Wednesday was a day in York when the only thing guaranteed was that every player trooping into the media centre at the Barbican was going to be asked about Shaun Murphy’s incendiary comments about amateur players, and how he thought they should be barred from taking part in professional tour events.
But alongside that there were other personal achievements and milestones, and foremost among those was Mark Williams celebrating his 100th match at the UK Championship in style with a high-class 6-3 victory over China’s Lei Peifan - who played his full part in an entertaining contest.
Wales’s Williams, 46, won the second of his UK titles back in 2002 before Lei was even born but recovering from a painful bout of gout and then more seriously Covid, the world No9 knocked in breaks of 106, 112, 69 and 76 to move into the last 64.
And it wasn’t long after Williams was fully backing Murphy, and proposing huis own solution to the problem of blank places in the draw which is to slash the number of players on tour.
Williams said: “Being told it is my 100th UK Championship match makes me feel very old, this kid today wasn’t born when I won my last UK title – then I look around the press room and I don’t feel so bad.
“It was a good match today, a very good standard from both of us and he was a good player. After I had a good start he has made two great breaks of 80-odd and 90-odd to go ahead.
“Then after I had a few breaks I was thinking if he made it 5-4 it could get interesting. It is nice to be here after the problems with the gout and then the Covid. York is one of the best places we play, my missus always comes to this one.
“I am improving every day after having the Covid, and that and the gout are two things I never want to get again. I am still aching all over but I am getting better.
“I agree with everything Shaun said, I have been saying it for years. The timing is not great after getting beat by an amateur, of course. But look at what I have said about it before. I don’t agree with amateurs being involved, and don’t start me on top-ups.
“We never get 128 professionals in the draw, I can’t remember the last time. And I think the tour should be smaller. Most of them lower down are skint anyway, so it should be cut and have a good amateur game. If you get to be a pro, you should be guaranteed a living.
“And where is the scope for the development people talk about for these young amateurs? They are playing Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and John Higgins in the first rounds of tournaments, how will you progress getting draws like that? What I would say on top-ups is if you have to have them, just make it for one event a season, not all of them, and go down the list.
“We are just getting the same people in all the tournaments who failed to get on to the circuit via Q School, so they are free-rolling.”
World No1 Mark Selby eased past Scottish amateur Ross Muir 6-2, and was broadly in agreement with both Murphy and Williams. In fact the whole day saw a disconnect between top players in the game and virtually everyone else.
Leicester Jester Selby said of his match: “I played well really from start to finish. Ross could have been ahead at the interval, but I managed to make a couple of good clearances in the first two frames. So having pinched a couple I was happy with 2-2. Then after the break I was stronger.”
So it was left to Muir, a 26-year-old former professional from Edinburgh who fell off the tour two years ago and under ‘Murphy’s Law' would not have been able to play in York, to put the opposing view.
Muir said: “To be honest I heard Shaun Murphy’s comments on the radio as I was driving to the match. And it is a bit bizarre for someone like Shaun to be saying something like that. At the end of the day you have to fill 128 places and no one is being just given a spot.
“You have had to earn it with your results and performances in your own way at Q School. So I certainly don’t agree that amateurs shouldn’t be allowed in these tournaments. Most sports have amateurs against professionals at some sort of level.
“But the amateurs in snooker get no special treatment, we are unseeded and I don’t understand why he has had a dig at amateur players. Maybe it was just an initial reaction after his match.
“I saw the blue he missed in the decider, he must have been very disappointed to lose the match the way he did. But I don’t think his comments have any sort of grounds to be considered. You get the mix in golf, even team sports like football sometimes. It’s not something I agree with.
“If I wasn’t able to take advantage of a top-up place when they were short of the 128 I might struggle to keep going. There aren’t really enough events to make a living without playing in main tour events as well. But as a top-up you can make a living.”
Meanwhile in the evening session on day two, seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan kept his unbeaten record in the last 128 of this tournament going with a 6-3 win over Michael White and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh put in a scintillating display to get past Stephen Hendry with a 6-1 win.