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Gould Forced To Play It By Ear

Martin Gould

Gould ran John Higgins so close in Bendigo

To be compared to Dennis Bergkamp would usually be a source of pride for any sportsman. However, Martin Gould’s link to the legendary Dutch footballer is an unhappy one.

Aside from his dazzling skills, Bergkamp was also renowned for his fear of flying, which meant that he would endure long car and train journeys to away matches in Europe.

Londoner Gould, the world number 25, may also be forced to avoid travel by aeroplanes to overseas tournaments, though for a very different reason. The 33-year-old, runner-up at the recent Australian Goldfields Open, has suffered from a series of acute ear infections over the past eight months, and has been warned by doctors not to take to the skies.

“It looks like the infections might be caused by flying,” explains Gould. “I got the first one after I got back from China last year, another one when I returned from Thailand, and now having flown back from Australia it has happened again.

“I am arranging to see a specialist this week and trying to get to the bottom of it, and obviously hoping that there is another solution rather than cutting out flying. Depending on how it goes I might have to pull out of the Riga Open. My health comes first and after a good start to the season I don’t want to blow it by making things worse.

“I can get to the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany next month by train, but after that, it would be difficult to get to some of the other overseas events without flying.”

Gould suffered his most severe infection just before Christmas last year, when the pain across his ear and jaw was so intense that he could barely eat.

“I went from 11 stone to nine stone, and bearing in mind I’m not a big bloke to start with, that’s a lot of weight to lose,” he said. “My coach Steve Feeney came to visit me and he couldn’t believe how thin I looked. I was having to drink through a straw, and even eating something small like a biscuit was very difficult. I had to take pain-killers on an empty stomach, which leads to other side effects. It lasted nearly eight weeks, and it was only the day before the German Masters that I got the go ahead to fly there.

“I’m just hoping it’s not as bad this time because it’s no fun when you wake up at 3am in a lot of pain and can’t sleep.

“My granddad has problems with his hearing – partly caused by a bomb which landed near him during the second world war – and my dad and uncle are the same so maybe it’s something hereditary. I just hope the specialist can find an answer.”

Despite his health problem, Gould remains optimistic about the new season, having enjoyed one of the best weeks of his snooker career so far in Australia.

He beat Marco Fu, Michael Holt, Matthew Selt and Stephen Maguire in Bendigo to reach his second ranking final, then ran John Higgins all the way in a high-quality match, only to lose 9-8.

“I gave it everything in the final and tried as hard as I could,” recalls Gould, who has won several tournaments including the Shoot-Out but is still waiting for his first ranking title. “For the first two frames I was like a rabbit in the headlights, but once I’d settled down I felt as if I was going to clear up every time I got a chance.

Martin Gould

Winning the Shoot-Out in 2013

“In the last frame I had half a chance when I potted a long red, but I didn’t have an angle on the black to go into the pack so I had to play a soft cannon which didn’t work out, so I had to play safe. That proved to be my last shot as John made a big break. But I couldn’t be too hard on myself – if I’d had a really good chance and blown it then I would have been more disappointed.

“I have always believed that I belong there – in the later stages of big tournaments. Sometimes I have played well for a couple of matches, then got to the table the next day and the form is not there. The pleasing thing about Australia was that I played well in every match throughout the week. I have been around for seven or eight years now and only played a few big finals, so it was great to get more experience of that kind of occasion and to show that I can live with the big boys.

“I found a good routine in Australia because I was sleeping well every night and then playing in the afternoons. Getting over the jet lag quickly is always important. For the first couple of days everyone struggles – it takes time to adjust and it helps if you are playing at the same time every day.

“My big targets now are to win a ranking event and to get into the top 16 in time for the Masters. I’ve only played in my home event once and I’d love to have another crack.”