Ipswich: Whirlwind Jimmy White on blowing into the Corn Exchange

Snooker legend Jimmy White talks to entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE about why Ipswich holds special memories for him and why he’s determined to beat Stephen Hendry

IPSWICH, the Corn Exchange in particular, has a special place in Jimmy White’s heart; having beat Steve Davis in the British Championships final there in his 20s.

“It’s one of my favourite venues of all time; I’ve been going there since I was 16. Thirty-four years I’ve been playing there. I haven’t been for a long time but I’ve always loved Ipswich,” he says.

The Whirlwind – a nickname given to him because of his speed around the table and because he was seen as a prot�g� of Alex “The Hurricane” Higgins – returns to town as part of the 2012 Snooker Legends tour this Thursday.

He’ll be joined by Dennis Taylor, John Parrott and Cliff Thorburn.

Leading referee Michaela Tabb will try to keep control, with John Virgo providing expert analysis and keeping the audience entertained during the evening of snooker and nostalgia.

He’ll also be showing off his trick-shot skills, with the chance for a member of the audience to have a go.

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One of the players will be crowned the Ipswich Legend 2012.

“We’re all trying to win, by the way; none of that pretending ‘oh it’s only an exhibition’,” adds White.

Another lucky audience member will partner a legend in a game of doubles.

There may even be a chance to take on one of the stars in a one-to-one. Just hope you don’t end up like last year’s hopeful, Tornado Terry.

“This guy came out and John [Virgo] said ‘Do you want to borrow a cue?’ He said ‘No, I’ve got my own’. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Terry; no call me Tornado Terry’,” remembers White.

“I thought I better see if he’s any good, so I broke up the pack; one went in the middle pocket and I did a 147 break, so Tornado Terry never got a shot.”

Now in its third year, the tour has gone from strength to strength.

“Listen. Honestly, it’s a fun night. You get a bit of serious snooker, meet all the top players and get to do some trick shots if you stick your hand up, and everyone has a great night.

“I’ve been doing the exhibition circuit all my life. I didn’t think you could have more than one or two players in a night and it couldn’t work. It’s got so big players actually ask to play on it, which is unbelievable,” says White.

Recent additions to the line-up at other venues include Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry.

White has a score to settle with the latter.

He’s been a World Championship runner-up six times, four of them to Hendry.

“I always try to beat him; he’s inflicted so much pain on me over the years,” laughs White, who famously told an interviewer after the last final ‘Oh, he’s starting to annoy me now’.

“That was quite funny, but I’m pleased to do what I do for a living. I’m a very lucky man. Sometimes you don’t get there, sometimes you do.

“I’ve won every other tournament. I’ve won ten ranking tournaments, 27 invitation tournaments, 48 pro-am tournaments, so my career is good. I’ve had some wonderful days, but obviously I’ve had six or seven down days. But what can you do?”

This year White, whose wins include the World Amateur and World Seniors titles, celebrates 30 years as a professional.

To mark the anniversary, he had a testimonial, where he played O’Sullivan at the Grosvenor Hotel. That night, good friend Ronnie Wood alsto staged a concert.

The event also benefited The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity; an organisation close to White’s heart after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1995.

White and Wood met when their daughters were in a school play.

“I never thought he knew snooker. I’ve been a friend of his for 25 years. He comes and watches me play snooker all over the world; he might even come to Ipswich. I go and watch him in his band.”

White confirms that Wood is such a snooker nut that he tours with a full-size table wherever the Stones play.

They must have played each other?

“He tried to teach me the guitar once and his snooker’s like my guitar playing,” laughs the father-of-five from Tooting, who appeared alongside Gino D’Acampo and Katie Price in I’m a Celebrity… in 2009.

He was 11 when he first picked up a cue; making national news when he made a 100 break aged 13.

“I just thought ‘I want to do this’ and I’ve always been doing it.”

His studies at the Ernest Bevan College were as sunk as the balls he was potting.

“Snooker was more important, but luckily enough I had a headmaster, Mr Beatty, who came to an agreement with my parents – because I kept playing truant – that If I went in the morning, he’d let me have the afternoons off. So that worked out.”

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