Promising Sheffield potter Nico Elton is looking forward to the biggest match of his life next week when he faces Mark Allen in the International Championship qualifiers.
The 17-year-old amateur, a regular member of the England junior team and winner of the English Under-16 title last year, faces world number eight Allen on Thursday morning at the Barnsley Metrodome (tickets for Monday to Thursday available at just £5 a day, click here for details).
Elton, a part-time sandwich shop worker, finished 33rd on the Q School ranking list but that proved enough to give him the chance to earn a crust of £3,000 plus a trip to Chengdu in China next month – if he can beat Allen.
Earlier this season, Elton, who first played pool at the age of four before graduating to snooker, competed in a ranking event for the first time and beat David Grace 5-1 in the Australian Goldfields Open qualifiers before losing 5-2 to Jamie Jones.
“These matches are just great experience for me and give me a feeling for how it will be when I get on to the main tour,” said Elton. “The match against Mark Allen will be my biggest so far but I won’t be nervous because I’ll just be glad to be there. I’ll play in as many events as I can this season and all the pressure will be on my opponents.
“I’ll learn as much as I can from watching Mark but if I get chances I’ll be looking to take them and not thinking about who my opponent is. I’m an attacking player and I’ll try to create chances because I don’t expect him to make many mistakes.”
Elton practises at the Star Academy in Sheffield with the likes of Tian Pengfei, Xiao Guodong, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and, occasionally, Ding Junhui.
“I am so thankful for the chance to play there because those players really help me to develop my game,” he said. “I recently played Ding and lost 4-3 and in the decider he was giving me advice about shot selection, particularly when to go for a red and when to play safe. He has his own table at the Academy with seating around it, and sometimes I just go and watch him practise.”
Elton first visited the Crucible at the age of nine to see a first round match between Mark King and Stephen Maguire. “I was so excited I couldn’t sit still,” he recalls. “I’ve been the past few years in a row and obviously I would love to play there one day. My plan is to turn professional as soon as possible and make a career out of snooker. I have the support of my family as well as a great sponsor called The Cash Shop who have helped me a lot. I do around 12 hours a week in the sandwich shop just to take my mind off snooker.”
So keep an eye out for Elton…he might just turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread.