Alfie Burden came through a nerve shredding battle with David Gilbert to save his professional status at the end of last season, now he is putting a potential career in football coaching on hold to continue to ply his trade on the baize.
The 41-year-old had said that if he was relegated from the World Snooker Tour at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, he would have hung up his cue for good. However, he did enough to maintain his place on the circuit and keep his career alive. We caught up with Burden as he continues to prepare for the upcoming season…
Alfie, you won an epic match with David Gilbert 10-9 at World Championship qualifying last season to secure your place on the tour. How proud were you to hold your nerve under that sort of pressure?
“I knew I had to win to keep my tour card and had accepted that was how it was going to be. I wasn’t going to go to Q School. If I had dropped off the tour then that was it for me. I’m not saying I wanted to give up the sport because I didn’t, but I wasn’t prepared to go to Q School. Luckily I won and here I am now preparing for another couple of years as a professional snooker player.
“My father drove up in the morning to watch me play that match and he has been with me from the start. He got a bit emotional after I won because he doesn’t want me to stop playing. I gave him a hug and he had a few tears. I was pleased to win and stay on the tour and it is a good time to be a player because there are so many tournaments and there is a lot more money to be earned. I feel like I am happy with my game and ready to win some matches next season.”
What would you have done in terms of a new career had you dropped off the tour?
“I don’t think it is a secret that my main passion is football. My son Lene plays for Arsenal and I have a lot of contacts within the sport. I’ve started doing my coaching badges and there are a few other things I am looking at getting involved in within the football industry. That would have been the route I’d have gone down, it is on hold for the moment but it is something that I will be pursuing in the future.
“I obviously wanted to be a footballer when I was younger. I played for Arsenal until I was 16 and had a terrible injury that cut my career short. I love snooker as well. I used to play at the same club as Neal Foulds and he always said to me that I could be a top snooker player. I was a bit confused which way to go. When the injury happened it was so bad that I decided to pursue the snooker.”
Tell us a bit about Lene and how he is getting on at Arsenal at the moment?
“He’s a central midfielder. He is the smallest player on the park, but has an unbelievable football brain. It bodes well for his future. But I always say to him that only hard work and dedication will get him to the next stage
“There is nothing more enjoyable than watching my son play. He is very talented and I am very proud. I almost treat his football like a career for myself. I’m trying to give him the best opportunity to pursue his dreams so I do everything I can to help him.
“He’ll be playing in the under 14s next season and he is going into the second year of a two-year contract. It is up for renewal so it will be a very big season for him.”
You still place a lot of importance on fitness. How much do you think it helps your snooker to make sure you keep up your fitness levels?
“I’ve always been fit and it is something that is a big part of my life. I think any snooker player would benefit from being a bit fitter. I know some players aren’t interested in it and it doesn’t seem to impact on them. However, I like to keep fit and eat well and that certainly helps me.
“I feel better in myself when I am exercising. When I’m not I can get a bit down and depressed, but exercise stops me getting those feelings. I feel good, no matter what else is going on in my life, when I am doing my fitness work.”
What are your aims for the season ahead?
“I know that if I am putting the work in, then I can win matches. I’ve had a lot going on over the last couple of years, which has meant that I haven’t been able to practise much. I am now and I feel good with my game. If I didn’t think I could win a tournament, then I wouldn’t continue playing the sport. That has always been my mentality. I’m in a place now where I can put the work in and dedicate myself to snooker. However, I don’t really want to set any specific aims. I just have to make sure I am winning matches and the rest will take care of itself.”