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

“I‘m flying,” Jimmy White says with that cheeky old grinning. He pats his waistcoat, tightens his necktie and lookings ready to celebrate his 39 years as a professional snooker player and the even more incredible point he is still here one early morning in Sheffield. After overcoming cancer, crack, a gamble garb that payment him over a million pounds and the heartache of losing six world-wide 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 lingers. Exactly 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 parallel, White faced the world No 19, Ali Carter. White zipped into a brief lead before his dream died with a 10 -4 win.

“I’m disappointed,” White says, his smile crinkling into a frown.” I didn’t render and that’s sickening. It’s frustrating because, at my age, I’m not expected to win. But I trained well, clearing 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 game 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 amazed that White, such a gifted actor in his prime, wants to keep grinding away, the Whirlwind seems blown away to have survived this long. When we remember 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 merely experienced cocaine and I expressed the wish to booze ,” he says.” I ever liked cocaine- whether drunkard or sober. It was no one’s mistake but my own. I’d just become famous, because we only had four channels in their own homes days and, instead of queuing round the block to get into a West End nightclub, I was get the care. I had such enjoyable, even though I can’t remember much .”

Quick guide

P6, W0: White’s world finals

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

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

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

1992 … Stephen Hendry( 18-14 ): White encumbers leads-in of 12-6 and 14 -8 but Hendry acquires 10 frames in a row ensuring the triumph.

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

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

Photograph: Ian Walton/ Allsport UK

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Years of cocaine use led to the dark spiral of rift.” I’d knock about with Kirk Stevens[ the former snooker pro from Canada] and he’d be on crack. One day 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 merchants. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I became secured 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 cracking it’s pure but you never hold on to that first touched either .”

How did he kick cranny?” I couldn’t get any fund out one nighttime. I had drained one accounting entirely. I got the heebie-jeebies. I had a day trying to think and then I knew. I had to stop .”

White shrieks.” I’d be a great cocaine policeman. I can spot beings on it from kilometers away. So I bided away from them because I shat myself. I’d tell a lot of people down .”

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

White is also joyful.” I don’t drink. Don’t inhale ,” he says before turning now to his lover, Jade Slusarczyk, a 32 -year-old who used to be a walk-on girl at projectiles 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 restraint, he says:” I’ve got five grandkids. And I’ve got Jade. I prevent her away from Specsavers .”

Jimmy White Alex Higgins after acquiring a redoubles entitle 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 remembers.” He comes down to a working men’s squad in Balham, which my father extended, and tried to chat my sister up. So my brother wanted to knock him out. It was the most frightful 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. Swimming bath, snooker room. Higgins came over and we get sucking. Your best friend drove us in a Mini Metro. We were boozing the working 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 wore a seatbelt, flew out .”

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

” After I get your best friend to pick up the windscreen, because it’s got my refer 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 fund, baby .’ He wouldn’t stop. I hurled him out. He knew the neighbour and I didn’t get on so he went next door and said I’d assaulted him. That was Higgins .”

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

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

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

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

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

Higgins’s last-place macrocosm championship name came in 1982 when, in that unforgettable semi-final, White was 15 -1 4 onward. White was 51 -0 up in the next frame, which would have won him the competitor, when he caused Higgins, who had been drinking heavily, a chance. Taking on fires that needed outrageous mettle and daring, Higgins cleared the counter with a break of 69.” That was his best. There were three or four shoots in there which- to the pressures- will never be repeated. The drunker he got, the calmer he got .”

White seems away, lost in the remember.” I was in awe of him. I was watching my hero playing. That clearance is the best ever reached .”

Snooker devotees drool over the splendor of Higgins, White and Ronnie O’Sullivan. But who does White consider the best of a troubled 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 bit of me and a bit of[ Steve] Davis, and constituted his tournament accomplish. Perhaps his greatest gift is his positional play .”

Jimmy White:’ I just want to get even 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 merriment. It’s not so serious. The BBC is a little bit predictable but with me and Ronnie you’re not sure. I certainly experience wielding as a pundit .”

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

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This year observes the 25 th commemoration of White’s sixth and last world championship final which “hes lost” 18 -1 7 to Stephen Hendry. In the settle chassis White exclusively needed to sink a few more balls to secure his first macrocosm claim where reference is missed a straightforward pitch-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 black. In snooker you’ve only got to somewhat move your premier to find trouble. It’s probably the abuse that’s gone through my organization that passes the sudden movement.

” But my life’s totally different now. I want to produce some of the snooker I picture at expoes. I played Ronnie on the Legend tour and held 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 simply want to get back to the Crucible .”

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

White speaks so endearingly it induces a cliched question. If he had the chance would he do anything differently?” I would have prepared differently before big pairs 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 insure his number concludes with 147147. It seems just right for the maestro but I fear the end for White. Q school is a notoriously difficult road into the main tour as it is filled with hungry young musicians from around the world.

On Saturday evening, as a beautiful daytime fades away, my phone pings. I construe White’s epithet. He needs two tries to send me the glorious bulletin as the first verse suggests he has acquired a “tool” placard. I imagine him laughter as he rails against predictive verse 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 suffer notoriety, have returned his full tour placard. He will be back playing after the nations of the world championship.

I think of Alex Higgins cry” I’ve got nine lives, newborn !” 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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