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Don Hutchison Q&A

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Former Liverpool, Everton and West Ham footballer Don Hutchison was at the Ally Pally to watch Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ricky Walden on Friday. Here the Scot talks about his passion for snooker, while also casting an eye back on his sporting career.

Pic: Don (red jumper) talking to Andy ‘Galeforce’ Goldstein

By Tim Poole

An obvious first question: how good is Ronnie O’Sullivan at the moment?

“Amazing, absolutely amazing. I picked a good day to come and watch him! I’m a massive fan of Ronnie, I’ve met him a few times and we share the same gym together. It’s been a phenomenal day today.”

Is Ronnie your favourite player?

“I’ve got loads. I like players that have got a bit of character. I like Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy but I think Ronnie is a top boy and a fantastic player. I think there are always players that can stop him. The two boys that I mentioned there – Selby and Murphy – have definitely got a game on them. But I’m an avid watcher of snooker and any event that Ronnie turns up in – and he fancies – he’s unquestionably the best player that’s ever played the game.”

How big a fan of snooker are you?

“Huge fan. I’ve been watching it for years and years and years. Donkey’s years! Since when the likes of Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis were flying, the early eighties. I love the game and play it every now and again. My highest break is 71 so it’s not bad. I don’t play as much as I should, I’m a bit like that with golf, too. But 71 – I’ll take that!”

If you could go back in time, would you become a snooker player instead of a footballer?

“I think the best thing about snooker is that it’s an individual game. It’s like in tennis when, if you’re the best player in the world, you’re there on merit. You could be a fantastic footballer but you could be lucky that you’ve got good players around you and, if it’s not going right, you can still work hard and get a result. In snooker, it’s totally down to you and that’s what I love about individual sports. I’m a massive sportsman, I love any sport. I love my golf, love my snooker, as well as football and a few other obscure sports. But snooker’s definitely a passion of mine… If given the choice, I’d slightly favour football but second choice snooker.”

As a footballer, you scored a famous winner for Scotland against England at Wembley. What do you remember from that night?

“The first thing that comes to mind is how well we played on the night. I think every single player in a Scotland shirt dominated every player in an England shirt. When you look back at England’s team, that’s quite remarkable. They had legends playing for them – Beckham, Scholes, Ince, Seaman, Shearer and Owen. But every Scottish player on the night dominated and it was such a shame that we only won 1-0 because, obviously, we went out on aggregate. A lot of pride got brought back to the nation because of that result at Wembley.”

Your career saw you play for both Liverpool and Everton. Do you think either side can make the top four this season?

“I think there’s a fantastic chance that they can. I wouldn’t rule Manchester United out for top four, the same as I wouldn’t rule Tottenham out, there are some great clubs. I think top three are more or less set, for me: Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – in that order. And there’s a massive fight between Liverpool and Everton. They had a fantastic derby at the start of the season when it was 3-3, so I couldn’t split Liverpool and Everton at the minute. There’s a great manager in Roberto Martinez at Everton. I think his philosophy on the game’s superb. Ross Barkley’s a superstar. But the likes of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and co… It’s a tough call. I’ll be covering their next derby at the end of the month and I’m absolutely looking forward to that.”

How about another of your former clubs, West Ham: will they avoid relegation?

“I think now that big Andy Carroll’s back, yes, they’ve got a great chance. In all honesty, three weeks ago, I thought West Ham were doomed. But big Andy Carroll came back and they got the result last week that I didn’t think they’d get [beating Cardiff 2-0]. I thought they’d lose in Cardiff and that would have been Big Sam gone. They got the result and hopefully they can kick on.”

Will you be coming back to many snooker tournaments in the future?

“Yeah! I obviously work during weekends so it’s perfect for me to come during the week. Now that I’ve met the boys and they’re all great lads, I’d love to come as many times as I can.”