It was 5am, the sun had risen, but Mark Williams wasn’t finished yet.
In fact, the newly crowned three-time world champion was only just getting started.
Indeed, if the man dubbed ‘The Welsh Potting Machine’ wasn’t already considered down with the fans prior to his incredible success at The Crucible in 2018, he certainly was after it.
After beating fellow ‘class of 92’ player John Higgins in a final match-up that rolled back the years, Williams had one or two pledges to fulfil.
He’d already ticked off the first one, walking into his post-final press conference sporting only a towel after vowing to face the media naked if he triumphed – and then also performed admirably in relation to his promise to celebrate his latest title win more emphatically than he had the previous two.
The frequent Twitter updates of his night-long bender went down a storm, as had his update following his semi-final win over Barry Hawkins, which revealed he’d marked the result with a 2.30am kebab.
Of course, the scale of the achievement shouldn’t be masked by the comical element attached to it. Only a year previously, Williams had won a first ranking event for six years by claiming the Northern Ireland Open. At the time of his world title win, he was 43, making him the oldest player to win snooker’s most prestigious tournament since Ray Reardon in 1978.
For Williams, number three had come 15 years after he claimed number two, and towards the tail-end of that period it was only late sponsor Ron Skinner who dissuaded him from retirement.
His career is still ongoing now, but regardless of how it pans out, the popularity of Williams the man, will always be eclipsed by the class of Williams the player.
His afore-mentioned nickname derives from more than a reference to his homeland. One of the game’s greatest ever long-potters, his 2002-03 campaign saw him become just the third man ever to capture the ‘Triple Crown’ of the World title, Masters, and UK Championship in one season.
Stats of 37 ranking finals, 533 century breaks, plus the fact only six men have captured the World title on more than three occasions, ensure Williams’ place amongst the all-time elite doesn’t need to be up for discussion.
Few however, can enjoy such a status whilst colour blind. In a sport not exactly suited to getting your reds and browns mixed up, it’s a notion that Williams has negotiated his whole career, even admitting to inadvertently potting the wrong ball on some occasions.
What truly adds to the appeal of the Ebbw Vale born man however, is a laidback persona almost alien to modern day professional sport. Williams has long claimed he doesn’t panic about winning, and rarely worries about losing. Regardless of a match outcome, you’re unlikely to see much in the way of animation.
Undoubtedly though, there is a mental toughness behind the casual persona, perhaps born from an upbringing which saw him undefeated in 12 amateur boxing fights. His friendship with Joe Calzaghe delves deeper that a mutual love of the Welsh flag.
Diplomacy hasn’t always complimented composure though. In 2012, he was fined for labelling the Crucible an “overhyped s***hole.” More recently, he responded to criticism of opting to roll the cue ball off the cushion into the back of the pack from the break by commenting “There are a lot of worse things happening than worrying about my poxy break-off.”
But what makes the now 46-year-old so engaging, is that he’s a man all mere-mortals can associate with. He uploads pictures of himself in take-away shops, he stops at McDonalds on the way home (how he celebrated his British Open win in August), he’ll make ample spelling mistakes on Twitter and not bother to correct them, he’ll even fall asleep mid-game when he’s bored.
The latter jibe, relating to him nodding off in his chair whilst playing Anthony Hamilton this week, is of course unfair. Williams attributed the snooze to the after-effects of Covid-19, and wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself by then uploading his Twitter profile picture accordingly.
He’s one of the few who can get away with such actions. Also one of the few, who can manage to be popular amongst English fans despite owning a tattoo depicting a Welsh Dragon eating the St. George’s flag.
Perhaps Williams sends out a dangerous message. He prompts false hope in those aged 40 and above, that they too can dine in kebab shops, celebrate with all-night benders, and be irreversibly laidback and yet still compete in professional sport.
Problem is, the vast majority don’t possess the supreme talent to supplement such an approach.
This post appeared first on Daily Star - Snooker.