Following day three of the UK Championship qualifiers I was able to chat to a few of the players following their victories, click below to read what they had to say…
Press conference with Jamie Jones:
PSB: So Jamie your thoughts on the match, obviously you didn’t get off the to best of starts…
Jamie Jones: No the first session was just really bitty, neither of us could get in the balls and Jimmy to get out of it 3-1, I bet he was really pleased at the interval because I really thought that it should have been 2-2. But then I came out and I played great for 5-3 but to be honest with you I had something in the back of my mind. The first two ranking events I have lost 5-4 and at 5-3 I thought ‘get it over with, get it over and done with’ and put pressure on myself in the end. When it came to 5-5 I knew that I would either win it or lose it that frame and I made a really solid break. I was really pleased with myself the way I held myself together at the end.
PSB: Tomorrow you have got Ricky Walden, have you played him recently?
JJ: Yeah I beat him this year in one of the PTCs, but it it’s a totally different tournament I think. Everyone realises that the ranking points are there, I wanted to win my first game just to get a few points you know so I think it will be totally different tomorrow. It will mean a lot more to us both I think.
PSB: Obviously it has been a good start to the season for you with three quarter-finals in the PTCs but you have not been able to push on and make a venue yet. Now you are one match away from that…
JJ: Yeah I think it’s just a matter of time really, I do feel a little bit more pressure in the ranking tournaments when I realise how many points there are. It will be nice to get on TV and get myself out there so people know who I am and so on…
Jamie and Jimmy
PSB: And get a few more Twitter followers, I hear you had your first century break recently!
JJ: I had my first ton on Twitter yeah about two weeks ago! I think I’m up to 127, checking every day now!
Janie Watkins: That match tonight must have been one of the biggest ever matches that you have had to play, on a stream against someone like Jimmy…
JJ: I was driving here earlier and I thought to myself that I have always watched old videos of Jimmy and Hendry in the world finals and stuff and he is one of my heroes so it is maybe the biggest game of my career so far. I’ve played plenty of top players like Ali Carter and the other boys in the PTCs but to play Jimmy in that arena with a lot more people than I am used to watching, it was a big occasion for me. Obviously I didn’t get off to a great start but I sort of settled down a bit at the interval and played good. I nearly threw it away at the end and had to produce something which I did.
PSB: How do you feel that you played what was such an important match?
JJ: I always feel confident inside, I nearly threw that match away, I should have won it 6-3 but coming back to then it was 5-5, one frame and I realised that I was going to win or I was going to lose and just thought to myself just don’t give him an inch. If I get a chance, basically don’t miss. Even if I scored eight then ran away, eight then ran away, I would have stayed there all day if it meant me winning. As it happened I got a nice chance in the balls and managed to hold myself together really well. I’m proud of myself to be honest.
PSB: The green as well coming down for the plant in the decider…
JJ: That plant wasn’t really on but I thought if I can just get the white down for the plant, play the plant slow in the middle…to be honest I thought that the white was going to come down behind the black but I just happened to land on it and oh my God I was just willing that red in! Even though I knew he needed snookers you don’t need to be going through the mill at the end so yeah really pleased.
At this stage Robert Milkins entered the press conference following his 6-5 victory against David Gilbert and usurped Jamie from his chair!
Robert Milkins: That was probably the best frame I played, the last frame. When you do it in the last frame you almost feel less pressure than in any other frame…
JJ: Yeah that’s how I felt.
PSB: How did your match go Rob?
RM: It was alright, he was always in front, I lost a couple of silly frames but my attitude was good tonight. Even when I was down [At this point Tony Drago comments about Rob’s Gloucester accent!]…there have been previous times I’d have chucked it in, well not chucked it in but not been so positive but yeah it was alright.
PSB: Good break to win it in the decider as well…
RM: Yeah I got unlucky as well, I came off two cushions, went into the reds, landed in a really awkward position and managed to pot a red, kiss a red and land perfectly on the black.
PSB: Next up it’s Peter Ebdon, have you played recently?
RM: Played him a couple of times recently and beat him, Bahrain three years ago…and I last year I beat him in a PTC. I’ve got an alright record against Ebdon. I could lose but tonight was a real tough game because I’m the seeded player, I needed the points, he’s had two matches under his belt. He’s dangerous is Gilbert.
It’s like he almost gives up and before you know it he has pulled it back to 5-5 from nowhere. I should have won 6-3 but I played a black, stunned it off the cushion round the angle for three reds and left it short so I wasn’t even on one of the reds, it was ridiculous really.
Steve Kent: What do you think has made David Gilbert the best of the new guys to come back onto the tour this year?
RM: I don’t really know but I don’t know what happened in his personal life, he has always been a quality player, pots the balls really well and shouldn’t really have fallen off the tour but you can say that about many players. He’s a good player…
Tony Drago: He’s more than good, he’s class. If I play in my first round, he is number one on the list of players that I want to avoid.
RM: He scores well, he pots well, he strokes the ball well and he is a good player.
PSB: Are you happy with your start to the season?
RM: Not really no, to be perfectly honest I went to see Terry Griffiths last week and he has given me a lot more belief. It’s too early to say I’m really happy, I’ve made it, but technically I’ve just changed a couple of little things. Not too much as obviously the UK’s were just around the corner.
I don’t want to do to much technically but just before the game and the interval you know he does give you a few positives in your head and 3-2 down, I should have gone 3-2 up. Maybe previously I would have dropped my head a little bit because the frame I lost to go 3-2 behind he’s potted the last red and cleared up and I was really pissed off because they are big frames, two frame difference.
PSB: But you say that mentally Terry has helped you more than technically…
RM: Yeah, I mean he doesn’t say much but what he does say, it sunk in a bit, it’s pretty good having him before the game and at the interval.
PSB: Obviously at Shanghai you broke your duck against Hendry…
RM: Yeah. One of the top four, not now but who I class as the top four with O’Sullivan, Williams and Higgins, I’d never beaten any of them, so to beat one of them was a big thing for me and then I beat Mark Selby at one of the PTCs. It’s just the PTCs have cost me, I have done well in ranking events for the past few years but with PTCs, maybe with me not being physically fit I struggle more so now than say 15 years ago when I would have breezed through a lot of them, these qualifying days as I was fit and I as the games went on like at pro-ams I got stronger and stronger and now I seem to get weaker.
PSB: Do you think that the physical side is a really big factor at the PTCs?
RM: Yeah definitely, ask Tony, he’ll tell you. [Rob then asks Tony Drago]
TD: Yeah I am the most dangerous player in the first round but the easiest to beat in the second!
RM: How many PTCs have we had now? I’ve only made the last 16 twice and that’s it. I haven’t made the third round in any of them this year. Me and Tone though, we build ourselves up for the ranking events, we are big time players, big time Charlies!
TD: Big time bellies!
PSB: So what are your targets now for the second half of the season?
RM: To tell you the truth because I haven’t played much snooker I feel quite fresh. I don’t feel like…a lot of players have played a lot of matches and I’m hoping that they get a bit stale. It’s like a Premiership club playing all of these games in Europe, it might just tire them out. I’m contradicting myself because maybe snooker isn’t that physical, but it is after a while so these ranking events, I just can’t wait for them. And because I’ve won this match I can’t wait for Antwerp either because pressure is off me now, got some points in the bag, some cash in the bank.
I’m a lot of points off the 32 but I’m pushing away from people behind me. The main thing is though, I won and Jack lost (laughs) because I phoned him up the other day and we were going to have a bet on who would be Gloucester’s number one at the end of the season! He classes himself as Cheltenham anyway though.
No honestly though, I want Jack to win every game, he’s a good friend of mine.
PSB: Yeah he’s a good kid isn’t he, what do you make of his chances of going to the top?
RM: He will got to the top, he’s just still quiet naive in his safety game. I’ve practised with him for years and that is the only thing that surprises me with him, he hasn’t picked up on certain safeties, but then he doesn’t need to because he scores so well, he pots so well, that obviously he is going to go to the top. Top 16 is not in dispute.
Whether he fulfils it, it’s too early to say. Look at Judd, a couple of years ago you would have said the same thing about him but he has done what he has done and I think they are quite similar players to tell you the truth. Judd is probably a bit more up there in the safety department when he wants to be. They frighten the hell out of some players the way they play. He’ll do well, no doubt about that.
Some time after I was able to speak to Leeds’ Peter Lines following his 6-4 win against Alan McManus…
Press conference with Peter Lines
PSB: So Peter, how did you see the match?
PL: Tough match, obviously Alan is a tough player. It was different to last night, obviously he didn’t score as well as Robin Hull but his safety is different class, you are in trouble every time you come to the table. I seemed to score quite well but it still seemed to take forever.
I nicked two frames to go 4-1 up and the next frame I was 45 in front and I have potted the black with three reds on just needing the red and I’ve looked and the red is on the black spot, but I’ve played it thinking I had won the frame and was 5-1 up, and I’ve realised that there are no other spots free so it has got to go behind the spot and now I can’t see it!
Oh God I could have just shot myself and then I played safe and then he played safe and then snookered me to clear on the black and win 4-2 and then I lost the next to go 4-3 but then I potted quite well in two of the last three frames, so well chuffed!
PSB: Big thing to get points on the board with those from two years ago coming off…
PL: Yeah I’ve done well in the UK’s the last few years, last year lost in the final qualifying round to Stuart Bingham. Thank God he’s in the top 16 now and I can stop drawing him!. I kept drawing him all the time, even if I lost beforehand. I kept saying to him I wish he would just hurry up and get in the top 16, stop messing about! So yeah, delighted.
PSB: One more match to go, Ken next, played him recently?
PL: No, not for years. After yesterday I was so relieved to win as I had been under so much pressure but I’ve played well the last two games and York is not too far from me so it would be really nice to get through rather than three hours down here!
PSB: Have you played at York before?
PL: No, actually though I tend not to go to the venues but I have been to York to watch and I was there the day Ronnie jacked it in! (laughs). So maybe that’s why I don’t usually go! My wife loves to go so we went and then we were only there about half an hour!
PSB: Did you stay for the other table?
PL: No we left in disgust! (laughs)
PSB: What did you think when he did it?
PL: Nothing surprises you with Ronnie does it? Nothing.
PSB: Not even that?
PSB: How do you feel about your season now the PTCs are coming to a close and the bigger events are coming around?
PL: Yeah, two years ago obviously after doing well in the UK’s I lost in the first round of the next three tournaments so hopefully now I can start picking some points up and start moving back up. It would be nice to make it to a venue, be it York or anywhere else.
I’ve got two ambitions really, one to get back to Sheffield because I have only played there once in 1998 when I played John Parrott who stuffed me. He was still really good then, he lost 13-11 to Higgins and he was amazing that year. But also I would like to still be on the tour when my lad gets on the tour.
At this point the brilliant Terry Griffiths came along and said that he couldn’t believe it that Peter had won again in that dry manner that only Terry can pull off! On a serious note he shook his hand and congratulated him on his win.
PSB: How is Oliver doing?
PL: He’s doing alright, he’s only just left school so he’s keen as mustard. He’s got two of the key attributes you need to be try and make it as a pro. He has got a great technique and he loves to practice so if he can keep his head (which is the other one), then we will see.
PSB: Are you still at the Northern Snooker Centre?
PL: Yeah it’s a really good set-up down there, we get free lights and we play in the table in the middle, it’s really good. I’m still working there, I’ve got to in order to pay for Oliver now!
Steve Kent: Is Oliver going to focus on that full-time now?
PL: He is yeah, give it a few years and see how it goes, get to 20, 21.
SK: Is he going to enter the Q School?
PL: I don’t know, it might be a little bit early. If you ask him he would probably say yeah he would want to, but it’s the thought of if he gets through it’s a massive outlay and without a sponsor, you have to try to get to all of those PTCs and if you don’t, you can’t stay on the tour and you are looking at £8,000 in expenses and entries.
PSB: What do you feel about players entering the tour at such a young age, we were chatting to Michael White about it the other day. Do you think they are two young or is it a case of if you are good enough, you are old enough?
PL: I don’t think it is too early but what I do think is that (and I said this to Jason Ferguson the other day), is that we have got to be careful in how much it costs to be a snooker player these days. Let’s just say Judd Trump’s parents or whatever, had just said look Judd I’m sorry but you just can’t do it any more, then we would never have seen the talent that is Judd Trump and that shouldn’t be right, it shouldn’t be an expense thing why they can’t come through so they have got to be careful that way.
It’s tough, you want more tournaments but I’m not a massive fan of the PTCs. For me if I were a young lad I would be loving it but for me I’m working, I’ve got a family and I’ve got to play so it feels like I am on the go all the time. I know Barry says if you don’t want to enter, don’t enter, but you have got to enter otherwise I’ll be off the tour so i don’t know. It is tough.
But the thing is, I am willing to support them because I want to be watching the game in 20-30 years time when I’m not playing any more, I want the game to be flourishing. I support them now and if a few turn into ranking events you will be able to pick and choose when to play in PTCs or for ranking events but at the moment you have got to go to them all.
PSB: How are you finding things at the moment, you got onto the tour in 2008 and was so consistent in the opening matches, but has been a bit up and down since…
PL: I’ve had a few family problems but everyone has those, it’s just when they come and if they come at the wrong time you are struggling to balance them up.
Also I’ve never had a coach in my life but when I started working with Steve Prest he gave me the belief that I could compete with these players, but since he has gone I’ve kinda struggled, now I’m back on my own.
You really need someone in your corner, both to tell you how good you are and to be straight. Now you are on your own it is tough, you can’t really get it, it has got to be someone who knows you and your game inside out. I’ve not really picked up since then really but I absolutely love playing, I would play for nothing.
PSB: You basically are with the PTCs!
PL: Yeah, I’m going behind! (laughs) but you have got to look at it as a whole, to get your money back from the twelve.
SK: Qualifying for the PTC finals is the main thing…
PL: Yeah last year I was right in the mix, had to get to the quarters but then I got beat in the last 32 by Peter Ebdon, had I won two more matches I would have sneaked in but losing them Joe Jogia took over me in the rankings and went to 48, while I went to 49 and then you are not guaranteed money, you are playing an extra round and it all snowballs before you know it.
But I love to play.
Nigel Bond on his 6-4 victory against Tian Pengfei:
“To start off with, obviously not having had a lot of table time while he has had a couple of games, to be fair the first two frames I was in first time in the balls and only made 20-odd each time and he scored heavy from those mistakes. Then I went three-nil down and although it was an uphill battle, I just dug in there really and felt that I was starting to cue the ball alright.”
“I had played awful at the weekend at the Seniors, I had a chat with Del but I’ve not had chance to see him. I feel like I need an MOT! He just said to try a couple of things and thankfully it has worked.”
Was it hard to come back into this with the disruption of the seniors…
“Probably a little bit yeah, esepcially having got beat. If I had done alright and come in confident it would have been a little bit easier but there was absolutely…very little confidence there so I went home from the seniors on Sunday afternoon and then worked on a few things yesterday morning before I came down here and then just carried on. I got an hour and twenty minutes on the practice table and again just worked on a few things and thankfully it has all kicked in again.”
On the Shootout draw:
“A repeat of last year’s final! Both me and Rob spoke about it last night and it’s quite funny really. I don’t think that there will be any extra pressure coming into that tournament as defending champion. If anyone wins that tournament two years on the trot then they should keep the cup because the with the format of that event absolutely anybody can win it.”
On Ronnie not entering the Shootout:
“It’s surprising, he tried really hard last year and he seemed to really enjoy it. Surprising when he said that he doesn’t feel like he is getting rewarded for playing in the PTCs with the top prize but then he doesn’t enter a tournament with a £32,000 top prize.”
Advice to newcomers to the Shootout:
“If you see the balls, just go for it, just hopefully the balls will go in! I felt quite confident going into it last season but there were a couple of matches against Rory McLeod and Mark where I was never really in the frame to be honest but I’ve dug out some great pots you know and managed to get through and that’s what happens with the format in that event.”
On the format change of this event:
“I think that if you ask most of the players we would all prefer to play more than the best of 11 frames. I thought for the UK that they might have put a curtain down for each table but the powers that be have decided the format and we have to abide by that and it’s the same for everybody.”
On his season so far and the PTC tournaments:
“I’m happy so far that I qualified for Australia and Shanghai to get the points in the bag but I haven’t done myself justice at the venues. The PTC’s I have just been nicking a few points, nothing special.
I do find it hard to get up for the PTCs to be fair, they are not like other ranking events. For me they are a glorified pro-am but they are for ranking points so the mentality has got to change, but I do find it difficult”
“I think if you are playing well it’s great. If you are playing well one week and then you are up to the next you are buzzing. If you are struggling a little bit then sometimes you are going out on the Thursday, you are back on the Monday and the next thing you know you are back out again on the Thursday and you haven’t really had time to practice if you are struggling a little bit.
“Obviously it is better than six ranking events but sometimes I think that instead of putting money into the PTCs, why don’t we have nine or ten other ranking events every two or three weeks. Also with all the PTCs, 20-odd events, snooker now is not geared up if you are a family man. If you are single then it is great but otherwise I don’t see the kids or whatever.
I would defintely prefer to see more mid-week PTCs but obviously in places like Warsaw people want to come and watch then they finish work for the weekends. It doesn’t matter so much with the PTCs in Sheffield because nobody can watch them anyway. The only purpose it serves at Sheffield is practice for the players, it doesn’t serve any other purpose at all because nobody can watch behind closed doors. It’s just good practice for the players.”
On his current target:
“To get back into the top 32 but to do that, I need to have a run in a tournament, you need to hit a semi. The game is tough, it’s getting harder with so many good players.”
On a potential switch to a money list instead of a points based ranking system:
“To be honest I don’t think it really matters, so long as you are winning matches you are up there in the rankings. At the end of the day you have got to pot balls and if you don’t pot balls it doesn’t matter what ranking system you use.”