An email conversation with Steve Davis: 'Snooker has real strength in depth. It's not like it used to be'

His chances in the UK Championship; the higher quality of modern snooker; why Ronnie is the best player ever
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The Independent Online

Outside the World Championship, the most prestigious tournament on the circuit is The UK Championship, which starts on Sunday, 8 December. You've won the event a record six times. The bookmakers price you around 100-1 to win this year. A good bet?

Er no. I'm not sure that a 100-1 chance is a good bet in anything! The interesting thing would be if you backed me in each round, rolling up the money and then if I won it, see how much you would get for your 1.

You were a quarter-finalist last year, and two years ago, at 48, you reached the final, where there was the greatest age disparity for any rankings event denouement, against Ding Junhui, then 18. What chance of a rematch in this year's quarter-final?

All I'm hoping to do is get through the first round! If I succeed then I'll hope to get through the next!

You're still a top-16 player at 50. Is being a member of that elite a prerequisite for you continuing as a pro?

Tough one. Probably not, although it would be harder trying to get back in to the top 16 than the last time I dropped out. At some stage I need a good run in order to give myself a fighting chance of staying in that top 16.

Snooker is a young man's game these days. Only three players over the age of 30 have won the World Championship in the past 20 years: you in 1989 (age 31), Peter Ebdon in 2002 (age 31) and John Higgins in 2007 (age 31). Is it conceivable there will never be another winner over 31?

I think the more competitive a sport becomes then the average age of the top players drops. However there will always be exceptions. The problem is identifying who they will be.

No one player has really dominated any one season in the past few years. Do you think it's more because the leading players are less motivated or that's there a true strength in depth?

A true strength in depth. They was probably a time when top players could [nearly] guarantee winning the bread and butter best-of-nines that make up most of the season. That is not the case now. Motivation has very little to do with it.

You're the presenter in a new DVD, The Greatest Snooker Trickshots. You have to be commended for some fine gags in your links. Did you write your own script?

Ha! Well we just had a skeleton script and I added a few "asides". The funny thing was that when we recorded it in a snooker club it was empty in the morning but then a few people started drifting in to have a game. We were going to ask them to move tables but I though it would be just as natural to have playing in the background so these people started having a game. It must have been more surreal for them, especially if they get to see the DVD!

The DVD will have huge appeal to "old school" audiences. It's a collection of shots from the World Snooker trickshot championship (1992-2006) and the entertainment value is in the personalities Cliff Thorburn, Dennis Taylor, Terry Griffiths, John Parrott, John Virgo, you, et al as much as the shots. What more can be done to market today's players?

The players today are no less "characters", it's just that they haven't had to earn their living from the exhibition circuit, which was where the lion's share of a player's wages came from at the start of the 1980s. I'm not sure that anything can be done to make the new players have more "personality", because to some degree the Eighties players had everything going for them in terms of the profile of the game, and some became characters in spite of themselves. If you transported any current top-32 player back to the 1980s he would be in the final stages of most events and be a household name.

A number of those featured on the DVD are little-known players from nations not famous for snooker: Poland's Bogdan Wolkowski, who was a three-times trick shot champion, Italy's Fabio Petroni, who's better known on the pool circuit, as is France's Vincent Facquet. Which countries are ripest for a snooker boom?

China, and Germany especially since Eurosport have started transmitting across many European countries.

Excluding yourself, which two players were /are the best ever? And in an imaginary best-of-35 match, with both playing to their absolute peak, who would win?

Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan and if they were at their peaks then nobody can touch Ronnie. Anything less than that and it would be Stephen.

Who do you think deserves to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award? Who do you think will win? And after your win in 1988, did it change you?

Joe Calzaghe deserves it. And Lewis Hamilton will win it. It didn't change me but it was funny to be associated with something with the word "personality" in it.

You can invite six people, real or fictional, from any era of history, to dinner. Who and why?

Do I have to?

Yes, please.

My brain hurts, I can't!

If you could ask yourself one question to unearth a hitherto unknown gem about your life, what would it be? And the answer?

Can't tell you, it would be too revealing.

Steve Davis Presents The Greatest Snooker Trickshots, DVD, Retro Videos, 14.99.


* Born 22 August 1957, Plumstead, London.

* Nicknames Steve "Interesting" Davis, The Nugget, Romford Slim, The Ginger Magician.

* Ranking titles 28, including six World Championship titles between 1981 and 1989.

* Dominance Almost total in the 1980s, when he spent seven years as the World No 1.

* Non-playing awards BBC Sports Personality of the Year (1988); MBE (1988); OBE (2001).

* Pool career Started playing professionally in 1994 and was instrumental in the creation of the Mosconi Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event between Europe and the USA. Earned one of his nicknames via playing pool when the peerlessly acute commentator Sid Waddell called him "Romford Slim" and said he was Britain's answer to America's Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone.