The Hitman talks Terry Griffiths, Sleaford Mods, Carl Froch and why he eats six meals a day…
Michael is one of an elite group of players who can throw and catch chalk without looking at it
Michael, how do you feel about your start to the season?
I haven’t played that well but my results have been decent. I had a good win against Li Hang in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers and it was important to get to that event having reached the semi-finals two years ago.
You’re working with Terry Griffiths for the first time this season. How did that come about?
I have always got on well with Terry. I’ve never had the chance to work with him before because he had been attached to management stables whereas I’ve always been a lone ranger in that respect. Once it was clear that his situation had changed this year, I got in touch with him and we had a good chat. It didn’t take me long to decide it was what I wanted. He only wanted to work with a maximum of six players so I was flattered that I was one of them. I’m excited and very positive about working with him. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I believe he can help me improve, and I am committed to trusting what he tells me. I’ve always known I can play, my problem has been doing it on the big stage on a consistent basis. Terry will only come to certain tournaments but I’m talking to him on Skype regularly.
You’re 37 now but the likes of Stuart Bingham, Joe Perry and Mark Davis have shown the best form of their careers at a later age. Do you feel your best years are still ahead?
Definitely. I can improve so much in every aspect of my game. With the experience I’ve got, I’m the best player I’ve ever been, but I can get better. I’ve been hard on myself in the past. I’ve been a top-32 player for ten years and won two PTC events so I’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about. But that’s not what I turned pro for.
Who do you practise with?
Shaun Murphy has moved to the Nottingham area so I’ve had a few games with him. I play with Mark Selby, Jamie Cope and a few others. There are so many tournaments now that it’s not like the old days when you would have a month between each event and have a regular practice routine going. You just grab the odd game with certain players now and then.
How important is health and fitness to you?
It’s massive – I’m passionate about it. The more I learn about it the more I realise how much I didn’t know before. My girlfriend Amy is into it as well, in fact we talk about the gym more than anything else, which is pretty boring for most people. I go to the gym four or five times a week – I’d go more but it’s important to have rest days as well. I’m trying to put a bit of extra bulk on at the moment so I’m eating up to six meals a day, totalling around 3,000 calories. If I don’t eat a lot then within six weeks I’d look like a 12-year-old boy, which is not the look I’m aiming for. I’m as fit and strong as I’ve ever been and I don’t feel 37.
Have you considered following a vegan diet as the likes of Peter Ebdon and Neil Robertson have done?
It’s not for me, it’s too extreme. Each to his own, but I believe that if you have a balanced diet and stay away from processed foods then you will be healthy. I love Peter and we always have a good chat about it. I like meat and I always make sure it’s organic and well sourced. I understand the animal rights element of veganism but that’s a separate issue to diet and nutrition.
Have you been on holiday this summer?
Yes I went to an island called Hvar in Croatia, not far from Split. It was beautiful, I’d definitely go again.
You’re a big music fan, who are you listening to at the moment?
I like a couple of Nottingham bands, one called I Am Lono and another called Sleaford Mods who have recently become popular. They’ve had a top ten album and done a single with The Prodigy. The singer Jason Williamson reminds me of John Cooper Clarke in the way that he talks over the music. I remember seeing them five years ago in front of about five people who were laughing at him. At the time he was working for the council and getting nowhere in music. I admire him for the way he kept on doing what he wanted to do. He talks a lot about austerity so recently people have started listening to him and they have caught a wave.
The Shoot-Out is one of his favourite events
Your brother Matt plays bass for Spotlight Kid, how are they doing?
The singer lives in Amsterdam and Matt lives in London so it’s hard for them to get together. But they are still going and playing gigs when they can.
Your friend Carl Froch has decided to retire from boxing, do you think it’s the right decision?
If a boxer in his position is not 100 per cent dedicated to his next fight then he has to call it a day because it’s a dangerous sport where someone is trying to knock your head off. Having fought in front of 80,000 people at Wembley, the only place to go next would have been Las Vegas, and that didn’t come off. So it’s the right decision for him and his family. He’s got nothing left to prove. I texted him at the time and told him to enjoy his retirement.