I can remember my first century break like it was yesterday – it’s the ultimate goal for every kid who’s into snooker. I was only 10, the youngest ever to make a century. I came running out and told Dad I’d just made a hundred break… and he went, ‘Yeah? Well?’ as if it were nothing. So I ran to the manager of the club and told him. He freaked out, and said, ‘Right, get the newspapers down here, ring up the snooker magazine.’ I was a miniature snooker celebrity. It became big news in the snooker world.
It was the best buzz I ever had. As soon as I got over a hundred, I was so excited that I wanted to miss. It didn’t matter what I scored once I got to a hundred; I just wanted to get out there and tell everybody that I’d made a century. In the end, I cleared the table for 117.
Even though Dad wasn’t impressed, I trusted him. He had the Midas touch with people. He knew that others could look after me and guide me better than he could in this area. And whoever he picked would excel. He helped out a lot of snooker players who were up-and-coming amateurs or slightly over the hill and in need of a few bob. Dad would say to them, ‘Look, here’s two hundred quid a week and here’s a car, practice when you like, it don’t matter to me. Whatever you win, just give me a drink out of it. All I want you to do is take my boy to tournaments and keep an eye on him’.
Although Dad never praised me to my face, I now know that he was dead proud. I’ve met people who knew my dad and they’ve told me he said, ‘My son is going to be World Snooker Champion.’ These people would say to me, ‘Yeah, well, everybody thinks their boy is going to be World Champion, but you are. So he must have known what he was on about.’ Even Gazza mentioned my dad the first time I met him.
Gazza was my hero, the governor on the pitch, and when I eventually met him we had a good session together. We were at Goodison Park. Rangers were playing Everton in a testimonial, and I’d played in the pre-match celebrity game. Gazza came up to me afterwards and said, ‘All right, Ronnie? I met your dad years ago and he was trying to get me to come over to the snooker club. I couldn’t make it, but he said to me, ‘Gazza, you’re the bollocks at football, but my son is going to be World Champion at snooker.’ And I remembered the name because I love snooker. Later I was sitting I my hotel room with Paul Allen one day watching the telly and you came on. I jumped and said to him, ‘That’s the fucking kid that that fella said was going to be World Champion.’
I won my first tournament when I was 9. It was just a little tournament that we used to play in every week down the club. You never used to win any money, just a trophy and a voucher that allowed you six hours’ free time on a table.