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

“I‘m flying,” Jimmy White says with that cheeky old-time grin. He pats his waistcoat, tightens his knot and gazes ready to celebrate his 39 years as a professional snooker player and the even more incredible knowledge he is still here one early morning in Sheffield. After overcoming cancer, crack, a gamble habit 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 always 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 competition, 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 sneer.” I didn’t grow and that’s sickening. It’s frustrating because, at my age, I’m not expected to win. But I organized well, representing 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 play 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 participate in his prime, wants to keep grinding away, the Whirlwind seems blown away to have subsisted 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 precisely determined cocaine and I expressed the wish to drink ,” he says.” I always liked cocaine- whether drunkard or sober. It was no one’s fault 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 going the medication. I had such fun, even if they are I can’t remember much .”

Quick guide

P6, W0: White’s world finals

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

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

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

1992 … Stephen Hendry( 18-14 ): White holds induces 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 determining frame and White is 37 -2 4 up when he misses the pitch-black. Hendry clears up.

Photograph: Ian Walton/ Allsport UK

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Years of cocaine use led to the dark spiral of fissure.” I’d knock about with Kirk Stevens[ the former snooker pro from Canada] and he’d be on crack. One daytime 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 pushers. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I became fixed on rift for a few months. It’s like being an alcoholic. The first hit is the best- like your first drink. When you’re smoking crack it’s pure but you never hold on to that first smacked either .”

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

White chuckles.” I’d be a great cocaine policeman. I can discern parties on it from miles away. So I bided 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 equip. He’s happy .”

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

Jimmy White Alex Higgins after prevailing a doublings deed together in 1984. Photograph: Bob Thomas/ Getty Images

Higgins, in distinguish, could not save himself.” I firstly played Alex in an exhibition when I was 13 ,” White remembers.” He came to a acting men’s squad in Balham, which my dad led, and tried to chat my sister up. So my brother wanted to knock him out. It is more ghastly 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 manor in Surrey. Swimming pool, snooker area. Higgins came over and we travelled drinking. My friend drove us in a Mini Metro. We were drinking all day and I decided to drive after another two gallons of wine-colored- for which I apologise. I disintegrated 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, babe !’ I’m feeling dispassionate now and I drive to my house … the windscreen wipers are attacking us. I drive into the garage and the engine tumbles 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 coin, 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 criticized him. That was Higgins .”

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

In the grip of throat cancer, Higgins barely 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 obtained for 10 daylights. He died of malnutrition. It was terrifying .”

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 fund to buy a brand-new set of teeth for Higgins’s ruined mouth.” We grew three clods of money for him ,” White says.” But you throw money to a speculator it’s like holding heroin to a junkie. The coin just made him anxious to gamble more. I speculate Guinness impeded him alive- the cast-iron in it- because he wasn’t eating much. He was his own worst opponent .”

The funeralwas delayed 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 the streets. It was unbelievable- but so sad .”

Higgins’s last-place macrocosm championship designation came in 1982 when, in that unforgettable semi-final, White was 15 -1 4 ahead. White was 51 -0 up in the next chassis, which would have won him the parallel, where reference is leaved Higgins, who had been drinking heavily, an opportunity. Taking on films that needed outrageous fortitude and daring, Higgins cleared the table with a break of 69.” That was his best. There were three or four fires in there which- under the pressure- will never be repeated. The drunker he got, the calmer he got .”

White reviews away, lost in the remembering.” I was in awe of him. I was watching my hero playing. That clearance is the best ever manufactured .”

Snooker devotees drool over the greatnes 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 bit of me and a little of[ Steve] Davis, and manufactured his recreation complete. Perhaps his greatest gift is his positional play .”

Jimmy White:’ I exactly 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 recreation. It’s not so serious. The BBC is a little bit predictable but with me and Ronnie you’re not sure. I genuinely enjoy labor as a pundit .”

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

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This year recognizes the 25 th commemoration of White’s sixth and last world championship final which “hes lost” 18 -1 7 to Stephen Hendry. In the determine chassis White exclusively needed to sink a few more dances to secure his first macrocosm designation when he missed a straightforward blacknes.” He was 16 -1 4 up, but I won the next two chassis and it was there for me in the last. But I twitched on the pitch-black. In snooker you’ve only got to slightly affect your thought to find trouble. It’s probably the abuse that’s gone through my torso that causes the abrupt movement.

” But my life’s totally different now. I want to produce some of the snooker I demonstrate at exhibitions. I played Ronnie on the Mythology tour and viewed my own for 10 nights. You can’t do that unless you’ve still got it- because Ronnie’s the best player I’ve ever seen. So I exactly 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 defeat. 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 big accords but I wouldn’t change my life. I’ve had a right fissure. 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 consider his multitude ends in 147147. It seems just right for the maestro but I horror the end for White. Q school is a notoriously difficult route into the main tour as it is filled with hungry young actors from around the world.

On Saturday evening, as a beautiful epoch fades away, my phone pings. I attend White’s figure. He needs two tries to send me the splendid bulletin as the first text suggests he has acquired a “tool” poster. I imagine him chuckling as he rails against predictive text in his second content. Then, saying ” I’m delighted”, the polite age-old charmer confirms he did not need a wildcard to avoid Q School. World Snooker, knowing how much they need his endure notoriety, have returned his full tour poster. He will be back playing after the nations of the world championship.

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

Watch snooker’s nature championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player


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