No rest or breaks for snooker’s retiring legend Steve Davis

0
Have your say

Nugget. Interesting. The Ginger Magician. The Romford Robot. Romford Slim. DJ Thundermuscle. Steve. Mr Davis, if you prefer.

A snooker player, a poker player, a techno DJ, a pundit, a jungle celebrity, and a Spitting Image puppet.

Snooker finalists Steve Davis (left) and Dennis Taylor before the 1985 final.

Snooker finalists Steve Davis (left) and Dennis Taylor before the 1985 final.

In his heyday Steve Davis was portrayed as a buzzkilling drone. It turned out he was just doing his job.

Davis, the six-time world snooker champion, the man crowds would jeer in his 1980s pomp as he swept to title after title, record after record, has retired.

His last match came in front of not thousands, or hundreds, but merely dozens of spectators. And it came in Sheffield, but not at the Crucible.

On April 10, Davis lost 10-4 to Fergal O’Brien in a sports hall at the Ponds Forge leisure centre, and walked away smiling.

Steve Davis.

Steve Davis.

“To oblivion and beyond,” he said, his hopes ended in the first round of qualifying for the World Championship.

Humour. Spend enough time around Davis and it pours from him.

“He smiles too much. He’ll get nowhere smiling that much,” Davis said of Anthony McGill on Sunday. The young Scot keenly resembles a twentysomething Davis. Goodness knows he will have struck lucky if he has half as successful a career.

Davis was no Peter Pan of potting. But unlike Stephen Hendry, who after his title-winning days became pig-sick of losing, through his 40s and 50s Davis found a way to deal with defeat, to cope with being half - being generous - the player he once was.

He had planned to play on until 60 but the fading health and subsequent sad death of dad Bill, his greatest supporter, last month focused his mind.

When Alex Higgins was handing out headbutts and insults like sweets, and Jimmy White was playing the rock star on and off the table, Davis was potting balls. Red, colour, red, colour, red, colour. Davis potted balls and then lifted silver pots on which invariably his name had already been repeatedly engraved.

Every snooker fan and his granny had a favourite player, and invariably it was not Davis.

He was cast in the role of pantomime villain, and courteously accepted his lot. After all, it paid well.

When he lost, at the height of his success, his attitude stank. He would give terrible, selfish interviews after defeats, and no defeat hurt more than the loss to Dennis Taylor in the 1985 final.

He drank so much that night, that by 3am he was almost enjoying himself.

“I was nearly having a good time,” Davis once told me, “but then an hour later I was crying in my pint with the barman, we were the only ones left.”

He did have a fan club, known as the Romford Roar. They must have been up all night filling in voting forms when Davis won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1988.

Davis is going, but he will not be going quietly. The BBC work will continue and Barry Hearn, his long-time manager and the head of World Snooker, will keep him busy behind the scenes.

And as Hearn says: “He’ll be around with his techno deejaying and goodness knows what else.

“’Interesting’ Steve Davis actually turns out to be quite interesting at the end of the day, doesn’t he.”

Steve Davis career in numbers.

28 - total number of ranking titles, matched by Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins but only bettered by Stephen Hendry

6 - World Championship titles

147 - Davis made just one maximum break, which was the first in a professional match. It came against John Spencer at the 1982 Lada Classic in Oldham, and he received a Lada car as reward

30 - Davis made a record 30 appearances at the World Championship, last appearing in 2010 when he reached the quarter-finals

7 - value in points of the black ball he missed in the 1985 World Championship final, allowing Dennis Taylor to mop up and claim the title

£866,000 - his Crucible prize-money, amid total career earnings of over £5million

8 - position in the top 40 reached in May 1986 by Snooker Loopy, the Matchroom Mob with Chas & Dave hit single that featured Davis

38 - years as a professional snooker player

40 - years since he first met his manager, Barry Hearn

1 - world ranking from 1983 to 1990

355 - career century breaks

Mark Selby won the title for the second time by beating Ronnie OSullivan in the final last year

WIN: World Snooker tickets to 2017 Betway UK Championship in York