It’s Christmas Eve for fans of the green baize. From Saturday for 17 days, they’ll be glued to coverage, on the various platforms, of the 2013 World Snooker Championship.
I heard a wag, quite accurately of course, say that football’s Premier League will be 10% welsh next season following Cardiff City’s promotion on Tuesday. Gloucestershire, that team that did so well in terms of medals in rowing and dressage at the Olympic Games (sic) can claim two of the field of 32 at the Crucible. The involvement, however, is deeper than that.
For the 34th consecutive year, a Gloucestershire firm has made the cloth for the Crucible tables. WSP Textiles used to be part of the much bigger Milliken company, but in 2011 returned to independent ownership. The name, according to Sales Director Duncan Kettell,
is in recognition of the three men who were the driving forces in the original company’s history, Winterbotham, Strachan – pronounced Strawn – and Playne.
Bertie Winterbotham was the man most associated with their Cam Mills site, and while the Playne name is synonymous with the outer covering of top flight tennis balls, it is the Strachan cloth which will adorn the tables in Sheffield. The secret is the “nap” of the material, and to get it the company still blend traditional methods with modern technology.
The last year the cloth was provided by someone else was 1979, when Terry Griffiths won the title at his first attempt. Ironic then, that Griffiths now also works in Gloucestershire as Director of Coaching at the South West Snooker Academy in Quedgeley.
If Jack Lisowski were to match Griffiths’ achievement, it would be a huge story on many levels. The Cheltenham born left hander is 21
(Griffiths was 31), and has only been on the main tour for three years.
Already he’s up to 37 in the rankings – overtaking the likes of Anthony Hamilton, Jamie Jones and Rory McLeod this season – and showing the potential that saw him receive, in 2006, the first Paul Hunter scholarship, awarded in Hunter’s name after his death from cancer in the same year. Lisowski himself was in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the time.
A first ranking event quarter final in China last month suggests he’s in good form, and the draw could have been worse. Barry Hawkins is the 15th of 16 seeds.
Things look much more difficult for the more experienced Robert Milkins, although the Gloucester potter has jumped in terms of world standing this season from 36 to 19. Very much a “mood” player, Milkins briskly goes about his business and when he gets going can put breaks together quickly.
In the past his inconsistency has been his downfall, but two runs to the last eight in ranking events this season means he is not without a chance against former world champion Neil Robertson. Improving on his record in the main draw at the Crucible would cap a year of significant progress.
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