An email coversation with Graeme Dott: 'We need an Abramovich to take the game to a new level'

Scotland's need for a snooker academy; My biggest trouble with little China; Applying business psychology to play
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The Independent Online

Your sporting year starts tomorrow at Wembley, at the Saga Insurance Masters, which began over the weekend. What one sporting and one non-sporting wish do you have for 2007?

To win a tournament, any tournament, with a dream scenario of retaining the World Championship title I won at the Crucible last year. And health for myself and my family.

You begin the Masters with a first-round match against Stephen Lee. You're the form player of the two of you, and you'll be favourite to go through, but what would you accept as a good achievement in the event?

A semi-final wouldn't be too bad, reaching the final would certainly be acceptable. The Masters is the second biggest event in the world. Wembley's not a place where I've done too well in the past, but I want to put that right.

You're drawn to meet Peter Ebdon in the quarter-finals in a rematch of last year's World Championship final. Do you relish the prospect or fear a flashback to the Crucible, which was tremendously stressful even though you won?

It would be something to relish. I'm the first to admit that the world championship final was not great. In fact, it was too long, boring to watch. I didn't even think I was playing well, but was well ahead until the final session, when it was frightening the way Peter came back. But things are different now, we're both in form, so if it happens, great.

You've made some changes in your approach at the table, speeded up, and have apparently "adopted some psychology models" to assist your game. What's that all about?

I've been working with my new management team, FSTC Sports management, over the past year, on some very simple sports psychology techniques that we've adapted from the business world. That plus a lot of hard work are starting to pay dividends.

After your £200,000 Crucible win, both you and your wife, Elaine, said you'd be prudent with the cash. Were you? And did you stick to your plans for a fortnight in Malta last summer?

Yeah, we've been prudent. We used the money to pay off the mortgage. That's it. We didn't go to Malta because I was so busy. We went on holiday later, to the Algarve. Elaine hasn't done anything different - she went shopping all the time before the win, and still does!

You donated the space for your waistcoat logo at the UK Grand Prix to Cancer Research. What was it that motivated you to make such a gesture?

My manager had cancer at the time, and he recently passed away. In a situation like that you feel completely helpless. I was in a position where I was able to do something to raise awareness. It was what I could do.

It was announced last week that the future of the China Open has been secured for the next five years. In 2002, China was the scene of one of your worst days in the sport - a terrible 41-hour journey, jet lag, oversleeping, forgetting to put on your pants, going to the wrong venue, and then losing rapidly. So do you have any good feelings about the Far East?

No. I really don't like it. Don't get me wrong, expansion in China is a great thing for the sport, but I don't like travelling that far from home, I don't like the food, I can't sleep and I have a horrendous record there. But of course I'll go and play.

If you could pick three new countries for World Snooker to expand into and stage ranking events in, where, and why?

Russia would be my No 1 choice. From the letters and interest we get from there, they're mad for it. Maybe we could find an Abramovich to take the game to a new level. Judging by the fan mail and level of interest, Germany and Poland would also be good places to go.

Do you see any opportunity for a snooker academy in Scotland, like the one in Sheffield, to encourage more youngsters into the game?

I do and it's something I feel strongly about - and it's something that can't and won't happen without the support of the government. The Scottish parliament really should be doing something, about investment in sport in general, because in the past we've been a laughing stock as a nation and while we're not doing too bad now, it's not something we want to be. Scotland has provided the winner at nine snooker World Championships since 1990, we've got talent, but we need help to develop it. It wouldn't matter where an academy was based: Glasgow, Edinburgh, wherever. But we need it.

You're a huge Rangers fan, and celebrated your World Championship win by parading the trophy at Ibrox last May. Is that the last silverware the stadium will ever see?

It feels that way right now! It was a dream come true to take my trophy there, but the football has not been good. But it's swings and roundabouts in football. Good times will come again.

What are your thoughts about Paul Le Guen's reign, and Walter Smith taking over?

Le Guen's time was weird. We did well in Europe but struggled in the league. I don't think he appreciated how hard the Scottish Premier League can be. People say it's a Mickey Mouse league compared to the Premiership, and it is in many ways, but you shouldn't underestimate how the smaller sides really like to put up a fight against the Old Firm. It was hard for Le Guen get a grip on, and his signings were bad too. Overall nightmare. As for Walter, he's rock solid, knows what it takes and should be steady.

Barry Ferguson or Le Guen: which side were you on?

Nobody knows for sure what went on, but on the available information, Barry's. If anything, he was guilty of loving the club.

You can have a dinner party for six guests from any walk of life, any era. Who? Where would you take them to dine? What would you eat and drink?

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Paul Gascoigne, Muhammad Ali, Freddie Mercury and Pele. I'd take them to Ibrox and we'd eat in a hospitality suite overlooking the pitch. We'd eat steak. And as I don't drink, we'd wash it down with Irn Bru.

Have you been playing much golf this winter, and how's your handicap coming along?

I've been playing quite a lot now things have quietened down a bit and I'm down to eight.

And what about poker, one of your other hobbies - have you spent much time or much of your £200,000 on that?

No. I've not been playing much at all. Less than I was before the World Championship. I used to play a lot of online poker, but since winning at the Crucible I've played a lot less. Part of that is down to time, I've just been so busy with other things. I don't think it sank in that I'd won for about a fortnight afterwards because that was the first time I had a chance to sit still and realise what had happened.