Crucible characters day 11: Stephen Lee

For every Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, snooker also boasted its bit-part players: the what-might-have-beens and never-minds, who left their own small but indelible mark upon the sport.

For the duration of the postponed World Championships, the PA news agency is turning its focus on the Crucible characters who never quite made the competition’s last three days.

Stephen Lee

Snooker – World Snooker Championships – Day Four – The Crucible Theatre
Snooker – World Snooker Championships – Day Four – The Crucible Theatre

By no means snooker’s most spectacularly squandered talent, Stephen Lee won five ranking titles and reached the semi-finals of the 2003 World Championships.

But the exciting Trowbridge player was dogged by controversy and saw his career abruptly terminated in 2012 when he was handed a 12-year backdated ban on match-fixing charges.

Lee’s Crucible career is destined to be remembered more for a remarkable feud with Peter Ebdon which erupted during and after Ebdon clinched a final-frame victory in their second round match in 2001.

Punching the table and roaring with delight after sealing his victory, Ebdon’s raucous celebrations earned short shrift from Lee, who left the arena after barely mustering a handshake.

Lee subsequently threatened to withdraw from the 2002 World Team Cup if Ebdon was on the same team, saying: “I’ve no respect for anyone who does that kind of thing. The way he reacted, it was like he’d won the FA Cup.”

Lee remained in the world’s top 16 for the best part of a decade, but was hampered by inconsistency, reaching the Masters final in 2008 but suggesting he might retire just four months later after a Crucible defeat to Joe Swail.

Lee, who had endured financial problems, was found guilty of influencing the outcome of seven snooker matches in 2012. His ban is due to run out in 2024, on his 50th birthday.