Mark Williams – Trip Down A Coal Mine Shaped My Career

The world No8 is involved in an all-Welsh Betfred World Championship clash with amateur Michael White on Sunday
20:02, 16 Apr 2022

Mark Williams insists that the driving force behind 30 years at the top was being taken down a coal mine by his dad. 

The Welshman is one of snooker’s greats having won three world titles in a haul of 24 ranking-event successes and a couple of Masters crowns. 

But growing up in the mining village of Cwm in south Wales, promising junior Williams was taken down the pit to see a real day’s work by his father. 

The idea was to ensure that the 47-year-old made the most of his sporting talent - and it has paid rich dividends. 

World No8 Williams, involved in an all-Welsh clash with amateur Michael White on Sunday, became one of the famous ‘Class of 1992’ along with Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins. 

He said: “My old man stuck me down the mine for a proper shift when I was a teenager. It wasn’t one of these day trips you get now – but a real working mine. 

“I remember getting in between about 20 men into this cr**py lift and going right down. All these chains were rattling and it took forever to get to the bottom. Then I crawled on my hands and knees to get to where they worked. 

“I think I was down there about eight or nine hours, and when we came back up all the men were covered in soot and dust. 

“I told my dad I never wanted to do that again – it was horrible, horrific. And he said ‘If you put your mind to snooker, you might never have to’. 

“I remember very little about my time playing in the juniors, but I have always remembered that day clear as a bell. So it must have stood me in good stead.” 

And the proud Welshman is delighted that this year’s contingent of six to make the Crucible line-up is the highest since the eight in 1990. 

He added: “It is great for Welsh snooker, hopefully a couple of us can have a good run. The last few years there has only been a couple of us through. 

“Also coming along are players like young Liam Davies who got within two matches, and a few others. So things are really looking up at the minute. 

“But I have a tough match. Michael has won two ranking events and I’m not really sure how he dropped off the tour, he is much too good - but he is back on for next season. 

“He has had a few off the table problems but seems to have sorted all that out now and is back where he belongs.” 

The 30-year-old White is viewed as an ‘amateur’ in name only by even the leading players, given his previous time spent on tour, and the fact he has lifted trophies as a professional. 

Much trumpeted as a junior for his many exploits and tournament wins, Neath’s White won the European Under-19 title. 

He turned pro at 15, though was not allowed to play in that 2007-08 season until his 16th birthday. But the circuit proved too demanding and he failed to retain his place on the circuit. 

Just a year later in 2009 White was back and in much better shape to compete and do himself more justice.  

And some of the pressure and hype he had dealt with from such a young age poured out when he won a first ranking title at the Indian Open in 2015. 

He said afterwards: “Ever since I first played snooker at the age of seven, I dreamed about winning tournaments. It means everything. Since I was nine, people have been on my back to win titles.” 

White has played several tournaments as a ‘top-up’ player this season, and had already done well enough to secure a return to the tour even before qualifying for the Crucible – which in itself guarantees a certain route back. 

Having guaranteed his comeback to the elite ranks via not one but two routes, White could celebrate a first appearance at the Betfred World Championship for six years, having got to the quarter-finals on his debut three years earlier. 

There have been difficult moments along the way, with the player by his own admission suffering from bouts of depression with the sometimes isolated lifestyle of travelling and being away from home. 

But he said ahead of the Williams clash: “I have got bottle, you don’t win tournaments without it. It is fantastic to be back at the Crucible after six years, I had almost forgotten what the place looked like.  

“In one way I am on a bit of a free hit now, but at the same time I know what I am capable of. I got to the quarter-finals in 2013, and I have never folded there.”

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