Thursday 22 February 2018

Selby celebrates with Iron Maiden and karaoke after pal's jokes help him to glorious victory

Mark Selby celebrating after winning the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships.
Mark Selby celebrating after winning the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships.

Jim White

FOR Mark Selby, snooker's new world champion, there is no need for sports psychologists.

While Ronnie O'Sullivan, his opponent in the final, had England's leading mind coach, Dr Steve Peters, in his dressing-room, Selby was assisted by a mate called Bobby, who had flown in from China to watch.

And while Dr Peters was attempting to locate O'Sullivan's inner chimp, Bobby's influence was somewhat more down to earth: he was telling Selby jokes.

"He was in my dressing-room, making me laugh, making me relaxed," revealed the 30-year-old from Leicester. "It really helped."

Monday night was not the best advertisement for Dr Peters' work. As he watched O'Sullivan lose for the first time in six world finals, the Liverpool football team he has assisted all season were throwing away their title chances in a frenetic last 10 minutes against Crystal Palace.

The match in Sheffield was just as mentally bruising, with Selby and O'Sullivan obliged to dig deep over 11 draining hours of competition before Selby finally prevailed 18-14.

Selby celebrated winning his first world title with an impromptu karaoke performance into the small hours of the morning, backed by Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain. He serenaded fans at the Mecure Hotel with various songs, including a version of the classic 'Mr Bojangles', the Kings of Leon's 'Sex on Fire' and most pertinently The Monkees 'I'm a Believer'.

Winning the title was a childhood dream for Selby, who dedicated the win to the memory of his late father.

"When my dad passed away I was 16. It was two months before I turned professional, and his last words were, 'I want you to become world champion'," he said.

"I said to him, 'I will do one day'. Thankfully, it's come true."

Remembering his humble background, Selby added: "When I was 16 I more or less had nothing. We had a council house and me and my brother had to go our separate ways because we couldn't really afford the house.

"We also didn't want to keep it on anyway because there were a lot of bad memories with my father and everything. So my brother moved in with his girlfriend and I moved in with my friend who runs a snooker academy. He is one of my closest friends now."

Then his snooker development really took off.

"When I lived with my dad we didn't have a lot of money," added Selby. "I used to go to the snooker centre once a week because that was all we could afford, really.

"Then (former player now BBC commentator) Willie Thorne's brother spotted me and started giving me free practice. So from going once a week I was going pretty much every day after school."

He added with a smile: "That was when I went to school, of course. I'd practise for hours and hours after school."

When he first picked up a cue, Selby says, he was not naturally talented. He believes the requirement to work at his game enabled him not only to reach the top, but to battle his way back from adversity, such as being 10-5 down in the final.

"In a way I probably wouldn't want it any different. It just shows that you have to graft to get out what you put in," he said.

"If you were born with all the money in the world then everything comes easy so whether you win or you lose you just think to yourself, 'It doesn't matter, I've still got this or I've still got that', whereas I probably prefer it the way it was."

The new world No 1 can certainly look forward to a very different future after taking away £300,000 in prize money, which he intends to invest in property. But he was keen to stress that the victory means more to him.

"I'm not really outrageous with my money anyway, I never have been. I'm quite sensible," said Selby. "Without sounding big-headed the money is irrelevant, really.

"I don't play snooker for the money. I play snooker for the love of the game and because obviously it's what my father wanted me to do and obviously all I want to do is win titles.

"I would be more than happy playing in the World Championship if there was no money if it meant me trying to win and become world champion.

"The money is great. It helps and stuff but at the end of the day its not the be all and end all for me."

Still, it does mean he will be able to buy Bobby a drink. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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