Snooker: White no longer seems to be in with a shout

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The Independent Online
JIMMY WHITE has found so many ways to avoid winning the Embassy World Snooker Championship it seems inconceivable that anyone could find another, but Alan McManus located one. The Whirlwind, he says, could be handicapped by his boisterous supporters.

Twice their first-round match here in Sheffield had to be halted late on Wednesday while over-enthusiastic supporters were removed from the crowd and McManus, who won 10-7, believes it harmed the person they were purporting to back.

"I'm glad I don't have to deal with that every match because it's not very nice," the world No 8 said. "All that shouting, it gets a bit silly and if anything it upsets Jimmy more than me. They're shouting 'come on Jimmy' every shot and it becomes boring. It does help him at all.

"There's just too much noise and that's the downside of playing Jimmy. It gets boisterous, it disrupts the flow of the game and, as the referee John Williams told them out there, we're playing for our lives. No shouting or bawling is going to make you try any harder."

White, six times the runner-up, naturally did not want to criticise his supporters, but even he admitted his concentration was affected. "This is a fantastic venue when you are tuned in," he said, "but when you're not you can hear everything. People are very close to you and if you are not focused it's difficult.

"From 3-1 up my mind wandered. I was trying to motivate myself but I couldn't, my mind just wandered. I didn't perform and I didn't feel like I could perform which is soul destroying. I've been playing well in practice which is the sickening thing. I struggled with every shot and every aspect of the game."

White had been at Sheffield since Saturday getting up early to combat the 10am start to his match with McManus and his preparation appeared to have worked when he took a 5-4 lead in the first session.

In the evening he was lacklustre, however. "His long game wasn't as good as it was when he was his peak," McManus said, "and that handicapped him because he does go for a few. It's the natural way he plays."

Even so White should have levelled the match at 8-8 when he led 60-49 in the 16th frame and needed only the blue to leave McManus requiring snookers. The fact that he left it rattling in the jaws of a top corner pocket was, he said, symptomatic of the state of his concentration.

"I only needed the blue but I tried to screw back for the pink because I didn't want Alan to play for snookers. How stupid is that? That's how my mind was."

Now White's brain has to come to terms with the fact he will be out of the elite top 16 for a second year and that, for all his brave words, the chances of his winning the world title are diminishing to the point of the negligible. As he heads towards his 40s, he is destined to be the nearly man.