From an early age I knew one day I would be a World Champion in sports. But every successful person, in sports or not, knows it’s a process and continues to be. We never stop learning and understanding.
From the age of say, six, my passion was sports. Education wasn’t a interest to me and missed a lot of school because of my love for sports. Nothing else mattered. My education was in sports from an early age; I studied different sports, the tactics, the mental aspect, and what it took to be a champion.
I’ve always said the best form of learning is understanding and learning from other great sportsmen, and these are what inspired me. I just wanted to be involved in sports.
Soccer and boxing were my sports, until one day in ‘92 my brother and I were spotted playing pool in a bar and the owner asked us to play in his local league — the rest is history.
1992: I started playing local leagues all over my area.
1993: I started playing bigger events around my region.
1994: I started to play pro/amateur tournaments with success
1995: I joined the UK tour against the best in the UK
1996: I turned professional; the first event I played as a pro, I won.
1998: I become World # 1 at English 8-Ball
The hardest part is staying at the top. It brings a lot of expectation and pressure.
In tournaments, I sometimes let myself down. Although I had huge success in my era — I won over 35 major titles and over 200 tournaments, more than anyone else — my main rival, Mick Hill, will have been very close to that number, and when I left English 8-Ball to go to American pool obviously he overtook that number.
The only thing I was missing was that I didn’t win the World Championship in English 8-Ball. I lost twice in the final, once to Mick Hill (2004, 11-9) and once to Mark Selby (2006, 11-7). The second one I thought I would win for sure because previous to this I had never lost to Mark (I beat him in tournaments and two big money matches.)
However, lady luck wasn’t on my side and I let it affect me.
Other years in the English 8-Ball World Championship I had heart breaking defeats: in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2005 I lost the Quarter Finals 9-8. So when I left English 8-Ball I asked why didn’t I win it, because I knew I was good enough and the rest of the year I proved that as I won other tournaments.
Now I know the answer!
I tried too hard to play perfectly and not make mistakes. I put too much pressure on myself on a few accessions. A few times didn’t get the luck when need it and few times I blew it.
There were a few I played well, that just weren’t meant to be; especially in 2004. Sometimes when I got to the later stages, my preparation was no good; it was a mixture of things, but mainly myself to blame for most of them.
Later on, I would use all of this to my benefit, So, looking back now it’s probably a good thing I didn’t win there.
The recognition and exposure in English 8 ball was poor. First Place World Championship was around $12,000-$14,000. If a professional event was won, it was around $4,000 to the winner.
In 2006 I started playing American Pool, something I had thought about for a while. When the World 9 ball was in Wales Cardiff 1999-2003, ran by Matchroom sport. I qualified twice 2000/2002, but besides that I never really played.
So in 2006, I started playing American Pool IPT (International Pool Tournament). This is where it all started. That didn’t last long, so I decided to focus on 9 ball. I played a few events and did well, but I realized the game much tougher than I expected; so I decided at the end of 2006 and 2007 to spend time in the Philippines because that’s where most of the best players are and that’s where I really elevated my game.
American Pool is a different level from English 8 ball, not just in talent but, mentally and professionalism and giving it 100% on and off the table. I treated it as a full time job.
I learned so much out there, not just on the table but, how to be more patient and calm when things are not going well. I know everything else will be OK because I had a winning mentality going into American pool, and that won me a lot of money matches in Manila, USA, and the UK from 2006-2008.
To Be Continued…
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Photo Credit: JP Parmentier – Matchroom Sport 2015 jpparmentier.com [Provided by Darren Appleton]
Editor: Shaylyn Arthurs