Controversial cueman Mark Allen is ready to risk the wrath of World Snooker by ending his self-imposed silence.
The Northern Irishman created more headlines off the green baize last season, for his verbal outbursts, than he did for his terrific snooker skills.
The world No 8 reached the final of the UK Championship last year before losing to Judd Trump in a thrilling final, but Allen caused controversy by calling for World Snooker boss Barry Hearn to resign as well as posting several Twitter rants. In his next press conference at York Barbican, Allen actually turned up with his mouth taped up.
Then at the World Championship in Sheffield earlier this year he accused his opponent Cao Yupeng of an alleged push shot after his first-round defeat and questioned the sportsmanship of Chinese players in general – including Hong Kong’s Marco Fu, his first-round opponent in the williamhill.com UK Championship, which cues off this weekend.
That outburst landed Allen with an £11,000 fine and a three-month ban if he got into trouble again in the next six months. Since then, Allen – who says he paid out around £17,000 in fines last season – has kept a low profile, biting his tongue when talking to the media.
But as he prepares to return to York this weekend, Allen has revealed he will not be gagged when it comes to speaking out.
“I have been quiet because I have had to be,” he said. “I have got a suspended ban hanging over me until next week, I think, so I have to be very careful on what I say and what I do – on and off the table.
“I still have views, there are still a few things that have happened over the last six months that I would love to speak about and possibly will, once my ban ends.
“I will always have an opinion, and won’t be scared of giving that opinion. I was speaking to Barry Hearn, and he is all for that because if the players are unhappy he can’t do anything to change that unless the players speak out. I am one of the few who do speak out, and I can’t see that changing.
“It’s just a matter of being a little bit more careful on how I word things.
“Obviously, it cost me a lot of money, I think it was something like £17,000 last year in fines. I can’t afford that, my family can’t afford that, so I will have to be a little bit more mature in what I have to say.
“I got a suspended ban and a big fine for what happened at Sheffield. I have to be careful on what I say.
“It’s a problem on my part, I just don’t know when to shut up.
“The suspension ends before the Masters comes around (in January), so there could be some interesting views at the Masters.”
While Allen accepts he has talked himself into trouble in the past, he also believes his Crucible complaints about snooker etiquette has helped raise standards in sportsmanship.
“I think what I said at York last year, and Sheffield this year, have had good sides to it, obviously not portrayed in the media because that wouldn’t look bad on me so there’s no point in writing about it.” he said. “But I think a lot of good has come of it. It’s been well talked about amongst the players about what I said in Sheffield, and since then I have heard of a number of players calling their own fouls and that’s what our game is about.
“If what I said in Sheffield is in some way a part of what is happening now, I am all for it. It is unfortunate it got to that, it never should have, but it’s good that it can be stamped out before it leads to major problems for the game.
“There are not many sports, maybe golf also, where you still have to call your own fouls. We have all got responsibilities as sports people to be honest, and those that haven’t will get found out in the long run.”
Allen still stands by his claim that Fu has deliberately cheated in the past, an allegation the Hong Kong cueman refutes.
At the time Fu, who has never been found to have cheated, expressed bafflement at Allen’s comments, saying he considered the 26-year-old Antrim player a friend and insisting he had never intentionally broken snooker’s rules. Yet seven months have passed since the claims were made and the pair have yet to discuss the issue.
Allen said yesterday: “We haven’t spoken, although for my disciplinary in May Marco did write a letter saying he had no hard feelings about what I said, and how he’d known me for a long time and we’ve always got on well. It was a heat-of-the-moment comment. It was a comment that I still stand by. I’d never said anything about Marco as a person. Marco as a person is one of the nicest people you’d ever meet.
“Obviously people make mistakes on the table. But aside from that, Marco is a great snooker player. It was just one of those things. In the heat of the moment I said things that, as much as I thought they were true, I probably still shouldn’t have said.
“If Marco does want to chat to me I’m always here to talk about what I said and why I said it.”
The pair will go head to head on Sunday, the second day of the £625,000 UK Championship, with world No 8 Allen this year looking to go one better after losing out to Judd Trump in the 2011 final.
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