LATE April, South Yorkshire: a time when celebrities can be seen in the streets, excitement can be felt in the air and men who clearly know nowt about sport can be heard saying things such as ‘chess on the green baize’. You know, like Ray Stubbs.
Welcome, reader, to Sheffield, Snooker City.
The World Championship has been held at The Crucible Theatre every year since 1977.
And, while that has meant a procession of great players - Ray and Ronnie, Cliff and Willie, and both the Steves among them - and the odd stripper providing 36 years worth of ball-based entertainment, it has also resulted in a unique relationship between the sport and the city.
So, today Midweek Retro brings you these pictures from The Star archive proving that when it comes to being potty, the enthusiasts who live here are every bit as colourful as the professionals who visit once a year.
Proof? The area’s amateur open championship is one of the oldest in the world, the district league is one of the largest in the UK, and Tinsley’s Brian Abdul is one of the best remembered non-professional in the sport. He only had one arm.
“It’s just a magic game,” says Arnold Greenwood, treasurer of the Sheffield and District Association League. “Sheffield is the home of snooker and, at a lower level, it’s extremely popular. We have 600 players competing for 80 winter teams and 40 summer sides. I play twice a week and I still enjoy it as much now as when I started 40 years ago playing on my lunch as a steel worker. My favourite moment? Every time I win.”
Some history then. The first recorded competition here was the Sheffield Open Snooker Championship which started in 1924 - three full years before the first World Championship. The first winner was L Dyson-Rees, and apart from the war years, the competition has run since.
The league, meanwhile, started in 1926-27 - after being proposed by The Star. The Angel pub was the inaugural winners, from a field of eleven, and the same cup is still presented today.
“The boom was during the Eighties, no doubt about that,” says Keith Sedgewick, general secretary with the league. “That’s when the sport was at its biggest but even now, I think because we have the World Championships here, it does encourage more players to pick up a cue in Sheffield.
“Then once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. You always want to play better or get a bigger break. It’s lovely like that.”