Griffiths: Wales is set for golden era

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The Independent Online

Terry Griffiths believes the success of Mark Williams in last night's Liverpool Victoria UK Championship final heralds a new golden era for Welsh snooker.

Terry Griffiths believes the success of Mark Williams in last night's Liverpool Victoria UK Championship final heralds a new golden era for Welsh snooker.

Williams, the new provisional world number one, defeated fellow countryman Matthew Stevens 10-8 to become the first Welsh winner of the title since Doug Mountjoy in 1988.

And Griffiths is confident it won't be another decade before the potters from the Principality are lifting the trophy again.

The 1979 world champion watched the last UK final of the old Millennium from his Llanelli home.

And there was no one prouder than 'Griff', now 52, to see Williams and Stevens go head-to-head for the title and £78,000 first prize.

"I'm not surprised by their successes but I must be getting old because I still think of them as promising 14-year-olds.

"In fact, I've know Matthew since he was about eight years old. Both players are blessed with great temperament that is very important.

"There are a lot of players out there with the skill but they don't always have the temperament and will to go with it."

Griffiths believes the duo will become role models for the next generation of Welsh players in the same way Stephen Hendry's success was the catalyst for the revival of Scottish snooker fortunes.

"Mark and Matthew have both served their apprenticeship in the amateur game. And in the same way Hendry came through in Scotland, these boys have done the same down here.

"Providing they have got the skill and the right competition then they are going to be successful players."

Griffiths, who won his one and only UK title in 1983, has played his part in raising the standards.

He has been director of coaching for the game's governing body and his Matchroom club in Llanelli regular hosts junior events and coaching clinics.

Teenagers Ian Preece and Ryan Day are the next two up and coming Welsh starlets. Preece, in fact, recently became the youngest ever winner of the world amateur title.

That honour eluded both Williams and Stevens but they have certainly proven themselves in the professional code.

The world title is now one of the few trophies missing from Williams' collection after last night's close call against his friend and practice partner.

He has now won seven ranking tournaments, including four in the last 12 months.

However, had Stevens not missed a crucial black in frame 18 then the trophy could now be back in Carmarthen and not Ebbw Vale.

Stevens confidently expected to add the black to his break of 50 which would have left Williams needing a snooker.

Instead, he lost concentration, missed the black and gave Williams an unexpected opportunity to clear-up.

Williams did just that, potting a difficult yellow before knocking in the last five colours.

"I was getting ready for 9-9," said the new champion. "In fact, I was beginning to feel I might lose the match.

"Thoughts of losing to John Higgins in the Grand Prix final when I had been 6-2 up kept coming into my mind.

"I was feeling a lot of tension at the end and I imagine it was the same for him.

"I just put all my eggs in one basket to make sure the yellow went in. It's nice to be number one on the rankings but it will mean more to me if I'm still there at the end of the season."

For Stevens, it was his second successive near-miss in the UK Championship after losing to John Higgins 12 months' ago.

"I really expected to get the black but I just took my eye off it," said the 22-year-old runner-up.

"I missed too many balls in the match that came back to haunt me. But maybe I'll be back next year to make it third time lucky."

Both finalists are now off to Shanghai in 10 days' time for the final stages of the China International.

And Williams will not want to his winning run to come to an end with the opportunity to still be top of the potters at the end of the Millennium.