Alan McManus is through to his third World Championship semi final – facing Ding Junhui in the first time he’s reached this point at the Crucible since 1993.
McManus has enjoyed a fantastic snooker career stretching 26 years, and he’s still going strong inside the world’s top 32. The 45-year-old Glaswegian, nicknamed Angles for his knowledge of the table, is also now a popular analyst for ITV4 on their growing portfolio of snooker events.
We asked Alan to look back on six of the best moments of his career on the baize…
1990 – Turning Pro
Back in those days the distinction between professional and amateurs was very clear. There were no PTC events or anything like that where the two would mix. There was a Pro Ticket system where the best amateurs each year would play against the lowest ranked pros for a place on the tour. In 1990 I was given that chance. I remember the tournament director Anne Yates ringing me up and saying I was playing the next day in Blackpool against a guy called Dennis Hughes. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough because I’d never played against a pro before. But I beat him 10-1. Suddenly I was on the tour which was what I had dreamed of since my early teens. The funny thing was that the qualifiers started the very next day, so I played in the Grand Prix and the UK Championship over the next four days and qualified for both of them. So in less than a week I’d gone from being an amateur to getting a place in two ranking events. It was quite unexpected to start so fast.
1992 – Crucible Semi-Finals
In my first year on tour I qualified for the World Championship and got to the last 16, then the following year I reached the semi-finals. I played John Parrott in the quarters and he was defending champion at the time. I was ahead for most of the match but struggled to get to the line and he came back to lead 12-11. The next frame was close but I managed to win it for 12-12. In the decider I made a small break then played a really good safety shot, got another chance and made 50 to win 13-12. It was really pleasing to have played a good deciding frame. In the semis I played Jimmy White and I was a little bit intimidated, I was only 21 at the time. I lost to him and again in the semis to Stephen Hendry the following year.
1994 – Conquering the King
I won my first big title by beating Stephen Hendry 9-8 in the final of the Masters at Wembley. He had won the tournament from his debut in 1989 every year until 1993 which is a ridiculous record – no one will ever do that again. To be honest it wasn’t one of my best performances in a final. I was 8-7 down and felt like it wasn’t going my way, but I really tried to dig in. I won the next frame on the colours then I went to the toilet and remember thinking I just wanted a chance in the decider. I potted a good red and made a really nice break of 76, so I was delighted to win it in one visit. I couldn’t really celebrate because I was playing at 10am the next morning in Bournemouth, in the International Open against Dave Finbow. I went to the champion’s reception at Wembley, said hello to as many people as I could then got a taxi back to the hotel and then down to Bournemouth, arriving at 2am. I managed to win my first match 5-4 and ended up getting to the semi-finals after beating Stephen 5-0 in the quarters! It was only when I got back home to Scotland and met some friends for a drink that I could enjoy it.
1994 – First ranking title
Early the following season I won my first ranking title at the Dubai Classic. At the time, Dubai was a relatively small place with just a handful of hotels, not the built-up metropolis it is now. The thing I recall most about the week was the golf, we had a regular game against a group of Ex-Pats who lived there. It was Ryder Cup style with the Ex-Pats, whose team was called the Desert Rats, against the players who were called the Rat Catchers. I played with the likes of Terry Griffiths and John Parrott, it was great fun as I love my golf. In the final I beat Peter Ebdon 9-6, winning the last three frames from 6-6. The two of us were on the same flight back the same night.
1996 – Overseas Success Again
In 1996 I won my second ranking title at the Thailand Open in Bangkok, beating Ken Doherty 9-8 in the final. The strange thing about that match was I only had one break of 50, while Ken had seven and I still won. I actually felt I played well in the final, I just didn’t make many big breaks. The really sad thing about that week was that while we were the Dunblane school massacre happened. There was no internet or anything like that but gradually we got to hear what had occurred. It wasn’t far from where Stephen Hendry practised in Sterling and when something like that happens in your own country it’s just very shocking and it put us in a sombre mood. A few months later, I was playing golf at Troon and a guy came across from another hole to speak to me. At first I just assumed he was a fan and I started chatting to him. He said he’d read some of the comments I’d made in interviews about Dunblane and how heart-breaking it was. Then he said his daughter had been one of the children killed. Obviously I felt so sorry for him and that made it feel even closer to home.
1996 – Tartan Triumph
One of my favourite memories is the 1996 World Cup in Thailand when I played for Scotland alongside John Higgins and Stephen Hendry. It’s very rare in snooker you get to play as part of a team so it was a great experience. And I’d taken so much punishment from those two over the years that it was wonderful to have them on my side for a change. They were both so good at the time, and I played well myself that week and we ended up beating Ireland 10-7 in the final. Afterwards we were celebrating with a Scottish flag and signing songs which was brilliant. John and I ended up falling asleep by the pool at about 3am and waking up the next morning. I’ve still got the waistcoat I wore that week, I keep it in my house. I don’t think I could fit into it now though!