Life After the Crucible 2011: Thanks for the Memories People

So that’s a wrap from Crucible 2011 and as life slowly goes back to normal after a truly memorable 17 days both on a personal level and from the point of view of the sport, here are a few of my thoughts on that return to normality as well as a few thank yous to those who helped to make the week what it was…

For the first time in 17 days there is no snooker to look forward to, no trip to Sheffield to prepare for and although in truth the time was probably right for the tournament to end from my point of view, there is inevitably a certain hole there that will take a while to fill.

At the Crucible for my seventh straight year now, inevitably I have got to know a number of regulars at the venue and I always love the way that I can just amble up to the building on the opening morning and find someone that I know. Even though we may not have spoken for a year, it is like there has been no intervening period since our previous meeting which owes a lot to the fact that most people at or around the venue are connected by the same invisible link of snooker.

As Snookerbacker has said following his trip to Sheffield, the whole area now is like a Snooker Village and the nightly trips to the local pub The Graduate at which the fans, players and officials all congregate help to create a unique atmosphere and add to that collective feeling. At Sheffield it is possible to strike up a conversation with almost anyone at the venue and know that there is something that we can talk about, whether it is who is going to win the next match or who is playing well and who is not.

All of which makes it seem all the more flat once the tournament has come to a conclusion and that snooker connection no longer exists. It may seem strange but having been around the Crucible and been a part of a sporting event such as this, there is a sense of a return to some sort of anonymity when returning to every day life.

As Judd Trump alluded to in his post-final press conference, for the tournament there is a feel of being trapped inside a bubble, making the same walks from the car park to the Crucible or from the venue to Piccolino. Again it is that Snooker Village, that small-town atmosphere that creates a far smaller world than is normal in every day life that only a sporting event like this can create, indeed especially something of a niche sport as snooker perhaps still is.

As a result I would recommend that anyone with an interest in snooker does come up to the Crucible for a day next year just to take it in because as well as the engaging action on the table, there is so much more to the whole World Championship experience than that.

I hope that during the past 17 days my blogs and all too regular Twitter updates have helped to convey this to you at home and made some of you want to come along next year to take in some of the atmosphere. Ultimately while the blogging and the media side has been incredible for me this year during the second week, I am above all a fan of the game and have tried to get across to you guys what I have always wanted to know from the outside looking in.

Which brings me on to my list of thank yous and mentions to some of the people that helped to make my Crucible 2011 experience a richer one and one that will be hard to top in future years.

First things first, thanks to WPBSA media man Ivan Hirschowitz for allowing me access to the media room for the last six days of the tournament, an incredible experience that has helped to give me a much greater understanding of how the event unfolds behind the scenes from the point of view of journalists and photographers alike.

Highlights included being able to attend the player press conferences, see the arena from the perspective of the commentary box and photography booths as well as watch from the media seats at the front and enter the arena at the end to take photographs of John Higgins with the trophy. All were somewhat surreal experiences that I had never dreamed of being able to do when I first went along to the Crucible to watch in 2005 and especially for a fan like me, were a real thrill that even if I can never do again in the future, I can say that I have at least done them once now.

On the subject of the press room I must also single out Monique Limbos and Hector Nunns for taking time out to explain to me how they work and giving me that insight into how the media room works. Monique as some of you may know has been taking the photos that you have seen on the World Snooker website during this tournament and took me into the commentary box and the photography booths to see matches unfold from that perspective. Hector meanwhile is responsible for a number of the articles that you will see across the newspapers during snooker tournaments and took time out to explain his role as a journalist, the deadlines involved and again give me a far greater insight into that position than I had ever had previously.

Similarly, I also enjoyed the company of Lauris Berzins who covers the sport very well for those living in Latvia while MC Rob Walker (who kindly took time out for an interview) and his colleague Johnny who dominated the daily competitions in the press room were also good fun. Thanks too to the Betfred girls for keeping me topped up with cokes as well as BBC Wales commentator John Evans who was sat beside me when the infamous John Higgins heckler made an appearance.

Elsewhere it was also great to meet Mr and Mrs Snookerbacker for the first time as well as re-acquaint myself with Roland who runs the Snooker Island website. While snooker has not always been well catered for on the internet, thanks to real snooker people like these who are passionate about the game and committed to the sport, that is now beginning to change. Similar stories too for the guys behind the Snooker Bingo and Maximum Snooker websites who I was also pleased to meet.

As well as the blog, one of the aspects of the tournament that I have enjoyed this week has been the vibrant snooker community on Twitter which has certainly added an extra element to the tournament for me this year both in terms of chatting to you guys and relaying press conferences in real-time as well as meeting some of you over in Sheffield.

Special mentions to @mngrsteve14 and the Captain Ali Carter, @magician147, @fouldsy147, @bbcsport_mark, @janverhaas, @michaelatabb, @mikedunnsnooker, @beccahilton147, @PCHell147, @cjdemooi, @Alyssa147_ and all of the others that I have inevitably forgotten who I bumped into during the tournament at one point or another.

It was also good to see the likes of Tony Drago, Martin Gould, Ken Doherty, Janie Watkins, Sarah & Paul Mount, Brendan Moore, Colin Humphries, Graeme Dott, Mark Allen, David Hendon and Anthony McGill at one stage or another while I also had a few chats with Judd Trump’s father Steve who is very down to earth and knowing a few other members of Judd’s entourage it is easy to see why he is doing as well as he is.

And finally thanks to all of the regulars who always make the tournament that little more special each year, particularly the ‘statman’ Chris Downer with whom it is always a pleasure to discuss the sport with.

I look forward to hopefully meeting a few more of you next year, perhaps at the UK Championship in York which I will certainly be looking to get over for. But for now, time to recuperate and reflect on what has been not just a great tournament, but a great season following the arrival of Barry Hearn.

Snooker is back people.