About Jimmy White

James Warren White was born on the 2nd of May, 1962. Jimmy, as he is known to all now, is well established as the people's champion of snooker. The Londoner is admired by thousands worldwide for his sporting behaviour and style, and bouncing back from losing six World championship finals. That is a fact Jimmy would rather not be reminded of, for he has never yet achieved the greatest accolade in snooker. And that is an event thousands would love to happen; the dream scenario of snooker. He is constantly reminded that were he never to win it, he would surely be remembered as 'the best player never to win the World championship'.

Jimmy's popularity centers around his style at the table. He fires in shots at quite a rate, and nothing less would be expected from the Whirlwind, but what makes his game really stand out are those few shots Jimmy produces from time to time which are truly magical. Anyone who followed Jimmy's progress during last year's World championship can't have forgotten the banana shot - voted shot of the championship by BBC viewers - or the gutsy double on the re-spotted black. Quite simply, Jimmy White can play shots others can only dream of. His awesome cue power and cue-ball control can make it seem like anything is possible.


The path taken by the cue ball during JW's incredible banana shot at the 96 championship (complete with real yellow ball)

Another aspect of White's game that gains him much respect is his own respect for the game. He is always courteous, even calling his own fouls. On many an occasion, whilst preparing for a shot, Jimmy has accidentally touched the white with his cue. It is often so slight that neither the spectators nor the referee saw it. Jim will have a quick word with the ref, and it won't be clear what has happened until the referee announces 'Foul...' and JW supporters everywhere announce a different four-letter word - but they love him for it, really.

Ignoring whatever off-table antics have earnt White his 'bad boy' image, his behaviour at the table cannot be faulted. He is a true sportsman in every sense, and the best role model snooker has to offer. Disliking White is a virtual impossibility. He is somehow irresistably amiable and laid back - 'sheepish panache' being a particularly apt description I heard. And even after the most demoralising of defeats, White's sense of humour shines through. Following his sixth defeat in a World final - which definitely disproves God's existence - there was no bad feeling in Jimmy's voice when he said of Hendry, his victor, 'He's beginning to annoy me.' Everyone had to smile at that. 

 

At the table...

Jimmy has his father to thank for introducing him to snooker, at the age of eleven. He went to a billiard hall at the bottom of his road. 'Tony Meo and me used to spend all of our spare time there,' Jimmy said, 'We loved the game and the atmosphere.' He even missed school because of it: 'School went out of the window. I went for a while and then started taking time off.' In fact, he was so good that within a year of picking up a cue, he had already compiled his first century break.

From there he made speedy progress. He went on to play in many amateur competitions, and in 1977, at the age of fifteen, he won the British Under 16 title. The next year he became English Amateur Champion, and in 1980 World Amateur Champion. It was in 1980 that Jimmy turned professional. And in his first professional season he got a professional title under his belt, winning the Laing's Scottish Masters, beating Cliff Thorburn in the final. Even so early in his career, Jimmy's outstanding talent was causing quite a stir. It would only be a matter of time, they said, before he would lift the World championship trophy. But that task has proven to be Jimmy's ever elusive goal.

It was in 1984 that he had his first crack at the World title. He faced Steve Davis, the then reigning champion. It was one of the closest ever finals, Jimmy missing out by a mere two frames, eighteen to sixteen. But the scoreline doesn't tell the whole story. Leading into the second day of play Jimmy was in the disastrous position of being 12-4 down. But as is evident from the final score, he fought back courageously, and nearly won it. Some say the snooker Jimmy played that day was among the best the game has ever seen.

Between then and 1990 he had his trophy cabinet bursting at the seams; the British Open, Grand Prix and Canadian Masters to name but three. And it was in 1990 that he reached the World final for the second time, having beaten Steve Davis, the then defending champion in the semis. However, he lost for the second time, to Scot Stephen Hendry.

He lost again in '91 against John Parrot, but his best season to date came in '92. He won no less than five major titles, three of which in the space of just fifty days, earning him a speedy sum of 334,000. Such excellent form rose him to second in the world rankings; his highest position to date.

And so, once again it was time for the world championships. He reached the final and played Stephen Hendry again. This time, though, White got the upper edge, and lead fourteen-ten going into the final session. It was a disaster. Cruelly, and unbelievably, Hendry reeled off eight frames in a row to take the title. There was consolation for White, though. He actually walked away with a larger prize than Stephen Hendry, because he had knocked up a fantastic 147 maximum break in round one, against Maltese Tony Drago. He had scored 56 maximums in practice previously (allegedly), but this was his first in competition, and only the second in the Crucible's history.

In '93 Jimmy had a slightly off season, despite winning the European League, but once again earned his place in the world final. He played Stephen Hendry again but was, to put it bluntly, thrashed, 18-5. It is no secret that Hendry, arguably the greatest player to have lifted a cue, was inspired to play the game by Jimmy White. He recorded all Jimmy's matches, watching them many times over, trying to emulate the shots his idol played. Even after potting Jimmy to oblivion, none of Hendry's respect for his one-time teacher was lost. He said after the match, 'Jimmy's still my hero.' However brilliant a player Hendry has become, part of White's game just can't be copied.

The following year, despite a disappointing '94 season, White reached the world final for the sixth time, ten years after his first such appearance. After an enthralling battle, the match was poised at seventeen all. An estimated 13.8 million UK viewers had tuned in as the deciding frame commenced - a record? White got to the table, and appeared to be potting well. But, when he was leading 37-24, he played a shot that will surely haunt him for a long time. He missed an easy, straight black. 'That black was a disaster,' Jimmy said, 'I could not believe it. It was a rush of blood on my part and the black didn't even hit the jaws.' Hendry promptly cleared up. That loss, coupled with the 1992 defeat, delivered a huge psychological blow to Jimmy. They are, sadly, the two events that really stand out in his career.

The 94/95 season was a disappointing one for White. He was beaten in the semi-finals of the world championship, by a certain Mr Hendry. There was one highlight to the year, though. At the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, on the 1st of November, Jimmy White played John Virgo in a best-of-seven match. Onlookers watched in amazement as Jimmy potted his way through a fantastic 147 maximum. But that wasn't the half of it; amazingly, he scored two 147s in his next match at the DeMontfort Hall, Leicester, a few days later! Peter Ebdon is the only other player to have achieved two maximums in one match.

If the 94/95 season was disappointing, then what was to come was nothing short of disastrous. The next season he certainly didn't win anything, and his ranking dropped from 7th to 13th. At one point he was ranked 18th, and at serious risk of exiting the elite top 16; the group of players who do not have to qualify for events. Then the start of the 96/97 season saw the tragic death of his elder brother and then mother in the space of a couple of months, tearing White's game apart. He lost the first eleven games of the season, before finally getting back onto semi-solid ground. His form remained indifferent, however. Again, his top 16 spot rested on his World Championship performance, but this time he couldn't do it. He lost in the first round, squandering an 8 frames to 4 lead (1st to 10), and a 40-0 lead in the deciding frame. It was a very sad day in snooker, and one of the worst moments of Jimmy's career, but you can only admire his sportsmanship and resilience; I'll be back, he said, there's no panic.

'He was fine about it afterwards. He's always a true gentleman,' were the words of Anthony Hamilton, the guilty man. He added: 'I had mixed emotions playing this match. Jimmy is one of the reasons I started playing the game. He'll bounce right back into the top 16 next season.'

So White, now the World number 16, will have to suffer the humiliation of qualifying for some events next season, including the World championship. Sceptics say it's the end of the road for Jimmy, now 37, but his leagues of supporters still believe he can play. They know he can. Anything is possible for the Whirlwind.

 

Away from the table...

Jimmy White hasn't always been in the news for his achievements - and failures - in snooker. In 1994 he paid a ransom for the return of his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Splinter, who was kidnapped from his home in Oxshott, Surrey. And that wasn't the only trouble Splinter has got himself into. Whilst Jimmy was taking him for a walk once Splinter spotted a tranquil, fluffy rabbit and decided it would be better off tranquil and fluffy inside his stomach. Splinter began chasing after it, and Jimmy hung onto the lead (about the only lead has has hung onto recently) and shortly afterwards hit a tree face-first at high speed, and only narrowly avoided horrific facial injury (possibly including a few 'Splinter's - hoho). But, as the BBC television series They Think it's All Over pointed out, the only horrific facial feature Jimmy faces are when he plays Stephen Hendry*.

*Lawyers - I do not endorse this statement (and sorry for nicking the joke, too).

Shortly afterwards, he escaped jail after admitting to driving under the influence of alcohol - that is to say four times over the limit - for which he served 120 hours community service.

During 95 he had a testicular cancer scare - luckily nothing more than a scare - and then was involved in an unpleasant betting row, along with South African Peter Francisco, after allegations of match-fixing. An abnormal amount of high bets had been placed on the score of 10-2, the eventual outcome, in their first round match at the World championships. Francisco was given a four year ban, and no blame was put on White. Francisco, White, and some blokes from some disciplinary committee had all met at a nearby hotel. First Francisco entered, stone-faced, with a couple of suits by his side. Then Jimmy, unaccompanied, jovial as always. It summed it all up from the start. In fact, no who knew Jimmy well thought for one minute that any blame would be put on him; he's that kind of character. It's like trying to imagine a fluffy bunny mugging old ladies.

Jimmy is married to Maureen, who he met long ago in - appropriately enough - a fish and chip shop in Tooting. He has four daughters; Lauren, Ashley, Georgia, and Breeze.


If you know of an interesting fact about Jimmy, don't hesitate to email it to me.


This Web Page was last updated on Thursday October 21, 2004


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