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 .”
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 .”