New Season: Hanging on

With the new season now underway at the Academy, it marks not only an opportunity for some of snooker’s finest young talents to push on up the game, but also an important season for some of the elder statesmen of the game who suffered a poor 2009/10…

Dave Harold

After a fantastic 2008/9 season highlighted by a terrific run to the final of the Northern Ireland Trophy, Dave Harold crashed back down to earth with a bump last season as he won just one match during the ranking event season and in truth did not come close to winning another as he dropped twelve places to number 31 in the rankings.

Worse could be to come for Dave however as with points from the summer of 2008 (at least his Northern Ireland final and Shanghai Masters last 16 run), to come off at this season’s October revision, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could soon find himself not only outside of the top 32, but the top 48 should his poor form continue.

So can Dave arrest the slide? Strangely enough it may have been better had he actually fallen outside of the top 32 at the end of last season as at least then he would have had an easier opening round match to ease himself into tournaments, as Ken Doherty found last season. That said it would have been another match he would have needed to win to see a venue so it can work both ways.

Although he is one of the oldest players now on the tour, Dave still knows his way around a snooker table and I suspect that if he is to drop further down the rankings in the coming months, his experience will be enough to see him through against some of the lower ranked youngsters for a while yet.

Nigel Bond

In comparison to Dave’s campaign, Nigel Bond enjoyed a reasonable campaign last time out as he won four matches, but nevertheless saw his ranking drop nine places and outside of the top 32 for the first time since 2004/5.

Despite this fall, if Nigel can perform to the standard that he did at times during last season then it may just be that he could be one of the beneficiaries of the new ranking system. This is because during 2008/9 he actually lost his first six ranking event matches, so he has little to ‘defend’ as such and the only way should be up. Also outside of the 32, he should benefit from some slightly easier draws and like Ken Doherty and Michael Holt before him, gain some momentum in the earlier rounds.

Joe Swail

It is a similar story for Joe Swail, for the early part of the season at least as he too lost his opening four matches of the 2008/9 campaign and so has everything to gain at the start of the new season.

The only difference with Joe is that while Nigel has shown signs of form, Joe has shown little of note for some time now, not winning a ranking event match since August 2009 and aside from his brilliant run to the Welsh Open final earlier in that year, struggling for form for some time.

Can Joe turn things around? As he has shown many times during his career, he is a player who tends to produce something brilliant when nobody is expecting it so I would not at all be surprised to see him back to winning ways again at some point soon. It is key though that he starts this strongly so that when his 4,000 points from that Welsh final come off next spring, he will not suffer another huge rankings drop that could see him struggling to hang onto a tour place.

The Rest

Who else comes into this bracket? Those who spring to mind are Anthony Hamilton, Ian McCulloch and Alan McManus – all players who at their peak were class acts, but have shown little of that form during the past four or five years. Will they continue to struggle during the new season or will the improved number of ranking event tournaments give them a new lease of life once again and allow them to show the form that they are all capable of?

Who would be your tip for the veteran of the year award? If there was such a thing anyway…