The Nineteen Eighties



As shocking as it may seem the 1980’s are fast becoming historical times for the game of Snooker, the players of this era are considered by the youngsters in the clubs to be from a totally different time.

Names like Doug Mountjoy, Terry Griffiths and David Taylor are rarely mentioned in conversations around the bar on a match night at your local club I suggest.

I have a video of Doug Mountjoy making a break of 145 in the World Championship in 1981, the year he reached the final and played against the emerging talent Steve Davis.

This break is an epic in terms of Doug triumphing over adversity in a playing sense, towards the end of the break. Doug was unfortunate with three positional shots slightly kissing reds that he intended to pot into the top pockets and after the kiss only having a shot available into the baulk pockets.

This break was a lesson to all those people who get annoyed when they lose position and need to look for an alternative shot; Doug stayed focussed and as you may have gathered, cleared the table. 

It amuses me to hear people saying that the players of even ten years ago would have been no match for the players of today, when you look at Doug Mountjoy’s break in the 1981 Championship.

Terry Griffiths was another Welsh player with a great deal of ability, imagine working in a variety of jobs before turning professional and then winning the world championship at his very first attempt. Terry overcame some of the biggest names in the game at the time and came up against the very experienced Dennis Taylor, in the final. The pressure on Terry towards the end must have been tremendous even though he was the underdog because he was so near to achieving his goal. 

Terry played that year as though he was in practise or so it appeared to me as a television viewer, I think that this achievement overshadowed the rest of Terry’s career to a degree. He did however make it to the final of the world championship nine years later, losing to Steve Davis.

David Taylor was another fine player throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s; he reached one major final to my knowledge and played really well losing 9-7 to Tony Knowles.

I remember a story that I read about an antique dealer in Manchester getting hold of an old cue and offering it to David Taylor. David took the cue to try and found that he played very well with it, after a while he returned to the dealer and asked, if he could buy it? The owner said “no, you keep the cue and I hope that it does you proud”, the cue was I am told a Burwat Champion and David won many matches with it. I would imagine that the cue’s original owner would have been delighted that it went to someone capable of getting the most from it.

I know that break building is at a high point in modern play, but still remember the achievements of the players from the past. These players seemed more well rounded as characters, having worked in other avenues prior to devoting all of their energies to Snooker. Perhaps learning about family and sacrifice made them seem more human than the players of today?

Steve Davis was for me the most obviously self-developed purpose built Snooker player, he groomed himself for the top and with his manager Barry Hearn created a new mould for the emerging players to follow.

Steve and his manager arranged challenge matches against the world’s top players before Steve ever turned professional. This strategy enabled them to assess the opposition and develop the game needed to beat them, allied to an ability to dedicate himself completely to the game; this became a winning game plan.

This method was repeated with even greater success by Ian Doyle with Stephen Hendry, It sometimes seems that running the second four minute mile is a little easier as the psychological barrier has been removed.

It is interesting to note that Steve Davis has been given more nicknames than any other player in the years that followed his greater on table success, such as:

  • The Ginger Magician
  • Golden Balls
  • The Romford Robot
  • Steve “Interesting” Davis
  • The Nugget
  • Romford Slim
  • The Plumstead Potter
  • The Guvnor
  • Stevie D
  • The Essex Executioner

And so on.

Steve Davis and Barry Hearn also travelled the world in an attempt to promote both Steve, and the game to as wide an audience as possible. It seems to me that the efforts of these two individuals is at least partly responsible for the positive aspects of Snooker’s popularity abroad. I have a book that was published in Belgium, the first player to appear in this book that I recognised was almost inevitably Steve Davis.

When people compare the records of both Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry they neglect to mention, that Steve Davis has won one more UK championship and that Stephen has won One more world championship title. It seems to me that there is very little to choose between their records over all, Steve Davis has appeared in eight world finals as has Stephen Hendry, Steve last one of his finals by less than seven points.

The main thing is that they both stand head and shoulders above the chasing pack like giants of the modern era.

David Smith
Cues n Views