Video: Rising snooker star Nico puts Star boys through their paces

0
Have your say

From afar, it could have been a rematch of the classic 1985 World Snooker Championship final as a bespectacled Northern Irishman took on a tall, fair-haired opponent from England.

Unfortunately for myself and Chris Holt, the similarities to Dennis Taylor and his adversary Steve Davis firmly end there.

Danny Hall at the Star Snooker Academy, Shiregreen.

Danny Hall at the Star Snooker Academy, Shiregreen.

Or actually, maybe not.

Just like in that classic Crucible final, which saw Taylor recover from 8-0, 13-11 and 17-15 down to force a final-frame decider, this tense game with Chris also went down to the final black.

Off the back of my glorious victory in our previous curling challenge, I began in confident form on our table at the Star Snooker Academy - which would normally be graced by the Academy’s plethora of professionals, had they not been otherwise engaged playing for snooker’s biggest prize at the Crucible.

This is, after all, the place where Ronnie O’Sullivan chooses to base himself before many major tournaments, all around the world.

No pressure there, then!

The first thing that struck the two of us was the pace of the table. The exquisite cloth - the exact stuff they use on the real things at the Crucible - is unforgiving for the professionals when they get their angles slightly wrong, so the cue ball was soon pinging up and down the table with startling speed.

This was a far cry from the usual beer-stained, dimly-lit tables I am used to at my local club.

Here, Keith Warren and Garry Baldrey have created a professional snooker hub, with first-class facilities and a relaxed but serious atmosphere.

Our guide for the day was 17-year-old rising star Nico Elton, from Sheffield.

The U16 English Amateur champion, Nico practises at the Academy and was finely placed to observe our scrappy frame and offer a few pointers of advice.

Put it this way - our breaks were more minimum than maximum, and the scores slowly ticked into double figures after about 15 minutes of play. But sport, and life, is as much about the destination as the journey, and I eventually held my nerve to pocket that elusive final black and seal a six-point victory, to go 2-0 up in our series.

Nico, who has just attracted sponsorship from the Cash Shop, tumbled out of the English Amateur Championship at the weekend, losing 5-1 to Michael Tomlinson in the quarter-finals.

Nico, above, took the first frame, but Tomlinson hit back with breaks of 56, 59, 62 and 139 to progress. This weekend, he turns his attentions to a ranking series - before entering Q-School the weekend after.

In total, eight of the 150 players competing in Q-School, in Gloucester, will gain a place on the snooker tour for 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

Chris Holt’s verdict: I haven’t played snooker for years - so long, in fact that I couldn’t even remember the last time I did so.

However, what I am sure of is that it most likely took place in a social club with a bendy cue, no chalk, a missing triangle and someone’s pint teetering on the edge of the surface.

So, this was a new experience for me - an actual, proper table and all that goes with it.

No excuses then for poor play...surely this would help me up my game, with coaching and the best facilities available to me. Alas, no.

Despite Nico Elton teaching me how to stand properly, hold the cue correctly and generally how to hit the ball anywhere near the pocket, I still came off worse in what would have gone down in history as the worst game of snooker ever played. Ronnie has nothing to worry about.

I’m now 2-0 down in the Hall v Holt Challenge. I need something that plays to my strengths next time.

Wrestling anyone?

The Star Snooker Academy offers a range of snooker options, including one-to-one coaching, gift days and residential packages. For more information, call 0114 242 0596 or email academyofsnooker@aol.com.