Crucible characters day 13: Steve James

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 on the table, as well as a handful of household names behind the scenes.

Steve James

Motorbike-loving Steve James roared onto the Crucible scene and made his mark on the record books before his career spluttered out in all-too-familiar fashion.

The Cannock-born James became the first debutant to score two centuries in his first round match against Rex Williams in 1988, and went on to reach the quarter-finals.

Two years later, against Alex Higgins, the former postman became the first player to make a total clearance having potted 16 reds, after initially taking advantage of a free ball.

James won the Classic, his only ranking title, in 1990, beating Steve Davis in the final, prompting James’ manager Ramsay McLellan to unknowingly apply the kiss of death.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he won the world championship this year but, to be perfectly honest, we won’t be too bothered if he doesn’t,” said McLellan. “I’m sure there are a lot more titles to come.”

James did dethrone Stephen Hendry en route to the Crucible semi-finals the following year but McLellan’s prediction proved spectacularly misplaced.

As fast as it had kick-started, James’s career fell apart. The following year, he was beaten in the first round by Dene O’Kane, and would not go beyond the second round again, making his last appearance at the Crucible in 1999.

He battled diabetes, booze and a marriage break-up, sold his motorbike and declared himself bankrupt, despite having racked up around £700,000 from the game.

“I had to sell my house, because I couldn’t afford my mortgage, and my matchplay snooker table,” lamented James.

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