1. The Rack Pack
Moustachioed men prowling to and from a table in near total silence. It was an image long associated with snooker, and one the popularity of the sport had suffered from.
In the 1980s an exciting renaissance took place. The world of snooker was reinvigorated by the emergence of a series of strong characters, each bringing something unique to the table.
2. Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins
The confines of the snooker halls could not contain the raw talent of Alex Higgins. He exploded onto the snooker scene in the 1970s and by the 1980s Higgins’ electric character and mercurial talent had earned him the unofficial title of the People’s Champion.
Higgins was born in Belfast in 1949, a world away from the bright lights and media attention that would adorn his later life. He discovered snooker at the age of 11 and spent countless hours practising and making money defeating all who dared to challenge him. He became the youngest World Snooker champion in 1972 and, while success petered out like a quietening storm in the mid-80s, he found consistency in entertaining audiences. Looking almost uneasy with every shot, Higgins stalked the table, twitching involuntarily before firing off one audacious shot after another. Such unpredictability earned him a place in fans’ hearts.
3. Steve 'The Nugget' Davis
The Plumstead potting sensation gave rise to a new type of player: the ice-cold professional. On the surface, he showed no emotion and was deemed to lack personality, but beneath this robotic exterior lay a highly trained and ruthless competitor.
As a child, Steve Davis was a keen student of snooker. He quickly developed and adapted the sport’s classic techniques to improve his game and came to the attention of promoter Barry Hearn. Soon he was playing, and winning, challenge matches against top professionals. His first major honour was the UK Championship in 1980 and from here he went on to dominate the sport during the next decade. Despite being viewed as boring, he provided many moments that live on in the history of snooker. He was the first player to record a perfect 147 break on television and, in 1985, he was part of the famous ‘Black Ball Final’ against Dennis Taylor. That thrilling match was watched by 18.5 million viewers.
4. Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White
Jimmy White could be seen as the perfect combination of Higgins' dynamism and Davis' efficiency. Largely regarded as the most naturally talented player never to have won a world title, White was a favourite with both fans and fellow professionals.
As a youngster, snooker halls provided Jimmy White with refuge from an academic system he had no interest in. In the late 1970s he sharpened his skills on the amateur circuit and in 1979 his reputation grew further when he won the UK Amateur Championships. A year later, he turned professional. Jimmy soon became close friends with Alex Higgins and the similarities were obvious. White had a fluid, fast style similar to Higgins, but produced more consistent performances than the Northern Irishman. In their first meeting in 1982, the 'Whirlwind' took the 'Hurricane' down to the final frame before dramatically losing to the man he considered a hero.
5. Barry 'Flash Car' Hearn
Now regarded as a respected elder statesman of the sports business, Barry Hearn is the definition of the self-made man. His eye for opportunity, business nous and East End charm led him to successfully reinvent the world of snooker.
As a young man pursuing a career in accountancy, Hearn made an important investment in property. He bought a snooker hall. In the 1970s David Attenborough, as controller of BBC Two, brought snooker to television, in colour. It was new, and it was soon popular. As audiences grew, Hearn focused on supplying the sudden demand of the droves flocking to watch the sport. As his involvement with snooker increased, he began managing talent he saw both promise and value in. His earliest protege was none other than Steve Davis. Hearn brought showmanship to snooker, touring with his stars and using challenge matches to build hype around his players.
7. Who won the most world titles?
These men set fire to the sport of snooker, but which of the three lifted the World Snooker Championship trophy most times?