A nice article on the Craigie brothers…

Main tour professional Stephen Craigie has enjoyed a few good results at Prestatyn this season and along with brother Sam, will be hoping to continue his rise up the snooker ranks over the next few seasons. Here is a nice article on the pair from www.journallive.co.uk

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IT is an unprepossessing building in a Newcastle garden, but could one day be home to two of snooker’s top players.

Decked with silverware and photographs of the pair with various leading professionals, its centrepiece is a snooker table donated to brothers Stephen and Sam Craigie by the local police three years ago.

The pair have been playing so long 18-year-old Stephen admits he “can’t remember” the first time he picked up a cue.

He made history in 1996 by entering a tournament aged six, using raised shoes to reach the table. This season the European Under-19 champion made his professional debut and is hopeful of retaining his tour place for the following campaign.

But Stephen has a fight on even to be considered the best snooker player in his own family. His 14-year-old brother and training partner, Sam, admits Stephen has forged ahead since joining the professionals, but all the indications are he could have just as meteoric a rise.

Sam is the national Under-16 champion and England age-group captain. He has beaten all Stephen’s former England colleagues (since turning pro he is no longer eligible for the side after not missing a match for five years), and once made a century break against the legendary Stephen Hendry.

It seems both were marked out for snooker careers long ago, but Stephen insists that was not the case.

“I only decided it was something I wanted to do for a living when we got the table, really,” he says. “That’s when I decided I had to go for it.”

Until then the brothers had been practising at the local club but their dad, Stephen senior, had the snooker room built at their home in Walkerville.

In April, Stephen’s European Under-19s success in Glasgow qualified him for the professional tour. He recorded a victory in Shanghai in October but with the ranking system weighted against newcomers (points are awarded on a two-year basis), he faces a fight to finish in the top 72.

Today he plays Patrick Wallace in the qualifying rounds of the Maplin UK Championships. “I just need a few more good wins,” he says. “It’s harder staying on the tour than actually qualifying. I’ve learned a lot already this season. It’s a different game against the professionals. They’re much tighter matches with a lot more tactical play. I’m enjoying this season a lot more than last, definitely.

“It’s been great, everything I expected. The older players always help me out with advice but they’re really competitive as well. It’s their living.”

Stephen has yet to face any of his idols on the pro tour, but Sam has already shared the baize with Hendry, the Craigies’ management company stablemate, and Mark Williams.

“It was exciting when I met Stephen Hendry for the first time, he was a big help,” he admits. “He’s the player I try to model my game on.”

Sam’s mum Susan recalls: “He came into the house all calm and collected, sat and had some lunch, then went back in for another game.”

She admits watching her sons play one another at the semi-finals of the Pontin’s Under-21 Open was “horrible”, but seeing them compete professionally would be far more enjoyable. Stephen’s experiences this year have shown his younger brother what is needed.

“The fact Stephen’s gone in front of me makes it easier,” Sam says. “I can judge myself against him and learn from what he’s doing. I’m hoping in a couple of years I’ll be doing the same sort of things. We used to be pretty similar players before Stephen turned professional but he’s changed a bit since. I can learn from the way he’s changed tactically.”

It is interesting to hear what they have to say, particularly when Sam says that Stephen has changed a bit tactically since moving onto the main tour as it just shows the benefits to a young player of qualifying for the main tour at an early age. Since then though Stephen has given himself work to do if he is to remain on the tour for a second season as he lost out to Patrick Wallace in round one of the UK Championship qualifiers. Still, if he can go on a good run during the last few events of the season, particularly the World Championship, then he has every chance.