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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Reardon at 80 and Paul Hunter remembered

For all the bad press that social networks get these days and perhaps rightly so at times their are instances where they prove their worth by allowing people the chance to mark certain events.That was the case this week as Snooker fans paid tribute to two men whose contribution to the game will never be forgotten,

The first of  these is Ray Reardon who on Monday celebrated his 80th birthday. I am of course too young to remember Ray in his prime so my memories are of him towards the end of his career but his record speaks for itself. You don't win six World Championships beating the players he did without been an excellent player  .

Like all great champions he knew how to win and didn't wilt when the pressure was on.He was the best player in the world and carried himself as such.He was also it seems not adverse to using a little bit of psychology.In Steve Davis's autobiography from 1981 he tells the story of a match he played against him as a teenager in a round robin pro/am.By the time these two had met Davis knew he only needed to win one frame of the four in the match to advance but having lost the first two Reardon had a heated argument with the ref about the position of the reds for the break off.This resulted in the balls been re racked a total of six times before Reardon eventually broke.By this stage the young Davis's concentration had completely gone and he exited the tournament losing the match 4-0.but with a valuable lesson learnt.

Of course Davis would go onto dominate the game in the 80's and I think perhaps unfairly the achievements of Reardon became quickly overlooked by the new generation of snooker fan much in the way Davis's achievements are by the current generation.

Regardless of this I think whenever snooker minds meet to discuss the games greatest players Ray Reardon deserves his place near the top on every list.

Unfortunately the other player remembered this week would not get the chance to fulfill his undoubted destiny in the game. I refer of course to Paul Hunter. Tuesday. marked the sixth anniversary of his passing and it is still a day no snooker fan will forget,

My first memory of seeing Paul play would have been an early round UK Championship against Hendry at the top of his game. I can't remember the year but I do remember Paul lead after the first session before Hendry asserted in the night session.The result didn't matter though,it was the style of this kid still in his teens that caught the eye.He seemed to have that rare ability to flow around the tables that only the very best possess.

He will rightly be remembered for his three final frame victories in the Masters where he first became the darling of the red tops with his infamous "Plan B" victory over Fergal O Brien as well as his three ranking event victories but the memory of him that will always stick with me came in the 2003 World Championship.In his semi final with Ken Doherty he lead 15-9 going into the last session but in one of the most extraordinary sessions ever seen at the Crucible  Doherty fought back to win 17-16.Anyone would have forgiven Paul for wanting the ground to open up and swallow him and probably inside he did as well but outwardly he gave Ken a smile and took the defeat with grace and dignity.

This told me all I needed to know about the character of the man.Of course its impossible to predict how his career would have panned out I find it hard to believe he wouldn't have at least challenged for the games top honours.

Lets take a moment this week to reflect on what these two great men have done for the sport we love.

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