Phil Haigh ✍️
Liam Davies cemented his position as the brightest young star in UK snooker last month when he became the first player ever to win the IBSF Under-16, Under-18 and Under-21 World Championships in the same year, not that his practice partner Mark Williams was congratulating him.
Davies turned 16 in June, shortly after he wrote another piece of snooker history, becoming the youngest player to ever win a match at the World Championship when he beat Aaron Hill in qualifying, only to follow that up by downing Fergal O’Brien in the next round.
He didn’t quite make it to the Crucible, but back on the junior scene he is clearing up and after returning to South Wales, what he achieved during two weeks in Romania it is sinking in, having already won the European Under-18s earlier this year.
‘When I was doing it it didn’t really feel like anything, it was all just a blur, but it’s starting to sink in a bit now and that it’s a bit special,’ Davies told Metro.co.uk.
‘If I went over there and won the Under-16s it would have been a great achievement, to win a World Championship and European championship in the same year. But you win the Under-16s, then you want to win the Under-18s, then you think you can win the Under-21s, so to win all three is unbelievable really.’
Davies is clearly supremely talented, but he also has a great set-up around him, practicing with three-time world champion Mark Williams and fellow rising star Jackson Page regularly, while he is coached by current World Seniors champion Lee Walker.
Beating his fellow youngsters is one thing, but to oust the most grizzled of veterans in O’Brien in the World Championship is another and something he credits the work with his team around him for.
‘I’m really lucky in my situation playing with the likes of Mark and being around Lee. They drum it into me that snooker’s not all about fancy shots, it’s about playing snooker as good as you can play,’ said Liam.
‘Obviously a lot of young players would struggle against people like Fergal but when you practice with Mark you can see shots that no one else can see, so it’s not so bad.
‘I think just being around Mark and Jackson, they rub off on you so what they do you tend to do a lot.
‘Lee is off the tour now so he doesn’t tend to practice as much, he pops up to give me lessons, but me, Mark and Jackson practice every day.’
You may think that one of the game’s greatest ever players would be getting the better of those practice sessions, but Davies says you should think again.
‘You’d be shocked! Me and Jackson do okay,’ he said. ‘We play 5p a point and the last couple of times we’ve had a few pound out of him. He hates it as well.’
Williams gives no quarter on the practice table, nor is he likely to dish out the praise to Davies despite his amazing achievements.
It will help keep the youngster grounded, but Liam is not afraid to fight fire with fire against the veteran.
‘He hardly ever says well done,’ said Liam. ‘When I won the Under-21s, he phoned me and said: “You’re the luckiest player I’ve ever seen in my life.”
‘I said: “I’m not lucky, it’s skill, when I come home we’ll have a lesson and I’ll show you how to win a semi-final, because you can’t win one.”‘
Williams has actually said some very nice things about Davies, labelling him ‘as good as anyone except O’Sullivan’ at his age. O’Brien also said of the teenager: ‘He’s a future world champion if ever I’ve seen one.’
Liam is not getting carried away at all, though, saying: ‘It is nice to hear, but you cant get into that too much and get all caught up in it. You’ve just got to keep doing what you can do and that’s the end of it.’
Williams is the highest profile of Davies supporters, but it is Walker who has had the biggest influence on his young career, working as his coach since he was just six years old.
Liam speaks glowingly about the help Walker has given him and how beneficial their relationship has been to his development.
‘I was six when there was a guy behind the bar at Mark’s club who told my dad he needed to give Lee a call,’ explained Davies. ‘So he phoned him up, but Lee said he couldn’t work with someone at six, it’s too young. My dad persuaded him though and he’s been with me ever since.
‘Any problems or anything to do with snooker, Lee knows everything, he’s just a great person to have in your corner.
‘I don’t understand how anyone could say a bad word about him, because he’s genuinely the nicest guy I’ve ever met in my life. He’s unbelievable. You could go up to him and hit him with a stick and he’d still ask if you were alright. It’s crazy.’
Davies has the talent and he certainly has the commitment to go far, with life very much focussed on snooker.
The teenager is partially deaf, which he explains caused him to leave school during the height of the pandemic and he will not return, with eyes firmly on the prize of a professional career on the baize.
‘During Covid I couldn’t go to school because they’d shut down,’ he said. ‘When we went back everyone had to wear masks, but because I’m partially deaf and lipread a lot I couldn’t really hear people, the teachers all had masks on as well.
‘So I started doing home schooling, so I left school when I was 14. I’ve finished it now, I didn’t do GCSEs. I just got graded on some of the home schooling I did. It’s full time snooker now.’
It’s a young age to be out of school, but asked if he felt he has missed out on anything he said: ‘Absolutely not. Since I was probably eight, after starting playing at six, I’ve given absolutely everything to snooker. I wouldn’t change anything.’
Next stop for Davies, hopefully, will be a spot on the professional tour, which he has narrowly missed out on already but he is desperate to make that next step as soon as possible.
‘I’m busting to get on the tour now,’ he said. ‘I think it would be great to have someone like myself on the tour, someone who’s 16 and can compete with the pros, I think it’s great for the game.
‘The coverage I got in the World Championship, I think that was good for snooker.
‘A lot of people who don’t know about snooker ask me how old you’ve got to be to get on the pro tour, so to get a younger person on doing well, it would be good to show that if you’re good enough you’re old enough.’
Clearly partly in his own interests, but Davies reckons there could be a wildcard spot on tour for a bright young star, which would help give the sport a boost and encourage young talents.
‘One thing I would like is giving wildcards to younger players,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure how, but maybe they should give a wildcard to one young player each year.
‘I think it would be good for the game. It wouldn’t have to be me, but if a 15 or 16 year old wins a game on tour it gets a lot of press, it would be good.’
Wildcard or not, Davies will undoubtedly be on the tour in the near future, and although he is staying grounded and doing things the right way, he is in no doubt that he is aiming for the very top of snooker.
‘I want to be world number one and world champion,’ he said. ‘I’d never go too far into that now, but that’s what I want to be.’
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