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 .”
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 .”