MARK Selby’s journey to be crowned the new world snooker champion is real a tale of rags to riches.
The Leicester professional toasted sweet success on Monday night by producing one of the best ever Crucible final comebacks to thwart tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan here in Sheffield. Few had expected Selby to prevail, especially having trailed 8-3 and 10-5. But he did with a brilliant 18-14 comeback win to make sure his name was engraved on the much-envied silver trophy.
And Selby celebrated his £300,000 winners’ cheque by serenading the after-show crowd with a cameo karaoke performance which, perhaps unsurprisingly given the amazing 17 days he had in South Yorkshire, raised the roof at the Mecure Hotel.
Selby belted out the classic ‘Mr Bojangles’, upped the tempo with the Kings of Leon hit ‘Sex on Fire’ and headed to the dance floor to continue the festivities.
Just for good measure the drummer Nicko McBrain, from the rock band Iron Maiden, took to the sticks behind Selby for an unexpected performance of his own. McBrain was part of the capacity crowd with fellow celebrities Stephen Fry and the artist Damien Hirst, all of whom had come to the steel city to watch drama unfold in the final of snooker’s premier tournament. Needless to say Selby made sure the celebrations of winning his maiden world title went long into he night. But it has been far from easy for Selby who, now aged 30, has finally fulfilled a childhood dream that would have surely made his late father, David, very proud.
It’s a far cry from growing up on a council estate without a penny in his pocket. Selby has made the best of his ability and molded himself into a true champion – and a great ambassador for the sport.
“When my dad passed away I was 16. I more or less had nothing,” revealed Selby. “We had a council house and my brother and I had to go our separate ways because we couldn’t really afford the house. We also didn’t want to keep it on anyway because there were a lot of bad memories with my father and everything. So my brother moved in with his girlfriend and I moved in with my friend who runs a snooker academy. He is one of my closest friends now.
“When I lived with my dad, we didn’t have a lot of money. I used to go to the snooker centre once a week because that was all we could afford really.
“Then [former player now BBC commentator] Willie Thorne’s brother spotted me and started giving me free practice.
“So from going once a week I was going pretty much every day after school.”
He joked: “That was when I went to school to school of course.
“But I’d practice for hours and hours after school. In a way I probably wouldn’t want it any different. It just shows that you have to graft to get out what you put in.”