Snooker: Taylor's battle in the twilight zone

Northern Ireland's former world champion is finding the game tough in his last season. By Guy Hodgson
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The Independent Online
IT TOOK snooker's qualification process to make Dennis Taylor's mind up. He looked round the small, sanitised box in which he had to defeat a man less than half his age, and realised he no longer loved what he was doing. He did not care enough.

The 1985 world champion, the winner of the greatest match in the sport's history, no longer resides in the top 16 and consequently has to fight off youngsters desperate to get to the televised stages. You need hunger and Taylor does not have it, and he will retire within the next four months.

"When you have spent 27 years playing in the top flight, in the big arenas, it's so difficult to come to places like this," Taylor said after he had lost 5-2 to 20-year-old Michael Holt at Blackpool's Norbreck Hotel.

"I can understand now why people like Terry Griffiths, Ray Reardon and Cliff Thorburn packed it in now. They can still play to a high standard but they're tough, these qualifiers. You're there with 16 tables in a squash-court atmosphere. You try to put it out of your mind, to build a bit of tension inside yourself, but it's so difficult.

"There's never any atmosphere. My arena was as full as you get, and that was only 15 people. There are so many players and there has to be a system of whittling them down for the televised stages. It's just not easy when you've done it all."

Taylor, 50 today, will play in the Nations Cup this week and the Liverpool Victoria Charity Challenge and then make one last attempt to reacquaint himself with the glory days by trying to qualify for the World Championships.

"That's my one aim left," he said. "That arena is something special. It's three years since I played at the Crucible and I never dreamed it would be the last time. I desperately want to get there again so whoever meets me in the qualifying for that will have to play well. That's one I'll really be up for."