Jimmy White Remains Snooker’s Artful Dodger Even As He Turns 60

'The Whirlwind' is as excited about a 'magic' Crucible final as anyone
10:05, 02 May 2022

Box office stars Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump battle it out on the final day of the Betfred World Championship today as Jimmy White celebrates a milestone birthday .  

There were times in the Whirlwind’s more chaotic years of drink, drugs and gambling addictions that reaching such an age might have seemed an achievement in itself.  

But then White’s vulnerability and flaws have always been a part of his make-up, as much as a cheeky charm – and the six lost world finals that left millions of fans almost more devasted than him.  

Those defeats denying White a world title might have seen lesser men consumed by bitterness. But an enduring love for snooker snuffed out that possibility.  

And as he reflected at the iconic Sheffield theatre on his life and times, the boyish enthusiasm spilled out about this year’s showpiece between two players cut from the same showman cloth.  

White, still on the main tour after 42 years, said: “I am absolutely buzzing for this final. You have Judd Trump the shot-maker, who has dominated the game for most of the last three or four years.  

“And then you have Ronnie O’Sullivan at his pure best making the game look so easy – it is a classic final, just magic.  

“I don’t feel 60 at all – more like 25, I just can’t move any more. I had the Rolling Stones play at my 50th – not bad for a lad from Tooting - so I don’t know how I’ll top that at the Crucible.  

“Seeing Ronnie equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles would be a treat – but my birthday is every day, really.”  

It won’t be the first birthday White has had at the Crucible. Hendry ruined one in 1994 with an 18-17 win in the final, after the Londoner missed a black off the spot in the decider.  

But there were others, one being mid-quarter-final against Steve James. White said: “Steve has the same birthday as me.  

“We both went out. He had beaten Hendry that year, I think. Me and him both got paralytic and I had a headache from hell the next day.  

“There was a club called Josephine’s but it was a different world, you could go out and have a few drinks. Now I only have a few a couple of times a year.” 

White’s popularity even extended to royalty, with the late Queen Mother reportedly a fan. He also recalled: “I remember when I got my MBE the Queen said to me: ‘Why did they put the snooker on so late at night?’   

“Me, just being a cheeky chappie, I said: ‘Why don’t you have a word?’ With that I was quickly ushered away.  

“People liked the way I lost gracefully, and the way I attacked the game. That is why Ronnie has the crowd, and why Alex Higgins had the crowd.  

“You could go on a rollercoaster with the way we play. But snooker has been my life and I have no plans to retire, not at all.”  

Former World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn remains White’s biggest fan, insisting that “ we wouldn’t all be sitting here without him – though it is harder to a tearaway now”.  

But spells managing him could be a nightmare. White said: “We went out to party in Hong Kong once but were supposed to play golf early with a big sponsor.  

“At 8.30am Barry shouted ‘Open the door, you have to play, there is a famous opera singer and an actor too’, I just said ‘I am too ill.’ So he gets someone to bash the door in, and he’s angry.  

“I am sweating vodka. And at the first green there is a wall and a set of taxis. I gave the caddy a few quid. I jumped over the fence, got into the taxi, went back to the hotel. Barry was raging.”  

"Jimmy White will be on punditry duty for the Snooker World Championships final on discovery+ and Eurosport, the exclusive home of Roland Garros tennis and Giro d'Italia cycling.

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