To coincide with when the World Snooker Championship was due to take place, Eurosport has produced a series of brilliant vodcasts with some of the greatest faces in the game.
The legendary Ronnie O’Sullivan spoke to Eurosport about his life away from snooker.
First interaction with snooker
I was probably about eight years of age. I started off playing on my cousin’s table because he had a little table at his house. Just hitting a few balls around and my dad saw that I had a bit of love for playing it and bought me a pool table for Christmas. Then I remember that moment I got my own pool table and that was it, I was on it all the time.
On home setup
Obviously I had to go to school and stuff like that and sometimes I couldn’t get to the snooker club because I’d come home and only maybe get a couple of hours on the table then I’d come home, have dinner and go to bed. So, my dad said “we’ve got to find a place where we can get a full-size table in.” We moved about 100m from where we were living before. But he just walked across the back of the garden, he knew we could get a full-size table in there if he built a room and that was it. He said “yeah, we’ll have it” and we bought the house, gutted it, put a snooker room in there and that was it. So, I had my own snooker room from the age of 12, No, maybe even younger 10, 11.
On dealing with pressure of expectation
I don’t know really. I didn’t really feel the pressure. I was just excited, I used to love playing, I loved competing. So, it wasn’t pressure. Sometimes when you’re playing a challenge match against another kid my age that was a horrible type of pressure because you never wanted to lose to someone in a big challenge match and he ended up beating me. I remember his name – Craig Stockford – he’d came all the way down from Leeds. But most of the time I was playing just amateurs that were older than me or juniors so I had nothing to lose. I just enjoyed playing and then once you start to win and compete and win tournaments if anything the pressure made you play better really.
On playing with a crowd/TV
The Cockney Classic, that was the first time I played on TV. But I always used to love a crowd. So, if I was at the club practicing and no one was watching we’d be playing but five or six people used to come down to sit and watch that would be thinking I have to perform for these people. I didn’t want the other guy making me look silly. So, I used to up my game and I used to do that all the time. I always used to perform better if there was a crowd or there was something on the match. I was never a great practice player.
On working with Ray Reardon
My dad made the phone call to somebody. I don’t know who he called. But he said “Ronnie could do with a little bit of someone with a bit of experience in his corner. Who would you recommend?” They mentioned a few names then said “the one you really want to get hold of would be Ray Reardon.” So we said “Can you get his number for me?” and he said “yeah, no problem.” So we got Ray’s number and my dad phoned him up and he had a chat to him and said “Would you want to help my son?” And he went “Yeah, love to! No problem.” So he got off the phone to Ray Reardon and phoned me up and “here, I’ve got Ray Reardon’s number, he’s waiting for you to call him.” This was halfway through a match, I was playing Andy Hicks at the time, and I think I was 9-7 down in the final session. I had a phone call from Ray and I said “Ray, I’m playing well but I’m 9-7 down.” He went “he’s not scared of you, that’s why.” I was like “really?” And he said “No, he’s not scared of you, no, no, no. Just keep him tight, keep tight, don’t go for them ones where you leave them easy.” So I thought ‘alright’ and I tightened up a little bit and I won the match quite easily, about 13-10 or 13-11. But it felt different, it felt a different way of playing. I felt in control. I got more mistakes out of my opponents. So, that was my first lesson with Ray, over the phone. Then, the next day he was in Sheffield so we really got to work on the table. And then from that moment onwards I was a different player, a completely different player, and all for the better as well.
On his relationship off the table
I’ve got to say his company was the best company I’ve ever had on tour. He was the funniest. He had a lot of class. He was hilarious, just great fun and had a little twinkle in his eye. Such a character and such brilliant stories. I’d never get fed up of working with Ray because we’d just get on the table and for me to enjoy the next five or ten years of my game, he would probably be better than anyone to have in my corner. We could just talk about the game and certain aspects of it. It’s not just about potting balls, it’s more about the science of the game. I’ve probably lost a little bit of that because it’s been so long since I’ve worked with Ray that I’ve probably gone more back to how I used to play. But to work with someone like Ray was a dream come true.
On Ray’s help with stress of sport
He just had great faith in me. He used to say “no one plays snooker like you and I’ve been in this game a long time and all you’ve got to do is just go out there and make sure you’ve got a good defence, no one’s better than you in the balls and just play, just play.” And that was it really. He had confidence that I could manage myself right off the table and be professional enough and that was it really; you’ve got to have trust in each other. I think he trusted in me that I was going to give it 100% and that was enough.
Watch new snooker vodcasts on the Eurosport.co.uk website with forthcoming episodes to feature some the greatest names in the sport.