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

“I‘m flying,” Jimmy White says with that cheeky old smiling. He pats his waistcoat, loosens his secure and ogles ready to celebrate his 39 years as health professionals snooker musician and the even more breathtaking detail he is still here one early morning in Sheffield. After overcoming cancer, fissure, a gambling garb that expensed him over a million pounds and the heartache of losing six macrocosm 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 injure lingers. Just before his 57 th birthday he had hoped to return to the Crucible in the world championship, which began on Saturday. After acquiring his first qualifying accord, White faced the nations of the world No 19, Ali Carter. White zipped into a brief lead before his dream died with a 10 -4 demolish.

“I’m disappointed,” White says, his smile crinkling into a wince.” I didn’t cause and that’s sickening. It’s frustrating because, at my age, I’m not expected to win. But I trained well, constituting 147 s in practice, and I’m 3-1 up. I’m in control and then little corrects creep in. Perhaps I put too much influence on myself, because I’d been performing 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 exceedingly mental and I lost focus. So if I have to go 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 actor in his primary, wants to keep grinding away, the Whirlwind seems blown away to have lived this long. When we remember Alex Higgins, his fellow snooker genius and reprobate who died in 2010, White suggests that “losing ones” 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 only found cocaine and I liked to drink ,” he says.” I always liked cocaine- whether drunk or sober. It was no one’s blame but my own. I’d just become famous, because we only had four canals in their own homes epoches and, instead of queuing round the blockage to get into a West End nightclub, I was going the medicine. I had such fun, even though I can’t remember much .”

Quick guide

P6, W0: White’s world finals

1984 … Steve Davis( 18 -1 6 ): White trails 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 acquires his first designation comfortably. 1991 … John Parrott( 18-11 ): White is whitewashed 7-0 in the first period and learns no way back. 1992 … Stephen Hendry( 18-14 ): White props induces of 12-6 and 14 -8 but Hendry triumphs 10 chassis in a row ensuring the triumph. 1993 … Stephen Hendry( 18-5 ): White outstrip with a session to spare. 1994 … Stephen Hendry( 18-17 ): Final goes to deciding frame and White is 37-24 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 spiraling of rift.” I’d knock about with Kirk Stevens[ the former snooker pro from Canada] and he’d be on rift. One epoch I tried it. It’s the most addictive thing ever. Kirk had no idea how to get cocaine. But I’d come from wall street, so I knew 20 dealers. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I grew fastened on cracking for a few months. It’s like being an alcoholic. The first hit is the best- like your first booze. When you’re smoking fissure it’s pure but you never hold on to that first hit either .”

How did he knock crack?” I couldn’t get any fund out one nighttime. I had drained one detail absolutely. I got the heebie-jeebies. I had a daytime trying to think and then I knew. I had to stop .”

White giggles.” I’d be a great cocaine policeman. I can spot parties on it from miles away. So I remain away from them because I shat myself. I’d let a lot of parties down .”

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

White is also cheerful.” I don’t suck. Don’t smoke ,” he says before turning to his lover, Jade Slusarczyk, a 32 -year-old who used to be a walk-on girl at darts tournaments.” If we have a bottle of wine I want to start moving in the restaurants sector .” White cackles and then, after he and Jade emphasize their temperance, he says:” I’ve got five grandkids. And I’ve got Jade. I retain her away from Specsavers .”

Jimmy White Alex Higgins after acquiring a doubleds title together in 1984. Image: Bob Thomas/ Getty Images

Higgins, in contrast, could not save himself.” I firstly played Alex in an exhibition when I was 13 ,” White recollects.” He came to a running men’s squad in Balham, which my father range, and tried to chat my sister up. So my brother want to get knock him out. It was the most terrifying first meeting with your hero ever. I should’ve known.

” But the only epoch I fell out with Higgins was when I had a mansion in Surrey. Swimming pool, snooker area. Higgins came over and we disappeared boozing. My pal drove us in a Mini Metro. We were sucking the working day and I decided to drive after another two gallons of wine- for which I apologise. I crashed into a wall. The windscreen flipped out and Higgins, who never wore a seatbelt, moved out .”

White weakens his head.” Higgins stands up and he’s shout:’ I’ve got nine lives, babe !’ I’m feeling sober now and I drive to my house … the windscreen wipers are criticizing 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 operating, saying,’ This is great !’

” After I get your best friend to pick up the windscreen, because it’s got my reputation on the tax disc, I feel safe. But I’m not ready for Higgins. He takes me to the snooker counter and says:’ Let’s play for money, newborn .’ He wouldn’t stop. I hurled him out. He knew the neighbour and I didn’t get on so “hes been gone” next door and said I’d assaulted him. That was Higgins .”

What happened when they next find one another?” He said:’ Hello, babe. How are ya ?’ He had practices where you’d be fuming with him and then he’d said anything and you’d forget about it .”

In the grasp of throat cancer, Higgins scarcely dine in the last months.” It was frightening ,” 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 down with them. So he wasn’t spotted for 10 epoches. He died of starvation. It was frightful .”

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

White and the sisters had raised money to buy a new set of teeth for Higgins’s ruined opening.” We grew three gobs of coin for him ,” White says.” But you grant coin to a gambling it’s like dedicating heroin to a buff. The coin just made him eager to gamble more. I contemplate Guinness continued him alive- the iron in it- because he wasn’t devouring much. He was his own worst enemy .”

The funeralwas delayed to countenance White to return from Thailand.” When I got the call saying he had died, I was numb. It was evil .” White helped carry Higgins’ coffin and” 4,000 beings strung the street. It was staggering- but so sad .”

Higgins’s last-place world championship claim 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 parallel, where reference is returned Higgins, who had been drinking heavily, an opportunity. Taking on shootings that needed extravagant fortitude and brave, Higgins cleared the counter with an interruption 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 ogles away, lost in the retention.” I was in awe of him. I was watching my hero playing. That clearance is the best ever did .”

Snooker devotees drool over the splendour of Higgins, White and Ronnie O’Sullivan. But “whos doing” White consider the best of a agitated trio?” O’Sullivan. I’ve probably got most natural aptitude than both of them. But what O’Sullivan done was special. He took a bit of Higgins, a little bit of me and a little bit of[ Steve] Davis, and acquired his play complete. Perhaps his greatest offering is his positional gambling .”

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 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 scholar .”

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

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This year observes the 25 th anniversary of White’s sixth and last world-wide championship final which he lost 18 -1 7 to Stephen Hendry. In the determine frame White simply is necessary for subside a few more projectiles to secure his first nature claim when he missed a straightforward pitch-black.” 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 move your front to find hassle. It’s probably the abuse that’s gone through my figure that leaves the abrupt movement.

” But my life’s totally different now. I want to produce some of the snooker I establish at expoes. I played Ronnie on the Legends tour and comprised my own for 10 darkness. You can’t do that unless you’ve still got it- because Ronnie’s the best actor 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 successive final overcome. Picture: Mike Cooper/ Allsport

White speaks so endearingly it spurs a cliched question. If he had the chance would he do anything differently?” I would have prepared differently before large-hearted accords but I wouldn’t change my life. I’ve had a right rift. On my 50 th birthday the Rolling Stone 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 investigate his quantity ends in 147147. It seems just right for the maestro but I fear the end for White. Q school is a notoriously difficult route into the main tour as it is fitted with thirsty young players from around the world.

On Saturday evening, as a beautiful era fades away, my phone pings. I learn White’s epithet. He involves two tries to send me the glorious report as the first textbook recommends he has triumphed a “tool” placard. I suppose him laughter as he rails against predictive verse in his second content. Then, saying ” I’m delighted”, the respectful old-fashioned charmer confirms he did not involve a wildcard to escape Q School. World Snooker, knowing how much they need his weathering popularity, have returned his full tour poster. He will be back playing after the nations of the world championship.

I think of Alex Higgins hollering” 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 bask every last decline of life he has left in snooker.

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


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