Snooker Legends

May 4, 2016

As I sat watching the 2016 Snooker World Championship Final (congratulations to Mark Selby – and Leicester City Football Club – what a time to be a Leicesterunian!), I thought back to my first visit to the World Championships with my dad, Alec Hickson, in 1973 (when I was 10 and my dad was 43 and the final was the best of 75 frames, played out over five days: Ray Reardon beat Eddie Charlton 38-32). In 1973 the tournament was sponsored by Park Drive, and it took place at the City Exhibition Hall in Manchester.IMAG2448

It was a crazy affair. No one was told to turn off their mobile phone (possibly because they hadn’t been invented) and only a few frames of the final were televised. My dad took me along in the early days of the tournament, Round 1, when there were loads of tables on the go, separated by partitions, and you could wander freely from table to table, just hanging around and watching before moving on to wherever the most shouts were coming from. And if you wanted a player’s autograph you just went up and asked; not at the end of the match, not even at the end of a frame as the referee re-racked, but as a player sat glumly sipping a pint and sucking a Park Drive, whilst his opponent did all the work at the table. Here’s the autographs I got in 1973.

IMAG2445

There’s Jackie Rea and Pat Houlihan (Pat won 9-2, but went on to lose 16-3  in the second round to Alex Higgins), Dennis Taylor and Cliff Thorburn (Thorburn won 9-8), John Dunning and David Taylor (Taylor – known as the Silver Fox many years before Phillip Schofield claimed the title – won 9-4), Jim Meadowcroft (who had a walkover since his opponent Kingsley Kennerley withdrew), Maurice Parkin and Warren Simpson (Simpson won 9-3), Bernard Bennett and David Greaves (Greaves won 9-8, before losing 16-1 to 59 year old Fred Davis), and Geoff Thompson and Graham Miles (Miles won 9-5). I collected autographs from 14 of the 16 players in the first round. The only ones I missed out on were Perrie Mans and Ron Gross. Maybe next year.

In 1974 the tournament was held at Belle Vue in Manchester. How lucky was I, at the ages of 10 and 11, to have the World Championship so close to home two years in a row! (In 1976 it went to Australia). More autograph pestering was in order.

IMAG2453

 And this time Perrie Mans was there. Also some of the big hitters; Fred Davis, Rex Williams, John Pulman, Eddie Charlton, John Spencer, Ray Reardon!

And, down at the bottom, another Charlton (not Eddie) was there as a spectator: Bobby Charlton!

But here, in close-up, is the star autograph:

IMAG2454

“Best wishes & good luck, to Simon Hickson from Alex Higgins”.

Well!

I was only 11. I blew it really, my once in a lifetime meeting with The Hurricane. He took time to talk to me. I remember him asking my name, and then I remember him saying “Hickson, it’s a bit like Higgins isn’t it”. And all I said back was “No”.

Things changed once it moved to Sheffield. We’d still go, me and my dad. I’d race home from school, he’d race home from Trafford Park where he worked at GEC, and we’d do the drive over Snake Pass to The Crucible. But you couldn’t get to the players anymore. The Crucible wasn’t some vast exhibition centre where you could come and go. The Crucible was a Theatre! But still, in the earlier sessions, there was a partition, and two tables in action. My dad (phoning to book tickets? Or applying by post? or Pigeon? This is a long time before computers) would always try and get us seats that straddled the partition, giving us the chance to watch two matches at once.

A little aside on the business of getting tickets: My dad once went to see a round robin match; six players taking it in turn to play each other. He got tickets for a match featuring John Spencer (three times World Champion; 69,71, and the first to win at The Crucible in 1977). He phoned up for the tickets and was told to pick them up at an address in Radcliffe. He drove out to the address and found himself at John Spencer’s house.

As I got older I started to play snooker more, and by the time I was at university, between 1980 and 1983, I was on a snooker team captained by my dad; Potters ‘B’, named after Potters Snooker Club above the Rialto in Salford, and ‘B’ for not being the ‘A’ team. I was away at Manchester University, but I’d see my dad once a week for our match. My dad was a strict but fair captain; three losses in a row and you’d lose your place, until the next team member lost three in a row. I spent a lot of time on the bench.

potters-001

Along with the Salford District Snooker League weekly games were the individual handicap tournaments and the doubles tournaments (in which I’d team up with my dad). In the 1982/83 season my dad made it to the semi-finals of the Individuals tournament, and for this he got a trophy. The trophies were presented at an end of season bash, where there’d be a bit of entertainment hosted by the unusually haired Mick Miller.

Mick Miller The Comedians

And the trophies would be presented by… well, this was a special year. A young lad turned up to present the trophies, same age as me. 21 years old, a year on from losing 15-16 to Alex Higgins in the 1982 World Championship semi-final.

IMAG2550-001

Yes. Jimmy White.IMAG2547

Jimmy White with my dad.

This was May 1983. Three months later, in early August 1983, at the age of 54, my dad died of a heart attack.

I’ll be 54 this August and, in memory of my dad, I’m going to run the 10k Great Manchester Run, raising money for the British Heart Foundation.

If you can, please sponsor me. In memory of a snooker legend.

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Let’s not beat about the bush. Germany won. @DarrenK73 won for Germany after downing a monstrous amount of German wine and beer and donating a small fortune to Alzheimer’s Society. In second place came a strong and unlucky Argentina and @joyfeed. Argentina had their chances but, as the game went into extra time, Germany brought on a small boy and he scored a wonder goal.

The small boy was fifteen year old Mario Gotze.

Super Mario

Super Mario

GERMANY 1 ARGENTINA 0

Everyone who took part in the Tweepstake will get something but do please bear with me. I am still waiting on some items and I also need to collect all your addresses. Everyone will get: a letter, a certificate, a gift. And, for that reason, I am not going to tell you where you came in the Tweepstake; it can be a nice (or not) surprise. (Of course you could look up your placing on the internet, but I bet half of you can’t be bothered… and the top four all know where they came. But, for example, without looking up, would you @Arfablue know that you had come last? Sorry to include plot spoilers. And if you are wondering what team that is, well, it’s Cameroon).

Along the way you all gave very generously to Alzheimer’s Society, some of you giving over and over. And can you believe that you lot have donated over £1300? A huge huge thank you.

And now please raise your glasses to toast Germany and Darren. And why not singalong to a hit-filled medley from Germany’s greatest Schlager singer (and, as I’ve just discovered, an influence on Klowz und Betty). Here’s Heino!

See you all next time! x

 

The last day. 32 days. 32 teams. 32 Tweepstakers.

Before we look ahead to the final let’s (if we dare) take a look at last night.

The host nation, Brazil, effectively won their match against Holland by only being beaten by a three goal margin. But, having said that, they did lose. It’s the first time since 1940 that Brazil has lost two matches back to back on home soil.

Three minutes in and they were a goal down. 16 minutes in and they were two-nil down. The third goal from Holland came in injury time. What kind of sick-minded ref chose to add five minutes of injury time onto this game? Like Brazil could come back? Well, enough is enough; it’s a sad end for the host nation and a fitting end for a fantastic Dutch team. Now Louis Van Gaal, the Holland coach, is off to Manchester to take care of United. Watch out Premiership!

Brazil (@Mojorainbw) 0 Holland (@Braggovic) 3

And so on to the big one. The final:

GERMANY (@DarrenK73)  v ARGENTINA (@joyfeed)

8pm. BBC. ITV. Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Now here’s the interesting thing; this is the third time these two have played in a World Cup final, and so far it’s 1-1 (Argentina won 3-2 in 1986 and Germany won 1-0 in 1990). Argentina will be looking for revenge for the last World Cup in 2010 when Germany knocked them out in the Quarter Finals 4-0!

Other boffiny facts: This will be Germany’s eighth final (so far they have won 3, lost 4); the four they have lost make them the champion losers, no other team having lost as many finals; however, should they go ahead and win tonight they will equal Italy (also with four wins); the only team with more – five World Cup titles – is Brazil!

Argentina need revenge for the last two World Cups. In 2006 and 2010 they were knocked out by the Germans! A hat-trick is unthinkable. Lionel Messi has failed to score in his last three games. A hat-trick is thinkable.

I can’t predict this one. it’s the final. It’s too important. And I will remain impartial. Darren and peter (@joyfeed) can battle it out between them. I will end, instead, on some fun tunes.

Here, for Germany, is one of the country’s top groups, Guano Apes, with Oh What a Night!

And here, for Argentina, with no attempt to tie it into the World Cup, is Argentinian pop group Babasonicus with Aduana de Palabras. I don’t know what it means. There is a man-cat in it.

Enjoy the game. Thank you all for taking part and helping raise in excess of £1100 for Alzheimer’s Society. I will be back tomorrow to sum it all up! (Oh, and if you remember, please DM your address if you were in the Tweepstake).

The football starts up again with the third place play-off, but is this a match anyone can get too excited about? Oh go on then, let’s do our best. Here we reluctantly go:

BRAZIL (@Mojorainbw)  v HOLLAND (@Braggovic)

9pm. ITV. Estadio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasilia. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is expected to make some changes for this match… ideally he’d be best off changing himself, and that may well come about within the next few days. Brazil’s captain, Thiago Silva, is back after his one match suspension, but will that be enough to help the team recover after their devastating 29-1 defeat at the hands of Germany. (Ok, I exaggerate, but not that much).

The Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal, sees the match as an irrelevance. He said: “There is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions.” However, he also said: “The worst thing is that there is a chance you are going to lose twice in a row… And in a tournament in which you have played so marvellously well you go home as a loser.”

So, despite the irrelevance, both teams will no doubt find the idea of defeat unbearable. There’s only one option for this game and it won’t be pretty. It will be a 0-0 draw. And the same after extra time. And the same after penalties. The two teams, heartbroken in many different ways, will just keep on missing and missing and missing. There will be no goals. No celebrations. They will still be taking failed penalties when the next World Cup starts in 2018.

Still, chin up, and good game everyone.

Let’s end on a bit of fun. Who doesn’t love Lawineboys? Hell, they’re the Netherlands answer to Trev and Simon! Here they are eating raw fish and enjoying a drink or two as they sing Glass Omhoog (Voor Nederland):

To balance things out, here’s one for Brazil. It’s from Agridoce, a Brazilian folk duo also known as Pitty and Martin. Here they are singing, appropriately, The Smiths’ Please, Please, Please, Let me Get What I want. Though if they do, it won’t be the first time.

What’s the best way to follow a semi-final where 8 goals are scored in 90 minutes, the first 5 coming within the first half hour? How about a 2 hour goalless draw? In the end, the second semi-final between Holland and Argentina went down to penalties. And the score was:

HOLLAND 2 (P) ARGENTINA 4 (P)

I’m no expert, (Have I told you that over the last 29 days?) but I think Argentina had the edge over most of the game. Not that Louis Van Gaal, the Holland coach, would agree. He said: “At the very least we were equal with them, if not the better team.” Ok, but you still lose.

And so sadly we say goodbye to @Braggovic. Well, not quite. Holland must now face Brazil and @Mojorainbw in the third place play-off. What’s the point of that? At the risk of sounding like a mardy teenager from some weak teen comedy set a few years back “get over yourselves, losers!” Here’s something me and Louis agree on, Louis stating: “In a tournament you shouldn’t have players play a match for third or fourth place.There’s only one award that counts, and that’s being world champion.” But, for the sake of the Tweepstake, I am going to quickly change my mind. All the best @Braggovic and @Mojorainbw (and, for the sake of world peace Holland, let Brazil win).

But back to last night. What was Van Gaal thinking? He took Van Persie off shortly before the end, missing out on one of his best hopes of a penalty scorer; he used up all of his subs so he couldn’t put freakishly long-armed goalkeeper Krul on (who did such a good last minute job saving two penalties in the penalty shoot-out with Costa Rica in the quarter-final); he left  regular goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen to stay in goal for the penalty shoot-out (a goalkeeper who has never saved a penalty in his entire professional career!); and, when two of his strikers refused to take the first penalty, he said ok to that. Some of his decisions leave me feeling he was trying to win the match in the two hours of play!

Oddly, all the press attention over the two semi-finals seems to have focused on the losers. Let’s not forget that Argentina won last night. Argentina; a team managed by a former Sheffield United and Leeds United midfielder: Alejandro Sabella played for the two teams for a short period in the late 70’s and early 80’s before returning to his home country of Argentina. And that’s about as boffiny as I’m going to get on that one, choosing instead to return to some manager lookalikes.

Here’s Holland’s manager Louis Van Gaal:

Louis Van Gaal in Going Home?

Louis Van Gaal in Going Home?

And here’s flat-nosed Hollywood actor Jon Voight:

Jon Voight - The Champ or The Chump?

Jon Voight – The Champ or The Chump?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “this is rubbish, he just picks any old men that are about the same age”. Well how about this one? Here’s Hollywood actor Jack Nicholson handling the truth:

"I can handle the truth!"

“I can handle the truth!”

And here’s Argentina’s coach, Alejandro Sabello at a press conference:

"No! I never met Brian Clough at Leeds United!"

“No! I never met Brian Clough at Leeds United!”

And that’s it for today. A few days off even. If you’ve just read this and have no idea what’s been going on for the last 29 days please sponsor me just for the hell of it here. The plan is to raise £1966 for Alzheimer’s Society. It’s like a sponsored thing, but without me doing anything too strenuous; just writing and looking for funny photos. Bye for now.

 

Unbelievable! Shocking! Have you all recovered? Everyone is asking the same question; How can Alan Hansen have such a good tan and such a white neck?

And how could the host nation, Brazil, be beaten by a bunch of Dennis the Menace lookalikes?

where's Gnasher?

where’s Gnasher?

Of course, we must be careful with our jokes here. It’s not out of the question that the Brazilian team will all be sentenced to a free week at the David Beckham Football Academy. But will it come in time for the third place play-off? And will Brazil even bother turning up?

If you didn’t see the game, or if you have missed the news, prepare yourself.

BRAZIL 1 GERMANY 7

The Brazil coach, Felipe Scolari, has described it as the “worst day” of his life, and that’s including the day he came third in a Gene Hackman lookalike contest and the day he caught Neymar drawing glasses and a moustache on his treasured 1964 Panini Pele card.

Some fools, and I’m one of them, will say it’s only a game. But let’s look at the bad statistics first: it’s Brazil’s biggest ever World Cup defeat; it’s their first competitive home defeat in 39 years; the last time there was a goal margin this big was in 1920 when they lost 6-0 to Uruguay, 94 years ago!; it took Brazil 51 minutes to even get a shot on target; it made children cry.

The good statistics (particularly if you are German): 3 goals in 179 seconds!; Miroslav Klose broke the World Cup scoring record; it’s the first time a team has scored 7 goals in a World Cup semi-final; 5 goals came in the first 29 minutes; it made children cry.

And it’s tears of happiness for @DarrenK73 (Germany) in the Tweepstake and just tears for @Mojorainbw (Brazil). Mo was picked at number 12 when I did the draw. Before knowing which team she would get she pledged £12 to Alzheimer’s Society for every round her team would get through. And, even though going out last night, she still donated £12! Darren has also continued to donate at every stage throughout the tournament, as well as other of you who didn’t make it quite this far. You have all helped make this a truly fantastic World Cup and World Cup Tweepstake.

So far you have all donated £1179.29 to Alzheimer’s Society. When I started this my plan, at first, was for it to be like an ordinary sweepstake where everyone gave, say, a tenner to be in it. That would have raised £320. I then realised I was in danger of falling foul of some gambling laws (and I don’t really want to encourage you all to gamble either) so instead I just asked for donations in return for some prizes and, hopefully, some fun. And look where we are now! Thank you.

And the prizes are coming in now, ready for distribution once the tournament has ended. How I will give what to whom I have no idea, but I hope you will all be happy with what you receive. Just this morning the postwoman delivered a tube with two fantastic prints by the funny people at Modern Toss. A big thank you to you. And, whoever gets this in the Tweepstake, be prepared to have big funny swear words on your living room wall.

And so to tonight’s game:

HOLLAND (@Braggovic)  v ARGENTINA (@joyfeed)

9pm. ITV. Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo. From a Tweepstake perspective this is one of those rare matches where both tweepstakers are men! Don’t be fooled by the ‘joy’ part, they’re the two Peters! But which Peter will prevail before going on to be beaten by Germany (only joking!)?

Van Persie has an upset tummy so he might be out, but Argentina have super striker Sergio Aguero back! This is Argentina’s first semi-final since 1990 (they won that one only to be beaten in the final by … Germany!) This is Holland’s third semi-final in the last four World Cups!

It’s a difficult one to call but I am going to predict:

Holland 7 Argentina 1 (or Holland 1 Argentina 7)

Here’s Sinead O’Connor singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina on Dutch TV.

 

 

I’m writing this blog post backwards. All will become clear as you read on. Simply, I’m on hols. It’s our anniversary and we are off for a weekend away. normally I write these posts the day after the matches, but I’ve planned ahead. Here, at 8.50pm last night, is my summary of the first match:

It’s simple. A deserving Germany (and @DarrenK73) beat a battling France (@Zoleipar) 1-0. at the mo, I do not know who they will face. Well one Germany and Darren. And maybe even more well done to Darren. He has been a strong and proud supporter of both Germany and Alzheimer’s Society and I congratulate both on reaching the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup. France had five shots on target and Germany’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, stopped them all. Germany scored their one and only winning goal with their first shot on target. They have become the first nation to reach four consecutive World Cup semi-finals. Big congratulations.

Here’s a clip from Germany v Greece from a while back. Not the German team of today.

The next match saw the host nation Brazil  win 2-1 over Colombia. Congratulations @Mojorainbw, and sorry @SpiderMonkey987. A shame to see Colombia go; they fought hard towards the end. And it’s good to see a game with a record number of fouls. 54 and only four yellow cards. Here’s a yellow song well worth a listen:

And so the first Semi-Final is decided. Next Tuesday Germany and @DarrenK73 will face Brazil and @Mojorainbw.

Today’s matches. First up:

ARGENTINA (@joyfeed) v BELGIUM (@hbnm1985)

5pm. ITV. Estadio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasilia.

Well now, here’s the thing. We’re heading off to Brussels today for our second wedding anniversary… so (not that Zoe knows it as yet) we might find ourselves watching this one on a huge screen in some square surrounded by a load of Belgians. And so my heart has to rule my head. Belgium will win and me and Zoe will go crazy with them. I predict:

Argentina 1 Belgium 2

HOLLAND (@Braggovic)  v COSTA RICA (@jasonpettigrove)

9pm. BBC. Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. And then we will be drunk and enjoying ourselves with the Belgian folk and their Mannekein Pis and their Jacques Brel songs. Costa Rica are the underdogs; not just of this match, but of the Quarter Finals. that’s why I will plump for them. My prediction:

Holland 1 Costa Rica 1 (Costa Rica score a second goal in extra time)

And now, I’m off to Belgium. here’s Jacques to see us out.

After a two day rest, here we go! Does that make me sound like a football type person? I hope so! Today the Quarter Finals start. The end is in sight folks. Four matches, then two, then one, then that’s that! (Not forgetting the daft game in between for third place; a sad match that really no one cares about except me; I’ll do my best).

Two matches today. First up:

FRANCE (@Zoleipar)  v GERMANY (@DarrenK37)

5pm. BBC. Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janiero. So, Joachim Low, the German coach, says all of his team have the flu. Is this a tactic? I’d like to say Didier Deschamps, the French coach, has come back and said all of his team have runny bottoms. But he hasn’t. Yet.

How to call this one, the clash of the European heavyweights? It’s going to be klose. Out of 26 meetings France have won 11 times, Germany 8, and 6 draws. But, here’s the thing; @DarrenK37 has not only donated a fortune to Alzheimer’s Society, he has also drank the national drink of his team (Weissbier und Riesling) throughout the tournament (even on days when there were no matches). His dedication to the cause is exemplary.

As for @Zoleipar, my wife, well… she’s been drinking Sauvignon Blanc… from New Zealand! I don’t even think she has donated yet! But then she did do the John Barnes rap from World In motion. It’s a start.

Darren’s dedication deserves rewarding. My prediction:

 

France 1 Germany 2

 

BRAZIL (@Mojorainbw)  v COLOMBIA (@SpiderMonkey987)

9pm ITV. Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza. From a European battle to the battle of two of the biggest South American teams. I have no clue! I mean, Brazil are the host nation; who wants them out? And yet Colombia have Burt Bacharach managing them:

Jose Pekerman says a little prayer

I can’t predict it. Penalties, that’s all I’m saying. Penalties and the most dramatic shoot-out so far. God give them strength. Talking of which, let’s end on a song as Jose Pekerman joins his good friend Elvis Costello.

The second round drew to a dramatic close yesterday, but then every day seems to be dramatic at the mo. Out of the eight matches played two have ended in penalties and three in Extra Time.

First up yesterday was Argentina v Switzerland with Argentina winning 1-0, scoring in the 118th minute, two minutes away from another penalty shoot-out! So Argentina and @joyfeed are into the quarter finals and Switzerland and @realandrewgreen are sadly heading home.

Then Belgium beat USA 2-1. After 105 minutes Belgium were 2-0 up. The USA fought back, getting a goal two minutes later but that was that and the Belgians and @hbnm1985 go through to face the Argentinians. USA and @Lynbown head home. A consolation (of sorts) for USA is that their goalkeeper, Tim Howard, made World Cup history by making the most saves ever in a single game (15).

15 saves in a day

15 saves in a day

Watch out for the film The Fist and the Footloose, the Tim Howard story. It’s bound to be made (just maybe, perhaps, with a better title). here’s a sneak preview:

vin diesel

cooking on diesel

And so we have a few days off! No football til Friday!

 

That’s why there’s been a big gap inbetween writing this, early this morning, and publishing it, now. And I’ve just had a pint. And now I have to have my tea. I will be on the ball again tomorrow, with a blog of sorts before we kick into the quarter finals on Friday.

Enjoy the break.

147! No, not snooker. That’s the number of goals scored so far in the World Cup. The total number of goals at the end of the 2010 World Cup was only 145.

The first two goals yesterday came in France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria. So, @Zoleipar, you’re still in. @redorbrownsauce, who made such marvellous efforts with his supportive hats and shirt, has had to sadly bow out. Come on Zoe- I know you’ve done your bit with the John Barnes rap, but when will you dress appropriately? Sorry to see you go Nigeria. You fought hard and held France off until the last 11 minutes.

Germany eventually went through with a 2-1 win over underdogs Algeria. This wasn’t as straightforward as it may seem. At full time the score was 0-0. After another half hour of play Germany were 2-0 up. Algeria managed a goal in the dying moments. Hard luck Algeria and @lolers. Congratulations to @DarrenK37 who’s supporting Germany all the way with a diet of Pilsners and Weissbiers and Riesling. Someone has to.

And so France will face Germany in the quarter finals next Friday.

Congratulations to @WhyMissJones for spotting Michael McIntyre during the game.

joachim low 2

Michael McIntyre goes for the Basic Instinct look

michael McIntyre

how Joachim Low can you go?

And so on to the last two games of the second round.

 

ARGENTINA (@joyfeed) v SWITZERLAND (@realandrewgreen)

5pm. BBC. Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo. In the last six games between these teams Argentina have won 4 and drawn 2. Switzerland are clearly the underdogs. Their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, said: “We are the clear outsiders but we have nothing to lose and much to gain.”

Hitzfield is an impressive fellow, and he retires after this tournament. It’d be nice for him to go out on a high, but I fear Argentina will get this one. My prediction:

Argentina 3 Switzerland 1

Hitzfiled coaches

Hitzfield coaches

what's the matthau?

what’s the matthau?

 

BELGIUM (@hbnm1985) v USA (@Lynbown)

9pm. BBC. Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. Here’s one I haven’t got a clue on. Mark Lawrenson says 1-1 and Belgium win on penalties. I’ll chicken out and go with that. Heck, it’s good drama.

Talking of good drama, the Belgian coach not only sounds like a character from Eastenders but also looks like one. Here’s Marc Wilmots as Steve Owen’s long lost brother.

marc wilmots

“Just keep hold of the Albert Hall lads!”

And that’s it for today. Oh! But who is Sybil supporting?

Today I will mostly be supporting Switzerland

Today I will mostly be supporting Switzerland