Jimmy White, 25 years 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, loosens his necktie and examines ready to celebrate his 39 times as a professional snooker player and the even more incredible happening he is still here one early morning in Sheffield. After overcoming cancer, rift, a gambling practice that rate 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. 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 coincide, 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 grimace.” I didn’t grow and that’s sickening. It’s frustrating because, at my age, I’m not expected to win. But I prepared 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 chassis.” 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 astounded that White, such a gifted actor in his prime, wants to keep grinding away, the Whirlwind seems blown away to have subsisted 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 seen cocaine and I expressed the wish to suck ,” he says.” I always liked cocaine- whether drunkard or sober. It was no one’s glitch but my own. I’d just become famous, because we only had four canals 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 recreation, even though I can’t remember much .”

Quick guide

P6, W0: White’s world finals

1984 … Steve Davis( 18 -1 6 ): White routes 12 -4 but attracts 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 triumphs his first designation comfortably.

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

1992 … Stephen Hendry( 18-14 ): White nurses leads-in of 12-6 and 14 -8 but Hendry prevails 10 chassis in a row to secure the triumph.

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

1994 … Stephen Hendry( 18-17 ): Final goes to resolve frame and White is 37 -2 4 up where reference is 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 crack.” 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 worlds largest” addictive thing ever. Kirk had no idea how to get cocaine. But I’d come from the street, so I knew 20 marketers. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I became hooked on rift for a few months. It’s like being an alcoholic. The first hit is the best- like your first glas. When you’re smoking cranny it’s pure but you never hold on to that first affected either .”

How did he knock cranny?” I couldn’t get any fund out one darknes. I had drained one report absolutely. 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 recognise beings on it from miles away. So I stayed 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 accommodate. He’s happy .”

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

Jimmy White Alex Higgins after winning a doubles entitle together in 1984. Photograph: Bob Thomas/ Getty Images

Higgins, in distinguish, could not save himself.” I first played Alex in an exhibit when I was 13 ,” White remembers.” He comes down to a labor men’s society in Balham, which my papa operated, and tried to chat my sister up. So my brother wanted to knock him out. It is more shocking 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 dwelling in Surrey. Swimming bath, snooker room. Higgins came over and we proceeded boozing. My friend drove us in a Mini Metro. We were boozing all day and I making a decision drive after another two gallons of wine-colored- for which I apologise. I crashed 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 descents 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 name 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 assure one another?” He said:’ Hello, babes. How are ya ?’ He had spaces where you’d be fuming with him and then he’d say something and you’d forget about it .”

In the clutch of throat cancer, Higgins scarcely ate in the last months.” It was terrifying ,” White says.” As much as me and his sisters done things for him it was no good. They did far more than me, plainly, but he fell down with them. So he wasn’t procured for 10 epoches. He died of hunger. It was horrendous .”

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

White and the sisters had raised money to buy a new set of teeth for Higgins’s ravaged opening.” We promoted three clods of fund for him ,” White says.” But you present fund to a adventurer it’s like making heroin to a junkie. The fund just made him anxious to gamble more. I remember Guinness prevented him alive- the cast-iron in it- because he wasn’t eating much. He was his own worst antagonist .”

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 helped carry Higgins’ coffin and” 4,000 people lined the street. It was unbelievable- but so sad .”

Higgins’s last-place world-wide championship entitlement came in 1982 when, in that memorable semi-final, White was 15 -1 4 onward. White was 51 -0 up in the next chassis, which would have won him the equal, where reference is demonstrated 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- to the pressures- will never be repeated. The drunker he got, the calmer he got .”

White searches away, “ve lost” the reminiscence.” I was in awe of him. I was watching my hero playing. That clearance is the best ever realise .”

Snooker devotees drool over the brilliance of Higgins, White and Ronnie O’Sullivan. But who does White consider the best of a disturbed 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 reached his play end. Perhaps his greatest gift is his positional play .”

Jimmy White:’ I precisely 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 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 cultivating 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 brands the 25 th anniversary of White’s sixth and last world championship final which “hes lost” 18 -1 7 to Stephen Hendry. In the choose chassis White simply needed to sink a few more pellets to secure his first world claim where reference is 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 black. In snooker you’ve only got to somewhat leave your brain to find trouble. It’s probably the abuse that’s gone through my person that throws the sudden movement.

” But my life’s totally different now. I want to produce some of the snooker I indicate at shows. I played Ronnie on the Mythology tour and supported 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 exactly want to get back to the Crucible .”

White during the 1994 final with Stephen Hendry, which “hes lost” 18 -1 7, a sixth successive final defeat. Photograph: Mike Cooper/ Allsport

White speaks so endearingly it inspires a cliched question. If he had the chance would he do anything differently?” I would have prepared differently before large-scale matches but I wouldn’t change my life. I’ve had a right cracking. 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 amount concludes with 147147. It seems just right for the maestro but I panic the end for White. Q school is a notoriously difficult direction 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 check White’s epithet. He needs two tries to send me the splendid bulletin as the first text indicates he has acquired a “tool” poster. I imagine him laughter as he rails against predictive textbook in his second theme. Then, saying ” I’m delighted”, the respectful old charmer confirms he did not need a wildcard to avoid Q School. World Snooker, knowing how much they need his suffer popularity, have returned his full tour card. He will be back playing after the world championship.

I think of Alex Higgins holler” I’ve got nine lives, child !” after their drunken auto crash. 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 world-wide championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player


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