This season’s Home Nations Series Master of Ceremonies, Allan Taylor, is hoping he can secure a return to the World Snooker Tour as a player, when the postponed Challenge Tour Playoffs take place.
Taylor, who fell off the circuit at the end of last season, is one of eight players who will by vying for a tour card when the playoffs are rescheduled. Their postponement was due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Having missed a number of tournaments due to his MC duties, Taylor knew he needed to produce strong showings in the final two Challenge Tour events in Leicester to earn a playoff spot. That is exactly what he did, beating Michael Collumb to win the first event and reaching the last 16 in the second.
The world of sport has been put on hold due to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, but Taylor remains confident he will be mentally prepared when his playoff opportunity eventually does come around.
We caught up with him to discuss his bid to regain professional status, his time as an MC and how he is coping with the current lockdown…
Allan, first of all how did you find the experience of becoming an MC for the first time at this season’s Home Nations Series?
“I definitely grew into it. When I started at the English Open in Crawley, I felt like a fish out of water. Looking down the barrel of a camera is a different kind of pressure to being out there with a cue. I played Ronnie O’Sullivan in Crawley the year before, he made his 15th maximum against me. There were less butterflies playing him than when I was there as an MC. When you are waiting for the cameraman to give you the signal it is nerve wracking, you then have 60 odd seconds worth of intros and it is showtime. There is no time to think of what shot to play, you have to go for it. I had some great support from backstage by people like Paul Collier and Brendan Moore, as well as the media team.”
Were there any specific introductions that stood out for you as a highlight?
“It took me a while to get my first opportunity to introduce Judd Trump as World Champion, with the way the sessions panned out. When I got to do it at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast it was amazing. It is a magnificent venue. It was packed out for the final and to be there for Judd facing Ronnie O’Sullivan was incredible. To introduce those players was absolutely gigantic. The part I feared the most was actually warming the crowd up before the sessions. You are trying to gauge how 1,200 people may react. However, when we practised welcoming Judd and Ronnie before that game, I think that was the best part for me. It was the biggest goosebumps moment I have ever had.”
Was it hard being at these events knowing you weren’t going to be competing as a player?
“When I got the call and was asked to be the MC, my first question was whether I would be allowed to play if I qualified for a top up place. The answer was obviously no, because it isn’t possible to do both jobs with the scheduling. I made the commitment to do it and I knew what I was getting myself in for. However, being surrounded by everything involved in the events was actually great for my mindset. I have worked with Chris Henry before and I am now with John Farnworth. He is very much into teaching the methods regarding the mindset of snooker. There are visual memories involved with just being at the tournaments. Even though I wasn’t playing, in my mind I have been to four finals. I’m on the carpet and in and around the one-table setup. I also had the chance to get some best of five games in with the legendary Whirlwind Jimmy White later on in the events. Which was really nice in terms of keeping my arm going.”
How proud were you of the performance you put in over that weekend in Leicester to secure your place in the Challenge Tour Playoffs?
“I knew what my target was. I could never finish first, having only played 50% of the events. I was proud to lift the trophy on the Saturday and it was a great confidence booster. I do think that half of it was down to the mind control during being MC at the Home Nations. It really was a great experience. I got a couple of wins in the next event to reach the last 16 and it was enough to squeeze through. I am over the moon.”
How difficult has it been to not be able to go straight ahead with the Playoffs?
“Whenever the date comes I will be ready and prepared. Once you get your cue out of the box and you are in your suit then it is game on. It is important to stay in the moment. It is a long build up, but it is impossible to know when the event will happen. I’ve been in the game long enough to get into the swing of things, it isn’t like going back to school after the summer holidays and forgetting how to write. I am lucky enough to have good players around me like Robbie Williams, Rod Lawler and Andrew Higginson. I can feed off of them and even if I only have one week to prepare, it will be enough to have a tough week of work.”
How have you been coping with the current lockdown in the UK?
“It is quite frustrating, when you are a snooker nut and you just want to hit balls. I have been watching Crucible matches online. I’ve always been the sort of person that wants to play when I watch a couple of frames. You get the itch and you get the bug. I am trying to mix things up by doing the 9am workout with Joe Wicks on YouTube. There is myself, Robbie Williams and Martin O’Donnell all doing it. We are all close friends, so we film ourselves on Facetime to make sure everyone is doing it. I cannot wait to get the cue back out. The dining table is starting to look like a six by three. You don’t know what you are missing until it is gone. It is a job, but it is also a hobby as well. To have that taken away from you and out of your hands is difficult.”