Do You Need a Favourite?

There are few certainties in any sport and snooker is no different, but one thing that can be guaranteed is that over time, players will come and go. Those who dominate the game today, will be sat in the commentary box tomorrow and someday there will be a new generation of players leading the way at the top of the game.

Of course, most fans will have a favourite player. As impartial as I strive to be on this blog, I am no different, but what do we do when those favourites retire? Do we need to have a favourite to root for, or is it possible to enjoy the sport just as much without one?

Last week, I was talking to fellow snooker tweeter Roland from Snooker Island, about a variety of snooker related subjects, including the current state of play at the top of the game and our favourites within it.

As regular readers will know, I have watched snooker for a number of years, attending the World Championship during each of the last nine and watching numerous other tournaments aside.

In recent years following my setting up of this blog, I have been extremely fortunate to have met a number of the game’s professional players, ranging from those at the top of the game to those starting out.

It has almost become a cliché for me to say now, but I genuinely like virtually everybody on the tour these days and that for me, snooker has a great mix of characters on the circuit, regardless of what those who do not know them would have you believe.

While that is a great thing to be able to say and compliment to those involved, perhaps the only downside is that it does make it harder to get behind particular players in matches and root for a favourite.

One example for me personally was Monday’s match at the India Open qualifiers between Jack Lisowski and Liam Highfield, both players who have done blogs for PSB in the past and who I have an enormous amount of time for.

My approach to such matches has become to support the player who that particular win would mean the most to, in this case probably Liam, having suffered a tough loss in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers a few days earlier and needing all of the wins that he can get in order to stay on tour at the end of the season.

This is the sort of situation that has happened with increasing regularity for me in recent seasons and means that generally speaking, it is rare for me to have an overwhelming favourite in matches these days, with me having reasons to support both players.

Of course this is very different to how I used to be. Those of you who are regular readers, or who know me personally will be aware that from growing up and watching the game in the 1990’s and 2000’s, my two favourite players were always Ken Doherty and in particular Stephen Hendry.

When I used to watch tournaments on the television, once both were knocked out I would often sulk and refuse to watch the remainder of the event, while when they won it felt amazing.

Back in 2005 when I first attended the World Championship and during subsequent years, my ticket choices effectively centred around their respective quarters of the drawsheet, making sure that I had tickets for all of their potential matches at least up until the quarter-finals.

Of course I had an interest in other players too, but those players were my favourites and were a big influence in my decision to actually visit tournaments and in the early days, perhaps even to write this blog.

Fast-forward to 2013 and of course Stephen Hendry has now been retired for over a year. While my enthusiasm for the game and later this website has of course developed beyond merely following his results, it is also fair to say that there is nobody currently at the very top of the game who has managed to capture my imagination in the same way that Hendry did at his best.

There are probably a number of reasons for that. I am now a lot older than when I first started to watch snooker and perhaps inevitably, it is not so easy to now support the players that until recently had been Hendry’s principal rivals.

Does it matter? While I love snooker as much as ever, I do feel that on a personal level, there is something missing since Hendry’s retirement from the sport. For whatever reason, it is not quite the same and no doubt a lot of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fans may have felt the same for much of last season, as he took time out from the baize. Certainly for me in other sports as well as snooker, I have always tended to have a favourite or two and I would say that generally I am even more interested when I have a favourite to root for.

For me, I am sure that soon another player will come along and ‘wow’ me with a performance which just makes me have to support them. As I mentioned above, Jack Lisowski and Liam Highfield are just two up and coming young players, who I have followed from their amateur days and hope will both have big futures in the sport.

But what about you? Do you have a favourite and how will it affect your enjoyment of the sport when they have hung up their cue? Let me know @prosnookerblog