck in and I got to spend 15 minutes or so virtually one-on-one with Davis while we ate.

I met Davis, who proved good company, another couple of times over the years during events at The Dome and I also won two tickets for a private dinner and question-and-answer session with him and 20 or so guests in Sheffield.

One of the best decisions I have ever made was to move to live in Doncaster in the mid-80s and snooker played a part in sowing the seeds of that decision as I drove home to my Pontefract area home in the early hours on icy, untreated country roads.

I had been covering a supposed £1,500 winner-takes-all best of 25 frames clash between Canadians Cliff Thorburn, the 1980 world champion, and Kirk Stevens at Adwick Leisure Centre.

I quite enjoyed the earlier sessions but it became something of an endurance test in the evening as the temperature in the sports hall dropped away as did the quality of the play.

It wasn’t only me who was feeling tired with both players missing shots that they would normally make with their eyes shut. I can’t remember the exact time that the game ended, although it must have been after midnight, or who won the game, but I do know it ended 13-12.

But I do remember Thorburn, the first man to make a 147 break at the Crucible, admitting to me that rather than it being a one-off the two men had played several such games in the past few days and that they had decided to share the prize money on every occasion.

Thorburn, along with Terry Griffiths, was one of the slowest players on the circuit and would often walk around the table several times prior to weighing up his options before playing a shot which didn’t make for good TV. Having said that, you could make a cup of tea or go to the loo and not miss any of the action!