Sport.co.uk caught up with snooker legend Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White for a quick chat about the game, as well as his love of Chelsea Football Club, and ended up informing him of a great honour of which he was not hitherto aware…
If you could go back to the mid-80’s, when you were rising to fame, would you do anything differently?
JW: I would have prepared better. I used to do quite a bit of gambling during the tournaments, so my approach wasn’t the best organized, but I was my own boss. I don’t regret anything but, if I had an opportunity to change it, I’d definitely prepare better.
Do you think you could have nailed the world title if you’d had less of a decadent lifestyle, or less of an inclination to throw caution to the wind?
JW: No, because my style of play was to attack and to create chances that weren’t there. That’s why people liked watching me; I played the game slightly differently. I still play the same way. Last night, I had a 147. And I’m not finished yet, you know. It’s not like boxing or football; you don’t have to be super fit.
Do you worry for the future of the game, what with the falling TV audiences and lack of tournaments these days?
JW: That’s not the truth. There’s still six million people playing snooker in Great Britain. Hundreds of millions are watching it in China. When it hit its height in the 80’s, it wasn’t as popular as football but it was quite close. As long as snooker’s got players like Ronnie O’Sullivan coming through then it will always attract a big audience. It’s not in trouble, no.
Was there much of a drinking culture in the game?
JW: Back then there was, yeah. There was me, Kirk Stevens and Alex Higgins, so there were a few ‘bad boys’, but there were also good boys like Steve Davis. But when you’re on the road continuously, living out of a suitcase, it’s hard to stay sane and it’s hard not to have a party every now and again. Some of us took it to a bit of excess.
Is Steve Davis really as boring as he’s often accused of being?
JW: He keeps himself to himself. He loves playing poker now. He plays poker like he used to play snooker – totally granite! But that’s his style and fair play to him. As a representative of the snooker world, he’s an absolute gentleman. He’s a big rival of mine but we’ve got a lot of respect for each other.
You’re a keen poker player yourself, aren’t you?
JW: Yeah. I won the Poker Million in 2004. I was brought up gambling and, unfortunately, gamblers think they’re good at everything. I have very slow horses! But I can play poker, yeah.
What’s the most you’ve ever won?
JW: A quarter of a million dollars.
Blimey. Nice. But have you ever beaten your manager Kevin Kelly in a game of Kalooki?
JW: All the time. That’s why I let him work for me – so I can take money back off him at Kalooki!
How did it feel to be namechecked by Bill Hicks?
JW: When was that?
From Wikipedia: “Comedian Bill Hicks namechecked Jimmy White in some of his comedy routines about a trip to England where, whilst trying to find out more information about the L.A. riots in 1992, all there was on television was Jimmy White playing snooker. Hicks, so annoyed that White was always on the box, famously quipped, ‘Does the man not have a home to go to?’ ”
JW: Ok. I’m proud of that. Very nice.
It’s quite an honour.
You’re a big Chelsea fan, aren’t you?
JW: Yep, before the Russians came. I’ve been going there for 30-odd years. I think we’ll win the Premiership this year. But I like watching Arsenal and I like watching Man United, so I’m a big football fan all round, actually.
Let’s compare modern-day Chelsea to pre-money Chelsea. Who’s better – John Terry or Jakob Kjeldberg?
JW: John Terry. My man.
Didier Drogba or Paul Furlong?
JW: Ooh. Drogba.
Frank Lampard or Eddie Newton?
Ashley Cole or Scott Minto?
JW: Ashley Cole! I’m not gonna stand for that one.
Well, I think that we’ve conclusively proven that money equals success. You know, just in case anyone was still in any doubt. Finally, do you have any good stories for us about your late friend Patsy Houlihan?
JW: Yeah, actually. He was a master. He would have won the World Championships but, because he’d been in prison, the Snooker Association at the time wouldn’t let him turn pro. He would have definitely won. He was one of the best players I’ve ever seen.
No tales for us of jolly japery or mischievous antics?
JW: No, that’s it my man!
Snooker legend, Jimmy White, is launching Papa Johns’ new Everyman pizza and has teamed up with the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign to raise awareness and funding for the charity.
You can order Papa John’s Everyman Pizza by visiting www.papajohns.co.uk