|The Fountain||#12, September 4th 1997|
New Season - New Beginning
The new season is almost upon us once again and this year like last I am going to make some predictions. Last year I predicted Ronnie O'Sullivan would have a good year, and he did. This year I see him again improving as long as he keeps working hard To be honest, if he keeps working hard and keeps his nose clean he will eventually take over at the very top. Mind you with Ronnie he is so explosive he could also throw it all away, but I do not believe he will. I think he is one tough cookie.
I have had letters from Stephen Hendry fans who were very upset because I said in my last column that even if Hendry had played better in the Embassy final there was no guarantee he would win. This statement was not made to take anything away from the superhuman talent and acheivements of Hendry, it was made to give Ken the praise he deserved and to not take anything away from his win. However, I believe it will be impossible for Hendry to carry on playing at such a high level. By this I mean that his best form was so good that he cannot possibly keep playing like that. Ridiculous as it sounds he is past his best. Now I am not being stupid enough to say he will not win anything but I am saying he has earned a lot of money and has acheived far more than any player past or present. Hendry is of course the best player ever to strike a ball, but who does he compare himself to? Who can he learn from? What has he got left to prove? This is the reason why he can only go down now. He will still win tournaments, but not as many, but I believe he will not be number one for more than one more season. Having said all this it is only my opinion and he may prove me totally wrong, but I will say, more and more players attack him and more believe they can beat him (especially the younger ones).
The new qualifying school started this year. Sadly because I no longer manage Mark King I was not able to attend the qualification phase. From what I hear many players preferred it, as they had far less games to play to qualify. Mind you I am also sure when all the beaten players realise they will be playing B league matches for the rest of the season they will have a moan. Overall snooker took a giant step this year and it will pay off in the end. Some of the names who qualified are worth a mention, Australia may have a new player to cheer on at the final stages of tournaments and believe me he is quite different to steady Eddie Charlton. He is young Quentin Hann from Melbourne, I have mentioned him before in my articles as he always seems to attract attention wherever he go's. I used to take him to tournaments years ago when he was just 12 years old. To be honest I always believed he had the talent and the nerve to go all the way. He is very hot headed but if he is on a mission he is breathtaking. In fact he is my tip to be the rookie of the year. I heard while he was playing a final frame of a final qualifying round at Plymouth he needed the pink and black to win and take his place on the circuit. He went for the pink and missed by a long way but ended up safe. He then picked up the white and told his oponent he conceded! Like I say, hot head. Lucky for him he qualified in a later phase.
Other players of note to watch are Graham Dott from Scotland. For me he is very solid and good under pressure. Paul Hunter of England is definitely top 16 bound. My old friend Mark King has a shout of going in to the top 16. However, he like any other player who wants to grasp a precious top sixteen place, will have to work harder than he has ever worked. In fact to make it to the very top in any sport you have to make sacrifices in all parts of your life, even the people you hang around with. If you mix with the wrong people and allow bad habits to form, you will never make it. There seems to be so much pressure on these young players, but if you are so lucky that you can play a game to become very rich then you need more than talent to get through. There were also surprises. One young man who qualified was Peter Mc Cullagh from Ilford. He has done very well to qualify. Mind you how far he will get only time will tell. For me he is not ruthless enough to succeed. Hopefully from this year we will see more overseas players coming through as they will have entry from their own qualifying schools. Regular readers of my column will know that I feel it is vital for the overseas players to be given every opportunity to come through for the growth of the game.
Diana Princess Of Wales
I am sure all of you have heard of the tragic death of the princess of Wales, and whilst I know it has nothing to do with snooker I am compelled to write a few words. I like many people have never really taken much interest in the Royal family, however Diana was the only one who I could say was just like the ordinary people. Despite this she was still a very special person. Whilst she was alive I always would see her on TV working for one good cause or another. But I think like many other people I realised too late just what a fantastic effort she made. There will never be anyone else so caring, who could give so much to those who have so little. I am very pleased that people are making such a huge effort to pay their respects. My thoughts are with the young princes, especially William, as he will ultimately now take all the media attention that killed his mother. I only hope that the vermin called the papperazzi leave him in peace, although I know they will not. Perhaps people who buy these sleazy newspapers which publish the garbage which the papperazzi take, will boycott them and refuse to line the pockets of these murderers. (Editor's note: As of September 5th 1997, no official ruling has been made regarding who's to blame in this tragic accident.) My thoughts are also with Mohammed Al-Fayed who has lost a wonderful son Dodi, this tragic event has touched everyone and I hope we all take an example from Diana and be more caring towards our fellow man.
To end on a brighter note it does seem that snooker has been getting more interest from sponsors. Let us hope that this will mean more overseas events. It is great news that Highland Spring have signed a contract to support the Scottish Open for the next three years.
If any of you have written to me but not yet recieved a reply, I am sorry but I have taken a break for a while, but I am back at work now so expect replies to all of your letters very soon. Please keep sending your letters, but remember if you do not agree with what I write it is only a game after all!
The Fountain is a column written by Richard Fountain from England. He is an ex snooker coach and used to be the manager of Mark King. He will be writing to you throughout the snooker year and will try to give you all the inside info on this great game. Please feel free to write him <firstname.lastname@example.org> with any questions you may have.
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