IT'S all about the Barbican, Joe Perry tells STEVE CARROLL as he prepares to return to a city he loves for the UK Championship

NOVEMBER in York is a special time.

Full of festive fun and shoppers eager to snap up a St Nicholas Fayre bargain, for many the city encapsulates the ideal Christmas.

It certainly provides plenty of presents when it comes to snooker, as the UK Championship holds potting fans in raptures for its own 12 glorious days of action and Joe Perry can't help but soak up the atmosphere.

Perry has never been shy at expressing his delight at his yearly trip to York.

It helps that the 41-year-old has played some of his best snooker at the Barbican, reaching the semi-finals of the game's second biggest event in successive years in 2004 and 2005. But for a veteran player who has strived for more than two decades on the circuit and is now at the peak of his powers, it is more than that.

The Fishergate venue is home.

"I wasn't playing good enough stuff to remember the UK when it was at the (Preston) Guild Hall so the UK is all about the Barbican." Perry said. "It is home to the UK as far as I am concerned. I have had some good results there and I absolutely love the city. It's a great time of year and I am hoping to have a good run.

"Originally, a lot of it was to do with the longer frame matches and a lot of the top players prefer that. It brought them an opportunity to bed their way into the tournament but the matches are still a decent length.

"It has been at York for a few years and it is its home. When you have a tournament that comes with that prestige, it makes you prepare properly. You appreciate what you are about to play. There are a lot of mundane events week in and week out and, sometimes, you go through the motions.

"York always feels a bit special."

On a high after securing his first ranking tournament victory when scooping the PTC finals in March, Perry has carried his form into this campaign - making the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and International Championship before reaching the semis of last week's Champion of Champions, losing to eventual winner Neil Robertson 6-4.

He saw off John Higgins 6-5 in the quarter-finals, a win that was especially sweet after the resurgent Wizard of Wishaw ended his chances both Down Under and in China and this run of wins, which has lifted him to tenth in the world rankings, means he has high hopes of hanging around in the Minster city.

"When the draw for the Champions came out, it was tough," Perry added. "There were three top 16 players in the group with Ali Carter and John Higgins, who has been in great form. My record against him is terrible and to win, and play the way I did against him, was an extra bonus really.

"He has beaten me twice in quarter-finals this season and each time he went on to win the tournament. At the PTC finals, it was a great achievement for me to finally win a major ranking event.

"I had been close a lot and I lost 10-9 to Neil Robertson in the Wuxi Classic last season. I had lost in another final and numerous semi-finals so to finally get over the line was a great feeling and a great relief."

Perry admits his game lacks the "fireworks" of Judd Trump or Ronnie O'Sullivan. But while that duo, in particular, look to blow you off the table with spectacular potting, Perry's all-round ability and tactical nous is what makes him so difficult to beat.

It's a view that James Wattana will certainly share when the pair meet for their first round clash in York on the afternoon of November 25. Perry's opponent was once the world number three and boasts victories over John Parrott, Steve Davis and Ronnie O'Sullivan in ranking finals.

The 45-year-old is now languishing at 114th in the world ladder but Perry is determined the Thai will have his full attention and respect.

He explained: "You have still got to to play well and still got to win and, in those early rounds, there are going to be some tough matches. All you can do is prepare properly. I have never been one to disrespect the game or my opponent.

"You try to treat everyone the same. In the first round I have got James Wattana. He is a fantastic player - one of the best break builders we have ever had in the game. He hit numerous 147s and won titles when the game was at its peak.

"He is more than capable. I played him recently in the Six Red World Championship (in September) and I narrowly came through 5-4. He looked in good touch and I will be taking the game very seriously. I will make sure I am ready to get going."

Should he pass the first hurdle, though, Perry has designs on adding another title to his newly installed trophy cabinet - and he believes he should be feared by his upcoming opponents.

"There are a lot of players capable of winning the tournament," he said. "I will go there hopefully full of confidence that I can have a couple more victories on the back of a recent win. If I go there knowing my game turns up at York there is no one I can't beat on the day.

"I am playing well enough and, when I am in form, I don't have to fear anyone. The other good thing about winning is that players you are competing against know you are not easy to beat. It puts them on the back foot. That's all positive for me."