The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - May 8, 2014

Mark Selby (left) and Ronnie O'Sullivan in action during the  World Snooker Championships
Mark Selby (left) and Ronnie O'Sullivan in action during the World Snooker Championships
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Here’s a sentence not everyone will agree with, but it was very enjoyable to watch the snooker over the weekend.

I must confess here that I don’t know too much about the sport.

I tried watching it as a child in the 80s but it all seemed a bit dull and ponderous. There was no running, no abusive chants from the crowd, no sliding tackles – just a couple of well-dressed miserable, expressionless fellas hitting balls and constantly wiping some blue chalky stuff on the end of a small wooden pole.

Having spent Monday daytime sorting out my hugely neglected front garden – pulling out weeds, digging up the flowerbeds, mowing the lawn (the grass was so long that at one point I discovered the watering can I’d lost last September) – I was exhausted in the evening and so slumped in front of the TV, which happened to be showing the snooker.

Not having the energy to change channel, I stuck with it, wondering if the sport had evolved and advanced since I last watched it three decades ago.

It hadn’t.

There was some guy called Selby (quite handsome, dark hair, smiled once in 14 hours of play) against a chap called Ronnie whose nickname was The Rocket.

I wasn’t able to work out why he had this nickname as he neither played particularly quickly nor did he at any point emit smoke from his behind and hurtle upwards through the roof of the Crucible and into space.

The whole spectacle, though, was quite entertaining and strangely soothing.

One of the players would pot a few balls, then miss one, while the other would then amble to the table and do exactly the same. That happened until all the balls disappeared and then they started all over again.

Meantime, the crowd, most of whom were over the age of 85, wearing dinner jackets and ties, and seemed in the midst of a deep and pleasant snooze, occasionally shuffled in their seats and murmured.

Although it was quite engrossing I couldn’t help but think the organisers are missing a trick. In football we’ve got penalty shoot outs when things get a bit dull, in cricket there are Powerplays to liven it up.

Even tennis, a sport that does for good humour and entertainment what Blackpool Tower does for people with a fear of heights, has those nifty little Hawkeye action replays that allow players to challenge when they think a ball might have been out.

But in snooker very little happens other than two gentleman in waistcoats wandering around a green table looking slightly concerned.

They don’t speak, don’t interact with the audience, they don’t even do a Michael Jackson-style Moonwalk dance back to their stool.

One thing that would liven it up, I feel, is if each player had, say, two minutes a frame where he could put the other off.

During this period they should be allowed to scream out loud just as the other fella is about to play, or do that classic age-old pub tactic of standing just behind your opponent as he’s taking a shot and pushing his cue at the last moment.

There could be a yellow card for a particularly dirty move, the punishment for which is having to play the next frame while hopping on one leg.

Now this may not meet with the approval of the purists, I grant you, but you can guarantee it would increase viewing figures.

I’ll write to the snooker powers-that-be immediately with my suggestions and will pass on their response.

Club’s sad relegation is all black and white..

I’ve always liked eccentrics. It’s what makes the world go round.

Which is why I have a soft spot for Mohamed Al Fayed.

The former boss of Harrods has, this week, claimed Fulham would not have been relegated from the Premier League had Shahid Khan (his successor as the club’s owner) not removed a giant sculpture of Michael Jackson from outside Craven Cottage.

Al Fayed installed the statue in 2011. I know this because, bizarrely, I was there the day it was unveiled. Blackpool were playing Fulham in the Premier League (those were the days...) and as football writer at the time, I was covering the game.

The statue is hard to describe but I’ll try – it’s 7ft 6ins high and looks like something that failed to get past Quality Control at Madame Tussauds. Al Fayed commissioned the statue, it appears, on the basis that Jackson attended one Fulham match, against Wigan, in 1999.

When he sold the club last year, the new owner – quite rightly wondering why there was a huge statue of a dead American singer outside his football ground – decided to take it down.

But with Fulham relegated, Al Fayed – who has now given the statue to the National Football Museum (lucky them) – is blaming it all on the removal of the statue. “When the new owner asked me to move the statue I said ‘You must be crazy.’ This statue was a charm and we removed the luck from the club and now we have to pay the price,” Al Fayed raged.

So that’s the secret to why Fulham went down everybody – no Jacko.