A very quick post on snooker World Championships and footballing success

It occurred to me that if Mark Selby wins tonight and Leicester City win the title, that the snooker World Champion and the Premier League title winners would hail from the same place. I wondered if it had happened before, and so I had a look.

Joe Davis of Whitwell, near Bolsover, in Derbyshire, dominated the pre-War years of snooker. He was the world’s preeminent player from 1927-1940, and again in 1946. While Derby County won the FA Cup in 1946, the year of Davis’ last triumph, the closest city to Whitwell of any footballing significance is Sheffield (pace Mansfield and Rotherham). Sheffield Wednesday won the top flight in 1928/29 and 1929/30. Sheffield United won the Football League North in 1946, effectively one of two top flights running in England in the year after the cessation of the Second World War. Nonetheless, Davis was not a native of the Steel City so it cannot be counted.

1947 and 1950 saw Edinburgh’s Walter Donaldson as World Champion. In Scotland’s top flight, Rangers were champions in both years, though Edinburgh’s Hibernian finished second in both seasons too.

Fred Davis, from Chesterfield, was Snooker World Champion in 1948-49 and 1951-56. Chesterfield won nothing during this period, though Davis’ dominance coincided with the first half of the playing career of Spireite legend Dave Blakey, who played a club record 617 games for the club between 1947-1967.

In 1957 and 1964-68, Northampton’s John Pulman was World Champion. The Cobblers were Second Division runners-up in the 1964/65 season which is of no real interest, except it was only their second season in the division having been promoted as champion in 1962/63 from the Third Division.

From the late 60s onwards, there was less dominance by individuals over long periods of time in snooker, with the exception perhaps of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, who we will come to later. Even when players won numerous championships, thy did so with intervals, and so from now on, I will group years of wins by player, chronologically from their first win.

Manchester’s John Spencer was World Champion in 1969, 1971, and 1977. While United won two First Division titles in the 60s, neither coincided with a Spencer World title. They did, however, win the FA Cup in 1977. Manchester City won the First Division the year before Spencer won his first world title but also won the FA Cup in 1969, so two Manchester team Cup wins coincided with a Manchester-born player being snooker’s World Champion.

Ray Reardon, of Tredegar in Monmouthshire, was World Champion in 1970, from 1973-76, and again in 1978. Even Tredegar’s rugby clubs are not very good, so this can be considered a fallow period for sporting overlaps.

In 1972 and 1982, Alex Higgins from Belfast was World Champion. In 1972, Glentoran were Northern Ireland Football League’s champions, and in 1982 Linfield were; both are from Belfast, though 105 of 115 Northern Irish top flight winners were from Belfast, so I’m not sure we can be all that surprised.

In 1979, Terry Griffith of Llanelli was snooker’s World Champion. Though Llanelli won four Welsh Cups in rugby in the 70s, they didn’t win in 1979. They did, however, win the Snelling Sevens, a Welsh club sevens tournament that ran from 1954 to 1995. Football, not so much.

Canada provided the 1980 World Champion in the form of Victoria’s Cliff Thorburn. Victoria have tasted sporting success on one other occasion, in 1925 when the Cougars won the Stanley Cup. The Victoria Highlanders, the city’s football team, were only founded in 2007.

Steve Davis, who retired this year, won the World Championship in 1981, 1983-84, and 1987-89. Hailing from south-east London, Davis is a life-long Charlton Athletic fan: they did win the Second Division playoffs in 1987 and promotion from the Third Division in 1981, but that is the only overlap. Arsenal did win the title in 1988/89, but Davis might only have been a Gooner if he was born when they were still at Woolwich.

Dennis Taylor (County Tyrone, 1985) and Joe Johnson (Bradford, 1986) were World Champions but did not coincide with any sporting success for their places of origin.

In 1990, 1992-96, and 1999, Stephen Hendry dominated snooker’s World Championship. Hendry is from Edinburgh, but, remarkably, every year that Hendry was World Champion, Glasgow Rangers were champions. Nonetheless, in 1999 Edinburgh’s Hibernian did win Scotland’s second tier, the First Division (as it had then become after the creation of the Scottish Premier League that season).

Liverpool’s John Parrott was World Champion in snooker in 1991; Parrott apparently supports both Everton and Liverpool and in 1991, Liverpool finished second and Everton ninth – so near, and yet so far.

In 1997, Ken Doherty from Dublin was World Champion. The 1996/97 League of Ireland Premier Division was won by Derry City, though 95/96, 97/98, and 98/99 were all won by Dublin’s St. Patricks’ Athletic – again, so near and yet so far.

John Higgins, from Wishaw in Scotland, is a dedicated Celtic fan and won the World Championships in 1998, 2007, 2009, and 2011. Celtic were champions in the 97/98 and 2006/07 seasons, but lost out to Rangers in the other two years where the Wishaw Wizard was World Champion. Wishaw is only 15 miles from Glasgow, so we can count that as an overlap.

In 2000 and 2003, Mark Williams from Cwm in Ebbw Vale won the snooker World Championship, but even the area’s rugby club failed to attain any silverware.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, from Dudley in the West Midlands, was World Champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2012-13. Raised in Chigwell, O’Sullivan is an Arsenal fan and his 2004 win coincided with the Invincibles’ season, when Arsenal won the Premier League without suffering a single defeat. It’s hard to count this, though, as O’Sullivan only supports the team and is from somewhere else. Or is that harsh?

In 2002 Peter Ebdon won and so did Arsenal. Ebdon is from Islington, where Arsenal play, and so this is the first genuine overlap between a snooker World Champion and the winner of England’s top-flight football league, and only the second ever if you count Higgins and Celtic.

Shaun Murphy, World Champion in 2005, is from Harlow in Essex and I couldn’t find out if he even supports a team from somewhere else who might have done well.

Graeme Dott, of Larkhall in Scotland, which is very near Glasgow, grew up in the city and supports Rangers. In 2006, when he won the World Championship, he even paraded his trophy at Ibrox. Unfortunately for Dott, Celtic won the league in the 2005/06 season.

Melbourne, Australia’s Neil Robertson was snooker’s World Champion in 2010. While the Melbourne Vixens netball team failed to follow up their 2009 league win with back-to-back victories, and the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby franchise was only founded in 2010, and the Melbourne Storm rugby league team were stripped of league titles in previous years for salary-cap shenanigans, Melbourne Victory were runners-up in the A League. Having said that, they won the season before, so that can be considered bad too. Indeed, Robertson aside, 2010 was a year of pretty dismal snatching failure from the jaws of success in Melbourne.

In 2014, Mark Selby won the snooker World Championships, and Leicester City won the Football League Championship, but more of them later.

In 2015, Stuart Bingham from Basildon in Essex was World Champion. He stated in an interview that he isn’t really a football fan; if anyone, he supports Liverpool. They didn’t win anything in 2014/15 and Basildon United didn’t either.

So, in summary, so far only Peter Ebdon/Arsenal have seen an ovelap between the winner of England’s top flight and the World Snooker champion. It has happened twice with a Scottish player, Alex Higgins, and once where a snooker World Champion, O’Sullivan, has supported the side winning the English title in a year where he was World Champion. Steve Davis was World Champion in the year a London club won (1988/89), but Davis is not a Gooner. And, lastly, both Manchester sides won the FA Cup in years where a Manchester-born player, John Spencer won the World Championship in snooker.

With Spurs being held to a draw vs Chelsea tonight, May 2nd 2016, Leicester City have won the Premier League – with Mark Selby winning at The Crucible, it is indeed the second time that the overlap has occurred in England. Crucially, if you like this sort of thing, it’s the first time it’s happened on the same day: Ebdon’s win in 2002 came two days before Arsenal cinched the title at Old Trafford.




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