We caught up with the six-time World Champion to find out his plans for the 2014/15 season.
Steve you are enjoying a break from snooker, but have you been following the first few tournaments of the season?
Apart from doing a few exhibitions I have mentally switched off from snooker. I will try to kickstart my interest again in time for the Riga Open which will be the first event I play in. At the moment I don’t even know who’s done what in the tournaments that have taken place. For me it’s a bit like the way things used to be when there would be four months off during the summer. These days the players who are full time hardly have a break. I’m looking forward to playing in all of the European Tour events and in selected other events if I get an invite. Hopefully I’ll be enjoying my snooker rather than being a bit of a slave to the ranking list as I was over the last couple of seasons. Even if I had kept my place on the tour, I wouldn’t have played that many events this season. I just want to enjoy my amateur status now – if that’s what you’d call it.
How do you feel now about dropping off the World Snooker Tour?
You can get caught up in your performances and results and trying to maintain your level of play and ranking position, even if you’re not at the cutting edge. Sometimes you lose sight of the fact that you’re supposed to enjoy it as well. I have done ok in terms of keeping that balance but now it seems better for me to just play when I feel like it. When I knew for sure I’d been relegated from the tour, at first I felt ‘that’s the end of it’ but now I realise it’s actually quite a nice situation because a weight has been lifted. It wasn’t as if I was beating myself up about trying to keep my place, but it does feel as if that pressure is gone now. Jimmy White might feel the same if it happens to him. You can still play snooker.
What do you like about the European Tour events?
They are a great way of spreading snooker around Europe. They only take a few days without too much travelling involved and you can play a few matches in a day if you do well. And it’s nice for me to have a target of regaining my place on the tour for next season via the European Tour Order of Merit. It’s not like the events in China where it’s a long haul flight and then you might be hanging around for a few days before you play. In my position, the European ones appeal to me more now. It is tough now for those who are playing in all the events including the Asian Tour, they can be away for weeks at a time. When you’re in your 20s it’s great, but it’s not for me now.
How is the CueZone Into Schools programme going?
We have been to 12 schools and they have all absolutely loved it. So many headmasters have said what a great tool it is in many different ways, not just in generating interest in maths, but getting kids to interact socially before and after school, plus the fact that it has been incorporated into some BTEC and training courses. It has been fascinating to see how they have received it. I hope we can continue the programme.