Belfast Telegraph

Sky falls in on Bond as man with golden cue rules world

By Billy Weir

I'll have to be quick as at the moment surgeons are on their third jar of Swarfega trying to prise me out of my 1985 Norman Whiteside FA Cup Final jersey.

It was a mistake but I got caught up in the whole retro feel that was going on at the weekend with the World Seniors Snooker Championship on Sky, and decided to dig out the old top that I'm now being dug out of.

So as I pedalled my Grifter, eating minced beef Crispy Pancakes and quaffing that can of Top Deck I'd set aside for a special occasion, it was a joy that we were served up a genuine slice of sporting history on Saturday – Taylor v Davis.

This time around though we weren't at The Crucible, the venue the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth, as presenter Andy Goldstein made the two protagonists feel very welcome and very old.

"I remember watching that final 28 years ago," he said to Steve. "Of course, you were in your mid-30s, I was just about five," as Davis' eyebrows perceivably stood to attention.

But in 28 years much water has flown under the bridge, the Davis of that time a much more timid beast than the one everyone loves now and he was too long in the tooth and wise in the crack to be taken down by this young whipper-snapper.

"A repeat of the 1986 Rothmans Grand Prix final – it's good to relive those memories," he said, as Dennis piped up 'he beat me in that, so he did.'

"I don't know if you're aware of that result in 1985, does it get mentioned much these days, Steve?" continued Andy, knowing the answer.

"No, not at all. Probably every week. Seriously every week and it just goes to show the power of TV and how excited the UK was at the time about snooker," replied Steve. That and there was nothing else on.

And that's the saddest indictment of all, these two legends of the game, even more past their sell-by date than my can of Top Deck, are still two of the biggest names that snooker possesses.

Evidence? Well, I asked my significant other to guess who was playing snooker and without seeing who was on she replied 'Steve Davis and that funny wee man with the glasses." The case rests.

Barring Ronnie O'Sullivan, Judd Trump and Mark Allen, today's lot are a largely forgettable array of supremely talented but colourless souls who are now dining out on what Davis, Taylor et al laid the table for all those years ago.

"The snooker public still want to see the stars of yesterday and even the day before yesterday," explained commentator Clive Everton as the action got under way, with two men turning back the clock.

And this is a major change, the best of three encounters featuring a shot clock where the player gets 30 seconds to play his shot.

It's just as well Eddie Charlton is no longer with us as he'd have had to use a calendar.

There were the usual one-liners and playful antics from Taylor and Davis went and ruined a perfectly good line about the players' ages now equal more than their highest break by rolling in a majestic 94 to seal victory.

The action continued all weekend, old familiar faces such as Cliff Thorburn, Doug Mountjoy, Joe Johnson and Tony Knowles, introduced as 'one for the ladies', the ladies in question being Portsmouth W.I.

Stephen Hendry, at the ripe old age of 44, was now 'senior' enough to take on Jimmy White, the Whirlwind now more of a light breeze, and showing something's never change, he lost, but with style.

Of course, there is the danger, like Taylor, of looking at old life through rose-tinted specs, as there were a fair share of colourless characters back in the day, for every Alex Higgins there was a Rex Williams just around the baulk line.

And so it proved as Davis booked his place in the final be seeing off Dave Harold, earning further adulation from Goldstein.

"You turned pro in 1978 and for me, behind Paul Scholes you're still the second best ginger sportsman ever. What keeps you going?" he asked a bemused Davis while back in London that wee lad who won the long jump at the Olympics cried in his sandpit.

For once Bond was the bad guy. Nigel Bond, 00147, licensed to do anything but thrill, ruined the script by beating Hendry in the other semi-final and set up the final no-one wanted.

It was a cracking game, Davis, unlike in 1985, holding his nerve to clinch a seventh world title but to be honest, that's stretching it more than my top.

Belfast Telegraph

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