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Judd Trump: On a mission to make snooker cool again

Create: 02/18/2017 - 09:18
As Judd Trump reaches the final of the Welsh Open, XtraTime looks back at an interview conducted at this time last year and at the desire of the Bristol born player to make snooker trendy once again. 
With expensive Christian Louboutin Rollerboy spikes on his feet, an ever-changing hairstyle on his head and a penchant for fast cars, the 27-year-old trailblazer is doing his level best to make the sport trendy once more but says he needs a little bit of help from the game's governing body.
“It is still a very popular game but it is not quite as cool as some of the other sports which have the sponsorships in place,” said Trump, who was born and raised in Whitchurch. “Money really helps sport nowadays, that's what makes headlines and gets kids wanting to be involved. Footballers are idolised and snooker players aren't.
“It's the tradition of wearing waistcoats, looking smart and being quiet. I think you could wear something smart but sporty and maybe attract different sponsors and get into the headlines a bit more. It should be polo shirts and trousers, similar to golf. The dickie bow gets in the way of the cue, and it's restrictive. You'd never practice in one.


Making changes

“There needs to be a little bit of a change to make it a bit cooler. Other than that, it's healthy. There are a lot of good players and a lot of talent around. Some of the characters are putting on a good show on TV. It would be good to have more tournaments with 30-second clocks, so that everyone speeds up a little bit. I think people put too much pressure on themselves to earn the money and bog the game down and the audience down. People think slowing others down can get an advantage and it shouldn't be that way. It should be whoever is the best player on the day, wins.You shouldn't be under that pressure if you're ranked 60 in the world. You should be comfortable and enjoying it.  I wouldn't change the established tournaments but maybe some of the newer ones". 
O'Sullivan commented in 2015 that he would like to play tournaments amid the sort of raucous atmosphere generated by the crowd at the PDC World Darts Championship at the Alexandra Palace, which staged a far more serene occasion a few days later when snooker's leading lights rolled into town for the Masters.However, Trump disagrees, "You don't need to be shouting out, like at the darts, but people should be allowed to chat between themselves. It doesn't put you off at all, it's only when one person shouts or a single phone goes off that it affects you. When you're playing snooker, you are so focused on the table that you really can't hear what people are saying". 


World champion?

Up until now in terms of the World Championship it has been a case of so near, and yet so far, but the game's ultimate prize surely cannot elude Trump forever. When he was standing on tiptoes and beating all-comers at Keynsham Snooker Centre at the age of eight, bookmakers offered a price of just 200-1 on him one day becoming champion of the world. Those odds might have looked skinny at the time, but appear remarkably generous now.
“I have always done pretty well at the Worlds, getting to the quarters or semis, and ran out of steam last year. I got off to a bad start and never really got into it. I was disappointed and put too much pressure on myself and I think that was the only reason I lost. I've learned to enjoy it more this season and just go out and not worry too much. Nobody else is putting pressure on me apart from myself" said a bullish Trump
“It is an enjoyable tournament for me because you've got time to settle down. The longer format is better. You will rarely see a high standard of play when there are so many tables at a venue. When it gets down to one table then you start to feel that pressure and the nerves are pumping and the crowd is a bit more noisy. You get more enjoyment from that and feel you need to do something to spice up the crowd. When it is one table then the crowd are there to see you and I think that spurs you on.
“Seventeen days is a long time to play well and it is all about consistency, but I feel I am one of the most consistent players now. You do need a bit of experience. I've been there a few times and know what to do now to keep myself fresh the whole way.”
Trump left Bristol in 2009 and currently lives in Chigwell, a short drive from his base at Romford's Grove Snooker Academy, but feels the positive vibes from his home city every time the big one comes around. Should he fulfil what appears to have been his destiny ever since lorry driver dad Steve ignited a prodigious talent by bringing home a 4ft x 2ft table for his three-year-old son to practice on, then he would become the West's first representative on a roll of honour dating all the way back to inaugural winner Joe Davis in 1927.
“I've had a lot of publicity from the age of about ten years old and feel like I've been around forever,” joked Trump, who scored a competitive 147 at the age of just 14 in 2004 and turned pro two years later. “The World Championship is obviously the main one and everybody in Bristol gets behind me for that. I receive a massive amount of support from everyone on social media and I really appreciate that. It would be a tremendous achievement and it would be good to do it for Bristol.”
Maybe live television audiences will never again rival the 18.5 million who tuned in to BBC2 to watch Davis beaten by Dennis Taylor amid impossible tension at the the 1985 World Championship final, but the sight of Trump in full flow – he once branded his fast, attacking style “naughty snooker” – is certainly enough to grab the attention of the lost masses.

About Author

Neil Beck
Neil edited XtraTime magazine across all 11 issues from September 2015 to the spring of 2017. He is a vastly-experienced West Country sports journalist who cut his teeth at the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald before moving on to become head of sport at Bath News & Media.