Jimmy White, 25 times on from the last of his six snooker world final defeats, tells Donald McRae about some interesting nighttimes out with Alex Higgins

“I‘m flying,” Jimmy White says with that cheeky old smile. He pats his waistcoat, slackens his tie-in and seems ready to celebrate his 39 times as a professional snooker player and the even more incredible detail he is still here one early morning in Sheffield. After overcoming cancer, crack, a gambling practice that payment him over a million pounds and the heartache of losing six world championship finals, the Whirlwind is ready to show off his much younger girlfriend and his renewed determination to keep playing.

As ever with White, a residue of hurt loiters. Simply before his 57 th birthday he had hoped to return to the Crucible in the world championship, which began on Saturday. After winning his first qualifying competitor, White faced the world No 19, Ali Carter. White zipped into a brief lead before his dream died with a 10 -4 overcome.

“I’m disappointed,” White says, his smile crinkling into a wince.” I didn’t cause and that’s sickening. It’s frustrating because, at my age, I’m not expected to win. But I readied well, realise 147 s in practice, and I’m 3-1 up. I’m in control and then little errors creep in. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, because I’d been practising really hard for three months. I might have burnt myself out .”

White lost nine of the next 10 frames.” He got his confidence back ,” he says of Carter.” This competition is very mental and I lost focus. So if I got to get to Q School to get back on tour I will. But if they give me another wildcard to stay on tour I’ll practise five hours a day so I’m ready .”

If I am astounded that White, such a gifted actor in his prime, wants to keep grinding away, the Whirlwind seems blown away to have endured this long. When we recollect Alex Higgins, his fellow snooker genius and reprobate who died in 2010, White suggests that losing their epic semi-final at the nations of the world might have saved him.

” I would’ve died if I’d beaten Higgins and won the world championship in 1982 because I’d only noted cocaine and I liked to suck ,” he says.” I ever liked cocaine- whether drink or sober. It was no one’s mistake but my own. I’d just become famous, because we only had four paths in their own homes days and, instead of queuing round the block to get into a West End nightclub, I was going the treatment. I had such merriment, even though I can’t remember much .”

Quick guide

P6, W0: White’s world finals

1984 … Steve Davis( 18 -1 6 ): White routes 12 -4 but gathers it back to 16 -1 5 before Davis goes on to retain his world title.

1990 … Stephen Hendry( 18-12 ): 21 -year-old Hendry prevails his first designation comfortably.

1991 … John Parrott( 18-11 ): White is whitewashed 7-0 in the first discussion and acquires no way back.

1992 … Stephen Hendry( 18-14 ): White hampers produces of 12-6 and 14 -8 but Hendry acquires 10 chassis in a row to secure the triumph.

1993 … Stephen Hendry( 18-5 ): White beaten with a session to spare.

1994 … Stephen Hendry( 18-17 ): Final goes to decide frame and White is 37 -2 4 up where reference is misses the black. Hendry clears up.

Photograph: Ian Walton/ Allsport UK

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Years of cocaine use led to the dark spiraling of crack.” I’d knock about with Kirk Stevens[ the former snooker pro from Canada] and he’d be on crack. One date I tried it. It’s “the worlds largest” addictive thing ever. Kirk had no idea how to get cocaine. But I’d come from the street, so I knew 20 traders. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I became fastened on cranny for a few months. It’s like being an alcoholic. The first hit is the best- like your first suck. When you’re smoking rift it’s pure but you never hold on to that first thumped either .”

How did he kick rift?” I couldn’t get any coin out one darknes. I had drained one chronicle totally. I got the heebie-jeebies. I had a day trying to think and then I knew. I had to stop .”

White giggles.” I’d be a great cocaine policeman. I can spot parties on it from kilometers away. So I stood away from them because I shat myself. I’d give a lot of people down .”

How is Stevens?” Kirk’s a tree-surgeon now. He’s shape. He’s happy .”

White is also cheerful.” I don’t drink. Don’t smoke ,” he says before turning now to his lover, Jade Slusarczyk, a 32 -year-old who used to be a walk-on girl at missiles tournaments.” If we have a bottle of wine-coloured I want to start dancing in the restaurants sector .” White cackles and then, after he and Jade stress their sobriety, he says:” I’ve got five grandkids. And I’ve got Jade. I save her away from Specsavers .”

Jimmy White Alex Higgins after acquiring a doubleds designation together in 1984. Photograph: Bob Thomas/ Getty Images

Higgins, in comparison, could not save himself.” I first played Alex in an exhibition when I was 13 ,” White recollects.” He came to a labor men’s sorority in Balham, which my papa loped, and been seeking to chat my sister up. So my brother wanted to knock him out. It was “the worlds largest” horrendous first has met with your hero ever. I should’ve known.

” But the only time I fell out with Higgins was when I had a mansion in Surrey. Wading pool, snooker area. Higgins came over and we travelled boozing. My friend drove us in a Mini Metro. We were sucking all day and I decided to drive after another two gallons of wine- for which I apologise. I gate-crashed into a wall. The windscreen flipped out and Higgins, who never was wearing a seatbelt, flew out .”

White shakes his head.” Higgins stands up and he’s shouting:’ I’ve got nine lives, baby !’ I’m feeling sober now and I drive to my home … the windscreen wipers are attacking us. I drive into the garage and the engine descents out. If we’d been driving we could have been seriously hurt. But Higgins is flying, saying,’ This is great !’

” After I get my friend to pick up the windscreen, because it’s got my figure on the tax disc, I feel safe. But I’m not ready for Higgins. He takes me to the snooker table and says:’ Let’s play for coin, child .’ He wouldn’t stop. I threw him out. He knew the neighbour and I didn’t get on so he went next door and said I’d attacked him. That was Higgins .”

What happened when they next insure one another?” He said:’ Hello, babes. How are ya ?’ He had channels where you’d be fuming with him and then he’d say something and you’d forget about it .”

In the traction of throat cancer, Higgins scarcely ate in the last months.” It was frightening ,” White says.” As much as me and his sisters done things for him it was no good. They did far more than me, obviously, but he fell out with them. So he wasn’t experienced for 10 epoches. He died of malnutrition. It was terrifying .”

Jimmy White carries Alex Higgins’s coffin in 2010. The funeral was delayed to allow White to travel back from Thailand. Photograph: Cathal Mcnaughton/ Reuters

White and the sisters had raised money to buy a brand-new set of teeth for Higgins’s ruined opening.” We raised three gobs of fund for him ,” White says.” But you leave coin to a speculator it’s like devoting heroin to a junkie. The money just made him anxious to gamble more. I see Guinness prevented him alive- the iron in it- because he wasn’t eating much. He was his own worst adversary .”

The funeralwas retarded to allow White to return from Thailand.” When I got the call saying he had died, I was numb. It was evil .” White facilitated carry Higgins’ coffin and” 4,000 beings lined wall street. It was unbelievable- but so sad .”

Higgins’s last nature championship title came in 1982 when, in that memorable semi-final, White was 15 -1 4 ahead. White was 51 -0 up in the next chassis, which would have won him the competition, where reference is opened Higgins, who had been drinking heavily, a chance. Taking on kills that needed outrageous fortitude and daring, Higgins cleared the counter with a break of 69.” That was his best. There were three or four hits in there which- under the pressure- will never be repeated. The drunker he got, the calmer he got .”

White searches away, “ve lost” the reminiscence.” I was in awe of him. I was watching my hero playing. That clearance is the best ever established .”

Snooker followers drool over the splendor of Higgins, White and Ronnie O’Sullivan. But who does White consider the best of a agitated trio?” O’Sullivan. I’ve probably went more natural talent than both of them. But what O’Sullivan done was special. He took a little of Higgins, a little of me and a little of[ Steve] Davis, and realise his play ended. Perhaps his greatest gift is his positional play .”

Jimmy White:’ I precisely want to get back to the Crucible .’ Photograph: Christopher Thomond/ The Guardian

White and O’Sullivan make a fine punditry partnership on Eurosport.” Yeah, we have a bit of enjoyable. It’s not so serious. The BBC is a little bit predictable but with me and Ronnie you’re not sure. I actually enjoy operating as a scholar .”

Surely he wishes he was playing rather than watching?” Yeah, I feel sick sometimes. Certainly I’d love to be playing .”

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This year lines the 25 th commemoration of White’s sixth and last world championship final which he lost 18 -1 7 to Stephen Hendry. In the decide chassis White merely needed to sink a few more pellets to secure his first world-wide entitlement when he missed a straightforward black.” He was 16 -1 4 up, but I won the next two frames and it was there for me in the last. But I blinked on the pitch-black. In snooker you’ve only got to slightly move your president to find trouble. It’s probably the abuse that’s gone through my mas that generates the sudden movement.

” But my life’s totally different now. I want to produce some of the snooker I present at exhibits. I played Ronnie on the Lore tour and hampered my own for 10 darkness. You can’t do that unless you’ve still got it- because Ronnie’s the best player I’ve ever seen. So I merely want to get back to the Crucible .”

White during the 1994 final with Stephen Hendry, which “hes lost” 18 -1 7, a sixth subsequent final overcome. Photograph: Mike Cooper/ Allsport

White speaks so endearingly it motivates a cliched question. If he had the chance would he do anything differently?” I would have prepared differently before large-hearted parallels but I wouldn’t change my life. I’ve had a right crack. On my 50 th birthday the Rolling Stones played at my party at Grosvenor House. That’s not bad for a kid from Tooting .”

We swap contact details and I smile when I experience his number concludes with 147147. It seems just right for the maestro but I panic the end for White. Q school is a notoriously difficult street into the main tour as it is filled with hungry young musicians from around the world.

On Saturday evening, as a beautiful era fades away, my phone pings. I find White’s call. He needs two tries to send me the glorious news as the first text indicates he has prevailed a “tool” card. I imagine him laughter as he rails against predictive text in his second content. Then, saying ” I’m delighted”, the respectful old-time charmer confirms he did not need a wildcard to avoid Q School. World Snooker, knowing how much they need his abiding popularity, have returned his full tour card. He will be back playing after the world championship.

I think of Alex Higgins outcry” I’ve got nine lives, baby !” after their drunken automobile clang. His great friend has escaped the end again. Jimmy White, the Whirlwind from Tooting, will bask every last drop of life he has left in snooker.

Watch snooker’s world-wide championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player


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