Mark Williams is convinced snooker bosses will be crossing their fingers and praying for his demise as he prepares to begin the defence his world title in Sheffield on Saturday.
The 44-year-old says his colourful reign as champion has not gone down half as well with officials as the gallons of beer he has consumed during the season-long celebrations following his unlikely triumph.
Williams, who plays qualifier Martin Gould to a finish on the opening day, told Press Association Sport: “I think World Snooker would rather anyone than me won it this time.
“I think (they think) it would be better for the game if Judd (Trump) or Kyren (Wilson) or one of the Chinese players wins it, that they will do more for the game than I’ve done for it.
“They don’t want a 44-year-old has-been winning the tournament. They want a youngster coming through who they can get behind and who will push the sport.”
The Welshman remains unrepentant over his over his attitude to the sport, claiming it makes up for the opportunities he spurned when he won his previous two world titles in 2000 and 2003.
“I’ve had some of the best times of my life, relaxing a lot, playing golf a lot and drinking a lot,” added Williams. “My form has suffered because of it but I’ve no problem with that and if I win it again this year I’ll do the same again.
“When I won it before I had a pint of milk then went back to my hotel. I never used to drink or go out partying. Over the last 12 months I’ve probably done it more than in the last 20 years put together.”
For all his relaxed attitude, Williams has still enjoyed a reasonable season, winning the World Open in China and briefly threatening to regain his status as world number one – an accolade about which he insisted he was “not bothered”.
And the acrimony which appears to exist to some degree between Williams and certain elements of the game’s establishment was evident in a later in tweet in which he questioned his absence from a prominent role in the tournament’s promotional material.
Beneath a photo of an advertising board which placed Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby in prominent positions, Williams tweeted: “Spot the current world champion”.
Williams’ claim drew a swift response from World Snooker, whose spokesman said: “Mark Williams is a great world champion and we’d love to see him win it again. All we want to see is the best player win the tournament.”
In Motorhead-loving Martin Gould, a former top 16 player who has never got past the second round on 10 previous appearances at the Crucible, he meets a player more than capable of ending his Championship early.
“I never look at the draw because anyone is capable of turning you over,” shrugged Williams. “I’m just going to keep doing this for the next two or three years and see where I am. As long as I’m enjoying it that’s all that matters.”
Neil Robertson, one of the favourites for the title after a stellar end to the season, begins his title quest on Saturday afternoon against Michael Georgiou, while Ding Junhui, Luca Brecel and Stephen Maguire are the other seeds in action on the opening day.
- Press Association