Controversy is never far away from world number eight Mark Allen. Sports editor STUART MARTEL finds the ‘Pistol’ shooting from the lip on his return to York for the williamhill.com UK Snooker Championship
DON’T expect outspoken Mark Allen to be taking a backwards step – on or off the table – at the williamhill.com UK Snooker Championship.
The Northern Ireland ace lived up to his ‘Pistol’ nickname in York last year, firing in a string of big breaks en route to a thrilling final where he was edged out 10-8 by new world leader Judd Trump.
But he made just as many headlines off the Barbican baize as on it after a foul-mouthed press conference tirade against World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn.
His criticism of Hearn’s handling of the game, including tinkering with the format of the UK Championship, the second biggest ranking event, earned him censure from the governing body.
2012 has been a breakthrough year for Allen in many ways. After seven years as a professional, he landed his first ranking title in March with a 10-1 win over Stephen Lee in the Haikou World Open in China.
That victory, achieved with wins over past and present world number ones Mark Selby and Trump, helped to propel him from number 12 to number eight in the rankings.
However, he has also been in hot water with the authorities again, being hit with a £1,000 fine for controversial Twitter comments at the World Open and then £10,000 for making accusations of cheating against several Chinese players after his World Championship exit at the Crucible in April.
Allen, back in the Minster city yesterday to promote the UK Championship at Cueball Snooker Club in James Street, said: “As much as I regret the way I worded it, I stand by everything I said.
“It is disappointing that the governing body focused on the way I said it. The main points of what I said were swept under the carpet.”
The best-of-11-frame format of the UK Championship, for example, still rankles with Allen despite his success last year.
“I just played well last year,” he said. “Regardless of the format, I would have won the matches I won and lost the match I lost.
“The change was said to be because of TV scheduling, but that was contradicted when Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan were 5-5 and the BBC did not wait for the result.”
On the controversies, Allen added: “It is always going to be there, but it is part of the past now. I want to look forward.”
However, the past may come back to haunt him on Sunday night when his first round match pits him against Hong Kong cueman Marco Fu, one of the players named by Allen in May.
The accusations surrounded differing interpretations of a push shot, but Fu has never been found to have cheated.
Allen is keen to do his talking on the table in a re-run of last year’s quarter-final, in which the Antrim man hit back to triumph 6-5.
“He is one of those players that is a match for anyone at the top of his game,” said Allen. “He has been struggling for form and the only match he has won of note recently is the UK Championship qualifier.
“I don’t think you could have a much tougher first round draw, but I am playing more than well enough to win.”
If the tournament seedings go to form, Allen would have to overcome Matthew Stevens, John Higgins, Selby and Trump to lift the trophy on December 9.
He said: “I have looked at who is in my half of the draw, but you can’t look at who you are expected to play.
“I am drawn to play John Higgins in the quarters but it could just as easily be Marco Fu against Michael Holt. You can’t guarantee we will get through.”
The return of top-class snooker to the Barbican coincided with an upswing in Allen’s form and, on his return to the city, he said: “Coming back to York brings good memories of last year.
“I played pretty well last year and came up a bit short. If I bring the same performance as last year, I have got a good chance.”
Expect the Pistol to be shooting from the lip in York from Sunday. On and off the table.
It’s just not fare as Martel suffers breakdown
As the build-up to the UK Snooker Championship gathers pace, The Press sports editor STUART MARTEL goes cue-to-cue with 2011 runner-up ‘Pistol’ Mark Allen
A TAXI ride from hell delayed world number eight Mark Allen’s arrival in York ahead of the UK Snooker Championships.
Already staring down the barrels of a three-hour journey to promote the game’s second biggest tournament, which gets under way at York’s Barbican on Saturday, the ‘Pistol’ spent hours on the hard shoulder after a breakdown and eventually landed at his hotel in the early hours.
Unfortunately for yours truly, the Northern Ireland ace had no such difficulties negotiating his way past me in a six-red one-frame shoot-out at Cueball Snooker Club in James Street.
Showing no ill-effects from his seven-hour trip from Birmingham, Allen emerged into the Cueball arena, begged to borrow a watching student’s cue and ‘invited’ me to break.
I’d been here before during my John Higgins humbling 12 months previously.
Leaving the ‘Pistol’ in the long grass, he had a difficult red in his sights but missed and it looked like being first blood Martel.
However, all the hours of practice at Clarence Working Men’s Club failed to pay off as the red wriggled in the jaws.
Borrowed cue or not – “bent cue” according to Allen – the Antrim ace rattled off a fluent 34 before running out of position.
A doubled red into the middle pocket got me on the scoreboard. It also drew something approaching a nod of approval from Allen, who then kindly reminded me I only needed the black and all six colours to tie.
Cue a missed long black and a rapid 20 break from the ‘Pistol’, playing like the meter was still running on his cab outside.
The result? 54-1. Taxi for Martel!