Phil Haigh ✍️
Jordan Brown and Mark Allen have finally been drawn to play each other for the first time on the professional tour and the great friends are meeting in a big one – the UK Championship.
The Antrim pair are good pals and practice partners, spending a huge amount of time together as they prepare for events back in Northern Ireland, and now they will clash on one of the biggest stages in snooker for the first time.
Allen heads straight to the Barbican as one of the world’s top 16, while Brown came through qualifying this week, putting his name in the random draw and saw it placed alongside his mate on Thursday.
It is going to feel different to a normal match when they play at the Barbican on Saturday afternoon, but Brown says it will be ‘war as usual’ in terms of scrapping it out to get the win.
‘That’s the luck of the draw,’ said immediately after the match was confirmed. ‘It had to happen some day, once those hands are shaken it’s going to be war as usual. There’ll definitely be a bit of stick the next couple of days for sure, but seriously we’ll both want to beat each other and we’ll have to be professional and just get on with it.’
Brown had a brief stint on tour over a decade ago, but has been a regular since 2018 so it is surprising he has not played Allen yet, and although they wanted to save the clash for a final, it is a special occasion to meet in York.
‘It’s quite incredible that we haven’t drawn each other,’ said Jordan. ‘It’s the draw I didn’t want and I’m sure he didn’t want it either, ideally we want to play in a final. It’s obviously the second biggest tournament in the world, it’s an awkward one, but we’ll both have to just be professional and get on with it.
‘Because we’re over here we won’t get a chance to practice with each other like we normally would do, because we practice with each other every day. We know each other’s games inside out, I would definitely not be at the level I’m at if it wasn’t for Mark, I’ve a lot to thank him for. But I’ll just have to get on with the job.
‘There’s going to be a lot of hype back home, especially in our home town of Antrim, I’m sure everyone will be having a party. Probably disbelief that it’s finally going to happen. Hopefully we’ll get a few people over and a good bit of support, no better place than the Barbican, it’s probably my favourite venue outside of the Crucible.
‘It’s going to be a special occasion, but it’s going to be edgy, we’ll both be nervous, it’s going to be a different feel to it. But it could go one of two ways, we could both be relaxed and get on with it, in that sense it’s not unfamiliar territory because we practice with each other day in, day out, but it is different, so I’m sure both of us will be in Shredsville for parts of the match.’
When the draw was made, reigning Northern Ireland Open champion Allen tweeted: ‘It had to happen sometime but gutted it’s the first round in the UK championships….. @jordyb147 up first. Best friends before and best friends after. Should be exciting. Tune in tomorrow [Saturday] 1pm.’
World number 22 Brown shocked the world when he won the Welsh Open in 2021, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final, and has earned some good results since then but does not believe he has capitalised on that win like he wanted to.
However, he feels well set now to kick on and move up towards the upper echelons of the sport, where he proved he can compete after his fine win in Wales.
‘I’ve got to be honest, there was a change in expectation, not from other people but myself,’ he said. ‘I expected myself to push on, but the bottom line is it’s not easy out there, it’s tough to win matches the standard is just so good lower down.
‘Since then I’ve lost a good few matches that I shouldn’t have, took my foot off the gas a wee bit, but the work ethic is always there, I’m always striving to get myself better by one or two per cent because that’s massive. I’m hopefully, slowly working myself back up there.
‘I’ve just started working with my coach Marty again, he’s turned my game around in recent weeks, a couple of technical changes, it’s a gamble but it’s paying off. So slowly working my way back towards that winners’ circle. Which is where I want to be.
‘I did expect to push on and I haven’t, but it’s a good journey ahead now. I’m in a good place off the table, became a father last summer and now snooker, while I always want to win, you’ve got a little daughter to come home to and you quickly forget about any losses.’
Brown knows it will be a tough test against Allen, though, with the Pistol reaching the British Open final and then retaining the Northern Ireland Open title already this season.
‘It’s very pleasing [to see him playing well], we all know how good Mark is,’ said Jordan. ‘It’s good to see him back to his best again, it was only going to be a matter of time.
‘He had a bit of a rough patch there with personal problems off the table, but his snooker is always going to be there, he’s a class act. Hopefully he won’t have a good run in this event yet!’
The Northern Irishmen meet at 1pm on Saturday.
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