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Fatty Facesitter

Fatty Facesitter's Crucible Diary

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The World Snooker Championships are back back BACK for another year. This is a diary entry about my first Crucible experience, where I'm lucky enough to cover the sport of kings and the hobby of heroes for a fortnight of balls dropping, deep screws with lots of bottom, kissing the pink, gentle nudges on the brown, getting the spider out (?).......you get the picture. 

Disclaimer: In absolutely no way shape or form is any of this meant to be some sort of elaborate humble brag - these are merely musing and ramblings of an over-excited man-child who's like a pig in chardonnay and has somehow fluked his way into the press room of a tournament he's wanted to cover since shooting out of mother Facesitter's middle bag. Also, there is a LOT of downtime here and I need something to keep me going through the late nights. Also, if this turns out to be shit then obviously delete. 

Fatty Facesitter's Crucible diary - Day 1

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09:00 - I'm like a kid on Christmas morning. I'm walking into the hallowed halls of Sheffield's humble Crucible theatre for the first time! All the memories of watching the beautiful game on the box and the iconic moments from yesteryear come flooding back. The first maximum by Thorburn. Taylor beating the Nugget in the black ball game. Hendry shattering the Whirlwind's dreams. The Rocket wiping out all before him. Peter Ebdon's break of 12. This is the big one and my innards are exploding with excitement.

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Appropriately, the first snooker personality I see in person at the venue is John Virgo. In his old age he's a miserable old bastard, but I loved his trick shots, batshit metal waistcoats and watching Big Break with the mad racist Jim Davidson as a kid. He was my dear old Nan's favourite, so I took it as a nice little sign from above that my life was coming full circle. 

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10:00 - Play kicks off. I walk into the venue just before the session starts. Rob Walker, God of MC's in doing the introductions. Think a British Howard Finkel on acid. The arena looks a lot smaller than it does on the box - it's pretty intimate and you can almost touch the players you are so close. Mark Williams, the defending champion who got stark-bollock naked for his post-match press conference after his title win last year, starts against Martin Gould.

Williams is the Stone Cold Steve Austin of snooker - he hates authority (as we'll see later), he's a beer-drinking, kebab eating rebel who fans adore because he gives not but a single, solitary fuck. Thinking his career was dying out, he shocked everyone by winning the world title last year, claiming £350,000 in prize money, and spent the next twelve months going on holiday and getting absolutely smashed with his wife. Hero. 

The players have entrance/walk on music. The cameras follow them from snooker's equivalent of the Gorilla position down a small entrance ramp, lights flashing, and over to their table. Suddenly, two of my passions in life blend together like a lethal cocktail - Gould, who looks like less like a sportsman and more like a guest on Jeremy Kyle, comes out to...The Game by Motorhead?!?! No water spit though - poor form. They also have some daft nicknames, as we'll see later. 

12:00 - Hazel Irvine walks past me and smiles in the corridor. She has no idea who on Earth this inbred neckbeard is in front of her, but her courteous, genuine smile makes me day. She is every bit as lovely as she seems. Just a gentle, sweet Scottish flower. I fall hopelessly in love. 

13:00 - Snooker 19 has just come out on PS4, and there's a console in the press room. I play a colleague and feather the white on my very first go. Bollocks. BUT, I win the best of three match. Albeit virtually, how many people can say they've won a snooker match at the Crucible? Not many. 

14:00 - Autograph hunters have swarmed on someone outside as I go to make a phonecall. Programmes waving wildly in the air, lots of excitable shouting from ladies of a mature age. A towering figure in jet black shades signs away. I take a closer look. Ronnie? Selby? Ding? No...it's only Peter Ebdon, the vegan-powered Brexiteer himself. He's not even in the tournament - was he doing a Virgil, hanging around the arena, unable to get in, trying to live out past glories? 

16:00 - Nothing of note happens for a few hours - apart from Neil 'The Thunder from Down Under' Robertson absolutely demolishing Michael Georgiou 9-0 in his first session. The session ends and he has to come back tomorrow to play again - he needs one frame to win. Pointless exercise. Looks to be the favourite on early evidence...

18:00 - It's day 1 of 17 but I can already feel fatigue creeping in. Not a good sign. As fantastic a sport as snooker can be, if a match goes long it really does grind at the soul. The standard of fast-paced potting play really goes up in this tournament, but annoyingly so does the safety play. Which is fine in spells, but when the matches are best of NINETEEN fucking frames in the FIRST ROUND, it makes you queasy. Think the iconic torture scene in A Clockwork Orange. Have I really hit the wall this early?

19:00 - The evening session starts. I go back to the press room and become friends with a lovely, friendly Chinese journalist who challenges me to a quick go on Snooker 19. I fall hopelessly in love. I win the game, obviously. I'm don't lay down for no ho. 

22:00 - Stone Cold Mark Williams gets over the line against the King of Kings Martin Gould. Gould comes in for his press conference.  

The press conferences are usually pretty generic affairs in truth. There's some initial reaction about the match, questions about their next match, maybe a couple of extra tidbits but nothing special. Gould comes out with a great quip about Williams "If he stays off the booze, fags, kebabs and minstrels he's got a good chance." A ringing endorsement. 

Williams comes in for his conference (fully clothed). He starts off with generic reaction when BAM, turns heel on World Snooker out of nowhere. Unbeknownst to many of us, there was an issue with passes for his family earlier in the day, and on some of the promotional graphics for the tournament he's barely visible, despite being the defending champion. Could it be that there's an agenda at play here from the evil overlords controlling the game? Is there a bid to oust the 44-year old maverick People's Champion with someone more in line with their clean-cut corporate image like a Kyren Wilson or a Judd Trump? Either way, he goes **IN** on them, eyeballing their staffers in the room, calling the whole situation 'pathetic' and 'a load of crap'.

This sport is becoming more and more like wrestling before my very eyes. Colourful characters, elaborate entrances, nicknames, SHOOT PROMOS. We haven't even had Brock Le---Ronnie O'Sullivan play yet and already it's all popping off. Roll on the next 16 days. 

Edited by Fatty Facesitter

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2 minutes ago, Fatty Facesitter said:

moreÔĽŅ in line with their clean-cut corporate image like a Kyren Wilson or ÔĽŅa Judd TrumÔĽŅpÔĽŅ?ÔĽŅ

Miserable pair of bastard's more than anything else.

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Fatty Facesitter's Crucible Diary - Day 2!

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10:00 - After the madness of Mark Williams' mad ramblings the night before, it's a much calmer press room on the second morning here. Hopes of an early finish are in store - following Neil Robertson's 9-0 humping of Michael Georgiou the day before, he only needs one frame to win his evening session at 19:00. As long as the match on table two finishes at a reasonable hour, that means it's out on the lash on Easter Sunday. Look out Sheffield, I say to myself, lock up your daughters (and your sons!) because the snooker mob are going to go big! 

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11:00 - Terry Griffiths is deep in conversation with the Betfred girls in the press room, donned in a Stone Island jacket. He swoons. They laugh. El Tel clearly absolutely drowned in it in his day, and probably still does. "Oldest ride, longest lines" I think to myself. 

13:00 - Ding Dong! Ding Junhui becomes the second man through. The Chinese press in the media centre go absolutely fucking insane. Ding, actually a Sheffield resident, is a genuine rockstar in his native China. Imagine Justin Beiber wandering the streets of LA, The Rock strolling around Miami, Delia Smith strutting through Norwich - the the flock of people that would attract in an instant, and you get an idea of his star power. A very likeable, down to Earth, sweet man, who perhaps has to do more media than anyone else as a consequence of his bi-linguality. 

After his multi-lingual conference, he then does this interview with World Snooker - where Rob Walker passes him a bottle of champagne (every match winner gets one here this year). Ding promises to smash all five after the final. LAD. (Cut to 3:06)

 

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14:00 - One of my favourite up and comers is about to enter the Crucible for the first time. Luo Honghao, another Chinese player, has a fantastic cue action and has run several of the big names close in his matches this season, including The Rocket. But even BETTER than that, he plays with a Kevin Nash-Diesel esque black glove, wears mental spiked shoes and plays the piano like an absolute champion. I christen him as snooker's next big rockstar for all of the reasons above. Mixed responses. But I'm confident he'll give an out-of-form Shaun Murphy a good game today. 

18:00 - Murphy has absolutely fucking wiped the floor Luo, winning the session 9-0, and my boy is on course for a record low points total and defeat. Fuck's sake! 

Meanwhile, the titanic clash between Gary Wilson and Luca Brecel has ran so long it's been called off, despite the match being 9-8 in Wilson's favour. 

21:00 - Robertson is done crushing Georgiou. The latter actually gets a wonderful reception from the crowd as he enters the arena, which is a really nice touch. Safe to say this is a babyface Crucible crowd today. He comes through for his conference. Far from being downbeat, he loved his Crucible experience and couldn't have been more complimentary about his opponent. We fall hopelessly in love.

Robertson looks every inch the favourite to win this year. Apart from his awful 90's boyband barnet, he's in blistering form having won several titles and appeared in several finals this season. That, coupled with an engagement and a new baby girl, mean the stars are aligning for him. I think back to how the governing body look forward to Williams' demise as their champion and can't help but feel they view the media-friendly Aussie as the man they'd like to see take his mantle.

Meanwhile, Brecel/Wilson just won't end. They come back out and battle on. And on. And on. And fucking on...

22:00 - And on - both are locked in a safety battle that just won't die. The reds are all bunched together on the bottom cushion - the colours are getting bunched together in the baulk end, forming something of a barrier and a prime target for snookers. Stephan Maguire is making a meal of his match on Table 2. Tonight's big booze up is well out of the window at this point. Having had no sleep the night before, my body literally starts to give up on me. My arms feel limp, my eyelids are like sandpaper. They warned me there would be some late nights, but I wasn't expecting this sort of carnage two days in. 

Hazel enters the press room for a quick catch up with old friends. She's in it for the long haul, the old fox. My love for her doesn't wane. The female Chinese journalist who challenged me on Snooker 19 yesterday comes back into the room. They walk past each other. I take a mental image of the two of them being in the same sphere at the same time. I run to the bogs. 

22:30 - It runs so long that it sets a new Crucible record for the longest ever World Championship frame. There are ironic countdowns and cheers in the press room as the cock passes the previous record of 73 minutes and 11 seconds. I spit on them in disgust. 

It ends, and Gary Wilson, a former Newcastle taxi-driver, knocks out the seeded Brecel. Brecel looks thoroughly pissed off in his press conference. I can't blame him. Imagine playing for that long, in a decider, only to lose at the final hurdle like that. This game is bastard cruel. 

23:00 - Maguire's match also runs long and the big booze up is officially cancelled. It's a crestfallen press room. Then all of a sudden, Maguire auditions for botchamania with one of the most jammy fucking flukes ever seen inside such hallowed halls. 

 

Son of a bitch! He then goes on to win another decider. Why couldn't he have just done the decent thing and lose while he was 9-7 down, I wonder? 

Back at the hotel and the youth of Sheffield are causing commotion in the hotel. Staff can't keep control. There's no Pringles left in the snack machine. I run out of lives on my latest Duo Lingo assignment and by this point I'm thoroughly pissed off. Porro! Bed. Bring on on Day 3. 

 

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I see that Razor O'Sullivan got pinned by the 1-2-3 Kid Cahill in a surprise victory.

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So much for killing time when it's quiet - last couple of days have been bonkers. I'm catching up slowly!

Fatty Facesitter's Crucible Dairy - Day 3

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10:00 - Absolutely done in following the longest frame in Crucible history last night. My colleagues who have covered the event before warned me - "Look Fatty, I know you're excited but you must be prepared for some long nights - you need to pace yourself." Fuck that, I thought, if it's running late that means even more snooker for me to watch. Isn't that great? 

"But Facesitter, you'll hit the wall at some stage." Me? Never! I will not be broken. If Gary Wilson and Luca Brecel can't break me in the longest frame ever, nothing can. Right? 

12:00 - After I'd bigged him up for his main roster debut, Luo Honghao is completely squashed by Shaun Murphy who refuses to put over this up and coming talent. He completes his 10-0 whitewash as Honghao sets the record for the lowest points total. Murphy has a friendly exterior, but on the inside he's an absolutely ruthless fucking animal. I still have faith that the charismatic Honghao will shake it off and come back to win the big one in the future - on his day he cues like an angel. 

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13:00 - 1991 World Champion, BBC Pundit and bloody good egg John Parrott comes into the press room, waxing lyrical about Everton's impressive performance over Man United. He asks if anyone has a copy of The Times so he can do today's crossword. I'm desperate to talk to him about Neville Southall and how he's the greatest goalkeeper of all time (Bryan Gunn notwithstanding), but he disappears before I can make my advances. Next time, John boy. I will report back with his observations as and when I get them. 

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14:30 - Ronnie is up for his World Championship bow. Obviously you know what happens now but o the off chance you don't - Ronnie comes into this World Championships off the back of one of the best seasons of his entire career. 

People have made the Tiger woods comparison with Ronnie. Absolute bollocks. He's closer to Federer in the sense that he's been on top for such a long time without really letting his standards drop to the point where he can no longer cut it. Ronnie, already a child prodigy smashing in 147 breaks as a teenager, turned professional in 1992. He's been a top level professional for 27 years and, but for a few mad moments, has always excelled and will surely go down as the greatest ever by the time he's done. No, he doesn't have as many world titles as Hendry, but Lionel Messi doesn't have a World Cup to his name.

Does that mean he can't do down as the greatest? Ronnie has more triple crowns, will hold more ranking titles, prize money, etc. He's the big draw and the one everyone wants to hear from. Snooker is a great sport and I love both watching and covering it, but admittedly there are very few players I would go out of my way to watch whole matches for. Ronnie also brings in non-snooker purists to tune in and see how he's getting on. He IS Bigger than the sport. As I mentioned in the sporting shocks thread, he's having the best season of his career, surpassing Hendry's triple crown title record, making his 1000th century break, cleaning up in every competition he enters, returning to the world number one spot. I know I'm sucking him off massively there, but he's absolutely the most exciting player of all time. I'm hopelessly in love. 

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Enter James Cahill (No relation to Tim/Gary). A young man from Blackpool desperately trying to make a living in the professional game. He was previously on the professional tour, but was perhaps too young and not quite ready for it, subsequently losing his pro status and having to compete in tournaments as a top-up amateur if a spot happened to become free. He has claimed some scalps before - notably Ding Junhui a few years back, and more recently Mark Selby in the UK Championship first round. The UK Championship though is a funny one - the shorter format means that if the top 16 aren't at it then the likelihood of a scalp is significantly higher in the early rounds. It was still impressive, but the size of the task facing him here was astronomical in comparison. 

Amazingly, he starts well, taking the first frame with an extremely difficult final black from distance. The Rocket pulls back the next couple of frames and you expect him to motor through there, but Cahill comes back to level at 2-2 at the mid-session interval. If nothing else, he's avoided the embarrassment already suffered by Honghao and Georgiou with their massive deficits. 

They return. In truth, both play terribly at points during this part of the session. Cahill misses several chances, some so simple I'd be able to pot them with my eyes closed in Riley's. But incredibly, O'Sullivan does too, and keeps letting Cahill back in. Somehow, Cahill keeps missing his chances, only for O'Sullivan to let him in again, and again, and again. The press room is absolutely gobsmacked. The session ends and Cahill somehow as a 5-4 lead. Surely The Rocket will come back and steamroll through him tomorrow, but you have to take your hat off to Cahill - totally unfazed by the occasion, holding himself together, and taking an overnight lead into tomorrow's next session. Surely he's not going all the way though, right? 

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19:00 - I'm waiting outside the bogs. There are only two outside the press centre. A female official leaves the first but I'm finishing a text before I dive in. Who should then exit but the Darling of Dublin himself, 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty! Because I'm looking down at my phone and don't see who emerges from which water closet, I wonder if Crafty Ken has had a quickie before he goes on the box. I nod. He looks at me. Walks away. I'd be heartbroken if wasn't such a smooth bastard. 

23:00 - I'm at breaking point once again. Mark Selby, who trailed to another Chinese prodigy in Zhao Xintong, has made the comeback to win 10-7, taking his sweet, sweet time to do so. He's a funny, down-to-Earth guy is Selby, but going back to what I was saying earlier about Ronnie, he's unfortunately such a boring player to watch. For all his cheery exterior and good humour off-camera, on camera he's sadly pretty dull. A flat end to an exciting day. Tomorrow won't be nearly as interesting. Definitely not. Nope. 

 

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Day 4

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10:00 - Morning sesh gets underway. Ronnie O'Sullivan and James Cahill are ready to lock horns and complete their match from yesterday. Graeme Dott, who enters to Tina Turner's 'Simply the best' as his entrance music (With Jim Johnston out of the picture, WWE really needs to hire Snooker's music guy. Doing a sterling job) is up against Stuart Bingham on the other table. Two former world champions locking horns. But nobody cares. I wonder why? 

 

13:00 - CHAOS. James Cahill has BEATEN, VICTIMISED and HUMBLED Ronnie O'Sullivan, of all people. Absolute fucking meltdown in the press area. All the World Snooker crew are running around like headless chickens. Phone calls are coming in from organisations around the world. Photographers and cameraman are frantically scrambling around for lenses and batteries. Radio machines are beeping wildly as live reporters dial in. More cameras arrive and pack into the crowded press conference area. BBC and Eurosport both enter with their presenters looking to clear space for flash interviews, but reporters aren't budging while they frantically file their copy/send their photos. Sponsors, who have been pretty quiet and pleasant up to now, are driving everyone insane by buzzing about rearranging their branding, as if anyone gives a flying fuck. A reporters microphone stops working while he tests it and he freaks out. Everyone is initially excited at the great sporting upset they've seen before them, arguably the biggest in snooker history, but the excitement and enjoyment factor is quickly swept out from under people when the actual work starts. I don't even have time to finish my Quavers. This is the NEWS!

As a quick aside, you don't need to be a snooker genius as to why Cahill's win is a shock or extremely impressive. An amateur, beating the world number one, at the World Championships, it basically writes itself. But the most impressive element for me is just how well Cahill soaked up all the pressure, all the hype, held his nerve and continued to attack the game in a positive way. Imagine a National League side strolling into the Etihad against a full strength Man City side (not that they'd play their first team, but indulge me) and going on the attack rather than sitting back and hoping for the best. Some of his pots were absolutely superb, including long distances and fine cuts, all under immense pressure. God, I'm wet just thinking about it.

The conferences happen. Nothing earth-shattering from either. Ronnie doesn't feel 100%, Cahill is just focussing on his second match. The young man carries himself extremely well - an old head on young shoulders - and seems undaunted by all the extra media attention. To steal a line from Loki in this thread (with apologies), this 1-2-3 Kid will go far after beating Razor Ronnie. 

16:00 - I cross paths with Cahill walking back from the press room. He's back in street clothes sipping an orange J20. He nods in my direction. I wink at him in a very awkward way. I'm 99% sure he doesn't think I'm a total ponce. 

I go outside to call the gaffer. She's not impressed that I'm not going to be back home until at least the 7th of May. "You better bring me something nice back from Sheffield, Fatty!" IF anyone has any gift ideas they'd be appreciated - I'm not sure a BetFred programme will cut the mustard with her, somehow. 

Whilst on said call I see Ken Doherty head back to wards the BBC studios. A fan randomly shouts from a distance "KEN!! THE 1997 FINAL WAS THE BEST WE'VE EVER SEEN!!" He flashes a cheeky wink, much better than mine in the direction of Cahill, and smoothly sashays along. He's such a smooth bastard!

18:00 - Hazel's back! She's in the press room catching up with a couple of old friends. One day, I will reveal to her my true feelings and we'll run away together, living like hermits in the highlands, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

23:00 - The match nobody was initially bothered about - Bingham vs Dott - concludes. Bingham was 8-1 up going into the evening session. They started their evening session at 19:00. But Ballrun has a touch of the clinchers and Dott, incredibly, pulls it back to level at 9-9. Decider!! So far we've seen the longest frame in history along with the biggest shock. Don't tell me we're about to see the greatest comeback as well. All in the first round of my first time here?! 

Heartbreakingly for Dotty, Bingham gets over the line in a scrappy decider. Dott comes through for his conference, obviously a little despondent but far from throwing his toys out of the pram. It's actually quite a sad presser - he reveals that he's really struggling with sleep problems and it's ruining his career.

I'll always have a soft spot for the 'Pocket Dynamo.' My first proper grown up bet was on him back in 2006. He was losing to Ronnie in the World Championships semi-finals. Of the four people left, he had the best odds. He was cueing ok despite losing, so I took a punt, for whatever reason. Incredibly, he beat Ronnie, and then Peter Ebdon, still in the middle of his break of 12, and lifted the trophy. It's never nice to see someone go through something like that. It may not sound like much to some, but the thought of waking up three or four times a night without being able to drift off into a deep sleep sounds terrifying to me. 

People question whether snooker can be considered a sport or whether it's just a game. They can fuck off. Sport is as much about the mental aspect as it is physical. Cahill's incredible nerve in beating Ronnie is arguably more impressive than his potting ability. And the pressure someone like Dott must be under to perform, maintain the levels of concentration needed to succeed at the top end, with no sleep, it must play havoc with his life. Hopefully him talking about it publicly will actually help him - hopefully he gets plenty of offers for help etc. 

Just needs to sort out his squeaky voice after that and he'll be alright!

Edited by Fatty Facesitter

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I LOVE this thread. I love the snooker, and the wrestling references really top it off.

 

brilliant work.

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Lovely read this. I'm not much of  a Snooker fan but I have fond memories of watching it constantly with my dad as a nipper. 

My old man was a bit decent in his younger days and actually beat Ray Reardon in a local club some 50 or so years ago. 

Then again, this is the same bloke who still swears he saw the Hulkster in  South Wales working mens club. 

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Day 5!

 

10:00 - There's been some bizarre wrestling crossovers and likenesses for me during my time at the Crucible thus far. Mainly a serious of funny coincidences, such as Martin Gould entering to Triple H's theme music, shoot promos from the likes of Mark Williams etc. Just when I thought things couldn't get weirder or be more closely intertwined, an actual WWE personality is HERE at the Crucible Theatre for the snooker! 

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Radzi, NXT UK's backstage announcer, is here for the BBC doing some presenting work. I wonder how two of my odd interests have colluded together in this fashion. I want to ask him so many things. What are the tapings like for NXT UK? Has he met many of the big stars? Has he met Triple H? What's William Regal like? What's Pete Dunne like? What's Toni Storm like? Does he too temporarily bat for the other side when he sees the towering figure of Walter flying through the air like a majestic swan for a top rope splash? Does he share my opinion that Rhea Ripley is a bit of a "I know I shouldn't, but..." Are WWE doing anymore tapings in Norwich and if so, will he join me for an afternoon out on the Norfolk Broads? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. 

11:00 - Press are still being asked about Cahill's famous victory of El Rocketo. Rob Walker is doing a radio interview. "Yes, it was an excellent performance. He showed real snooker cojones to get the job done." I now want a t-shirt with snooker cojones. To have cojones is one thing, but SNOOKER cojones? That shit's alpha male. 

13:00 - Judd Trump, the man with the worst barnet in snooker, is through after a final frame decider against Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Focussing on Un-Nooh for a second (another wrestling crossover enters my mind along the lines of Kassius Ohno's entrance music), he's another player that is well under the radar in terms of big stars, but he plays like a young Jimmy White, spanking crazy shots in left, right and centre. Snooker and football actually have some similarities in terms of their differing philosophies. The purists appreciate good defensive/safety play. For many, like me, these beautiful games are best enjoyed when players go on the attack. Both of these two thankfully share the latter philosophy. Arguably, Judd is the most exciting player to watch on the circuit today - dare I say at times he's even more enjoyable to watch than Ronnie, purely because of some of the outrageous shots he produces like an RKO out of nowhere. Observe, exhibit A. 

 

The Juddernaut, the Mayor of Juddleyville, the Juddmeister General, Top Trumps, Trumpy Pumpy, gets through by the skin of his teeth and the hairs of his arse. Un Nooh botches the white and it proves to be his last spot. Trump was a big favourite going into this, and apart from a couple of outrageous shots as previously mentioned, he really got out of fucking jail there. A crestfallen Un Nooh politely bows to the crowd before he departs. True babyface. 

18:00 - Mark Allen threatens to make a massive comeback against Zhou Yuelong, but despite fighting back from 9-2 he bows at 7-10. Yuelong, another shit hot Chinese potting prospect, dresses impeccably, his trousers matching his loud waistcoat. Touch of the Kirk Stevens about him. One to watch.

 

18:30 - Daily dose of Hazel in the corridor. She's talking to the towering unit of a referee in Jan Verhaas, known in Snooker circles as "The Big Dutchman." And apparently, yes, it's for the reason you think. I get height (and penis) envy. 

20:00 - The Hawk knocks seven bells of shit out of Li Hang, winning 10-1. Early finish and press duties all wrapped up in time to catch most of the footie. Fucking love the Hawk. He's had a strange last couple of seasons and traditionally struggles a bit in the shorter-format tournaments. But he's not a showhorse, he's a fucking thoroughbred, and despite not winning the tournament he has an excellent record at the Crucible in recent years. The long format suits this all-rounder extremely well. Potential dark horse.  

 

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Crucible Diary - Day 6/7/8/9 (I've lost track about what happened on which day!)

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Things are slowing down a little following the madness of the first few days. The first round is drawing to a close and the second round matches are kicking off. No morning session today - I'm grateful for what's probably going to be my only lie-in during this 17 day stretch. 

The practice tables are in a dark backstage area of the arena. Three tables in total, though one of them is mainly set up for links for TV etc. Radzi, who I mentioned in the last entry, is knocking a few of them about while they wait for someone. He's a kind soul, but from what I saw should probably stick to interviewing. 

We're lucky enough to get a few minutes with The Hawk previewing his next match and doing a few demo shots. Nails his first attempt. He's too short on the second shot he sets up. He turns to Ding Junhui practicing on the other table. "Not enough Weetabix!" Ding looks confused. 

He reveals to us that he has a stalker on Twitter. Bollocks, I think. I love The Hawk, but really? I can see it happening with someone like Ronnie, Jimmy White, Robertson etc, but Barry Hawkins? 

Barry: "I'm not joking! Honestly, look her up on Twitter. The Hawk Stalker. Get in there!"

We do some digging. He fucking HAS an' all. Bloody hell.

Screenshot_2019-04-28_at_19_26_12.thumb.png.65f757f35c49661ee93ce19997c4f653.png

https://twitter.com/justCallMeEms8 

Strewth. 

Shaun Murphy blows a Maximum attempt. £60k in the bin. He stops mid-break to ask the ref to bring the divider up that sits between the tables. A nice gesture for the crowd on the other side of the auditorium? Or was he just craving more eyes and attention? Make your own minds up - 

Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter are through to the second round. The matches run slightly longer than usual as they limp over the line for their finishes - incredibly, every time a photographer dashes out for what looks like the final frame, a player misses a ball and the match rumbles on, the photographers come back. Became a bit of a running gag because his happened three or four times in the space of about an hour. 

Not sure how he comes across to the wider public but Wilson strikes me as a really good egg. Always very courteous, real family man, very respectful to the older pros, etc. He's taken some stick for recent spats with Judd Trump, but otherwise he's always been solid. Today's top babyface. 

There's a Portuguese journalist here is widely regarded by everyone else as something of a pain in the arse. So naturally, we're getting on fantastically. He is absolutely fascinated by everything and his questions to the players are incredible. According to my colleague, last year he was sitting in on John Higgins' press conference. The topic turned to his run in the competition and his big to win a fifth world title. "John" he pipes up. "You have a lonely finger..." After an awkward pause followed by the entire room collapsing with confusion and laughter, he explained that he was using the Superbowl analogy about how players get championship rings, so he needed one more win to fit a ring on each finger, so to speak. I'd have love to have seen that. 

He comes up with an absolutely beautiful analogy for Graeme Dott, who you may recall talked about his sleep problems ruining his career in his press conference the other night. He says "Is hard man. For the snooker players, is not jus' about the money, the cars, the womens, is about the mind and looking after yourself. Is sad man." I'm not sure what kind of lifestyle he thinks Dotty has but I thought it was a beautiful sentiment! 

The Thunder finishes the job against Murphy. Still looking every inch the tournament favourite. Murphy says they should get the engravers to just put his name on the trophy now. Robertson warns us before his press conference "If any of you spoil Avengers for me, you will be assassinated!" Incredibly, I am the only other person in the room who seems to know what he's talking about. Most of the snooker journos are either old timers who don't go to the cinema, or snooker specialists where it has basically taken over their life. The infamous snooker bubble isn't a myth after all. 

John Parrott's back. He's rummaging through the papers. "What could be better?" He asks. "Racing Post and a cup of tea. Lovely stuff!" He leaves before I can ask him about Neville Southall, but so help me, we WILL have that conversation between now and when the tournament finishes! 

It's Saturday evening. There's tons of work to do, but it's also Norwich City's big night - a point at home to Blackburn and they get promoted. Sheffield United had already won their game earlier in the day to all but confirm their promotion, and the city was lively to say the least. 

In a close finish, David Gilbert knocks out defending champion Mark Williams at virtually the same time the full-time whistle goes at Carrow Road. Norwich are promoted. I'm obviously delirious, but immediately I have to head over to the press conference area and crack on, annoyingly postponing the celebrations for a short while. 

Stone Cold Mark Williams actually had a health scare the previous night, complaining of chest pains. He went to A&E and they said it wasn't a heart problem, and fair play to him for coming back and playing the next day. Now, only the cynics would suggest that off the back of his World Snooker outburst a few days prior that this was a convenient way to avoid any further questioning around what was fast becoming a touchy subject. Only the cynics...

I'm invited out for drinks by two fellow members of the distinguished snooker media mafia. I arrive the at the specified location...turns out they are teetotal. So much for promotion drinks to celebrate my beloved Norwich. And yet, I really enjoy their company and have a brilliant time all the same. 

Mark Selby joins The Rocket and Willo on the Crucible scrapheap, losing to ex-cabbie Gary Wilson, who in fairness played extremely well. You wouldn't think he was one of the players who only a few days ago recorded one of the longest frames in Crucible history. Selby isn't his usual calm, jolly figure, punching the table after what turned out to be his final shot of the match before Wilson put him away. 

Ouchie. 

Maguire beats James Cahill. Cahill, who made headlines for beating Ronnie earlier in the week, refuses to do questions for the written press following The Sun's recent revelation about him trying to sneak in three cases worth of cigarettes back from Dubai. He's very, very tetchy. I sort of got it - he's created the biggest shock in snooker history, and just a couple of days later the red tops seemed determined to dig up old dirt on him ahead of his next big match. He also lost a deciding frame against Maguire, which can't have helped. His bullish nature catches a lot of people off guard. Initially he was lauded for his bottle and for being so head-strong, now he seems to be in the middle of a slow-burn heel turn. Interesting. 

Day 9's first session is pure Champagne Snooker. The Hawk is absolutely throttling Kyren Wilson, making four centuries in quick succession and almost getting a 147. Stuart Bingham and John Higgins are slugging it out on the table and Bingham comes close to making a maximum too. "Is like watching snooker from out of spaces!" Says my Portuguese compadre. He's not wrong! 

Because no matches finished today, there's no reaction to grab. I catch up on some other work and play some Snooker 19. Actual snooker referee Olivier Marteel walks past and the game catches my eye. I pot a superb blue into the middle pocket and split into the pack. "My Man!" He says in his Belgian accent. I feel instantly gratified. 

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Day 10! 

11:00 - No morning session. Lie in! Lovely. 

12:00 - I am reminded of an incredible item I forgot to include in yesterday's entry. As you'll recall, Mark Williams had a health scare a couple of nights prior at the end of his first session with David Gilbert. He returned the next day to complete his match. At one point the camera cuts to his family in the crowd, who have commentary earpieces on. Then, an incredible piece of Accidental Partridge occurs from Eurosport's Phil Yates - 

 

What about his Snooker health?!

17:00 - Kyren Wilson has played really, really fucking well to overcome Barry Hawkins, who was also playing really, really fucking well to reach the quarters. Barry started off by playing in God mode, smashing in century after century, but Kyren bided his time, used all three sessions to his advantage to slowly chip away and get back into the game gradually, even despite a couple of frustrating kicks and being on the wrong end of a couple of flukes. Really good match. 

Incredibly, a foreign reporter starts asking Hawkins about a different opponent in his press conference. Everyone's a little confused. It then quickly emerges that the reporter thinks it's Ali Carter, not The Hawk. "He's got more hair than me!" I think of the Hawk Stalker and how devastated she must be. But she seems to be taking it well - 

 

18:00 - Lucky to get some time with Neil Robertson for preview material. Absolute, total snooker nerd, and a good egg. Cried several times during Avengers. It really was a privilege to see him play/practice close up. Again, I say that not as an elaborate humble brag, but how I've somehow found myself in the practice room at the Crucible watching a former World champion, possibly the NEXT World champion, hone his craft. He pots them off the lampshades for a bit, grabs his Vegan sausage roll from Greggs and heads off. 

23:00 - Late finish tonight but two more cracking games come to an end. I send off my last few bits and head off. The quarter finals are as follows (Can't remember the order)

Neil Robertson vs John Higgins

Higgins is finally starting to play better after a wretched season, but Robertson at the moment is irresistibly good. Key for the Thunder will be keeping his composure - Higgins is a Crucible specialist and will definitely make him sweat if he gets the chance, but the Aussie is still very much the favourite, and with good reason. 

Judd Trump vs Stephen Maguire

With the exception of tonight's session against Ding, Trump has been been playing quite poorly in his first couple of games here, while Maguire has battled his way through a couple of tricky ties. Trump will go in as favourite, but if Maguire keeps his cool I expect Trump to crumble under the Crucible pressure before the Scot does. Maguire has been revitalised since changing up his practice routine. With Trump, although he's had a brilliant season and has performed well under pressure, this is a different kettle of fish altogether at the Crucible. Good game in prospect. 

Gary Wilson vs Ali Carter

This might not look like much to many on paper, but both players were brilliant in the second round. Wilson knocked out Mark Selby, while Carter was 9-7 down going into his final session with the impeccably dressed Zhou Yuelong and won six in a row to take the match. There's a minimum of a £100,000 payday for reaching the semi-final stages, so a lot at stake for both qualifiers here. Carter obviously has the experience and has the gutsy determination, a direct correlation from his life off the table, but Wilson is finally showcasing his talents after years of working other part time jobs like being a cabbie, working in a hotel etc trying to break through as a full time professional. It's going to be absolutely heartbreaking for the loser. 

Kyren Wilson vs David Gilbert

Gilbert's in the form of his career, has an excellent safety game and already has two good wins over the experienced Joe Perry and then knocking out defending champion Stone Cold Mark Williams. Kyren is traditionally a slow starter, but I think he'll just about take it over the course of the three sessions. At this stage Trump/Robertson is probably the dream final, but it's difficult to see that panning out in Judd's case. 

Should be an interesting finale if nothing else. Ronnie may have gone home, but there's plenty of other good players here to keep things interesting. Roll on the quarters. Ten days down, seven to go! 

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