Jimmy White, 25 times on from the last of his six snooker world final wins, tells Donald McRae about some interesting darkness out with Alex Higgins
“I‘m flying,” Jimmy White says with that cheeky old-time grin. He pats his waistcoat, loosens his relationship and looks ready to celebrate his 39 years as a professional snooker player and the even more incredible fact he is still here one early morning in Sheffield. After overcoming cancer, crack, a lottery garb 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 persists. Just 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 competition, White faced the world No 19, Ali Carter. White zipped into a brief lead before his dream died with a 10 -4 defeat.
“I’m disappointed,” White says, his smile crinkling into a sneer.” I didn’t induce and that’s sickening. It’s frustrating because, at my age, I’m not expected to win. But I trained well, drawing 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 stupefied that White, such a gifted player 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 worlds might have saved him.
” I would’ve died if I’d beaten Higgins and won the world championship in 1982 because I’d exactly acquired cocaine and I liked to suck ,” he says.” I always liked cocaine- whether wino or sober. It was no one’s blame but my own. I’d just become famous, because we only had four canals in them days and, instead of queuing round the block to get into a West End nightclub, I was getting the medicine. I had such merriment, even though I can’t remember much .”
Years of cocaine use led to the dark coiling of cranny.” I’d knock about with Kirk Stevens[ the former snooker pro from Canada] and he’d be on crack. One era I tried it. It’s the most addictive thing ever. Kirk had no idea how to get cocaine. But I’d come from the street, so I knew 20 dealers. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I became fixed on cranny for a few months. It’s like being an alcoholic. The first hit is the best- like your first liquor. When you’re smoking cracking it’s pure but you never hold on to that first hit either .”
How did he kick cranny?” I couldn’t get any money out one night. I had drained one history altogether. I got the heebie-jeebies. I had a day trying to think and then I knew. I had to stop .”
White chortles.” I’d be a great cocaine polouse. I can recognize parties on it from miles away. So I bided away from them because I shat myself. I’d let a lot of people down .”
How is Stevens?” Kirk’s a tree-surgeon now. He’s shape. He’s happy .”
White is also joyful.” I don’t suck. Don’t inhale ,” he says before turning to his girlfriend, Jade Slusarczyk, a 32 -year-old who used to be a walk-on girl at darts tournaments.” If we have a bottle of wine-colored I want to start dancing in the restaurant .” White cackles and then, after he and Jade stress their sobriety, he says:” I’ve got five grandkids. And I’ve got Jade. I deter her away from Specsavers .”