Fast start accounts for people’s favourite as Parrott recalls his finest hour of two decades ago

John Parrott went into the World Snooker Championship final of 1991 knowing he was the firm underdog against fans’ favourite Jimmy White.

The Liverpudlian knew he needed a good start or he could fall underneath the White juggernaut.

And in a spellbinding opening session – which he still today credits as being the finest session of snooker he ever produced – Parrott roared out of the traps to dominate the opening exchanges 7-0.

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That substantial advantage was to prove decisive as Parrott, now retired from the professional circuit, completed an 18-11 final victory to be crowned the Crucible champion.

“All I can remember, the vivid memory, was the start,” said Parrott.

“I was determined to have a good start and I certainly never played any better in a more important match than I did in that opening session.

“I have watched it through on a re-run once or twice – just to show my kids because they think I’m an idiot now – and I missed just one ball in the opening session. It was the best I have played, full stop. But to do it in the opening session of the World Championship, it’s something as a kid you dream about, to play that well.

“I said at the time, it was like Liverpool playing away in a European Cup tie – I could say it then because Liverpool were a good football team – and you had to try and quieten the crowd down,” said Parrott, a devoted Everton fan who is always happy poking fun at the fall from grace of rivals Liverpool.

“If Jimmy had got a run on and started playing great, I would have had the world and everybody against me. I had never been more determined to have a good start.”

White would go on to lose in six Crucible finals and is widely regarded as the most talented player never to have won the world title.

“I have the greatest sympathy now, after I have finished playing and retired, because if anybody deserved to win a World Championship it was Jimmy,” admitted Parrott. “He came closer in a couple of the other finals than he did with me. The seven frames that I won in the first session was the gap at the end.

“Where he had his great chance was against Stephen Hendry where he missed the black off the spot. I don’t think anybody, even Stephen, would have begrudged him winning it.

“It’s always difficult to say who is the best player I have ever faced. Different players had different qualities.

“As an all-round match player, John Higgins would be a match for anybody who has ever played, closely followed by Steve Davis. Those two would be the best match players.

“The best scorers would by Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“If you could avoid playing those four then that would have been great,” Parrott joked.

Only six players – Hendry, White, Davis, O’Sullivan, Higgins and Mark Williams – have won more than Parrott’s nine world ranking events, but it was that day back in May 1991 that marked the pinnacle of a career which saw him become a captain on TV sports show Question of Sport and a respected snooker and horse racing commentator with the BBC.

“Twenty years and it’s gone in a blink,” said Parrott, father to teenagers Ellie, 14, and Josh, 17. “Somebody mentioned to me the other day that it was 20 years since I won at the Crucible. It has just gone so quickly, but I’m blaming the children. As soon as you have kids, your life becomes over-run by what they are doing.

“One minute they are going to school and the next they are taking their driving test.”

Life away from the snooker circuit is now diverse for Parrott, something he embraces whole-heartedly. Whether it’s playing golf, taking part on the snooker Legends tour, his BBC presenting work or working on his online company, John Parrott Cue Sports, which sells snooker and pool cues.

“I had six years on Question of Sport, which was great fun,” he said. “I was lucky enough to work with Ally McCoist and Sue Barker and we had a fantastic rapport. Six years, the best part of 180 shows. It was a long, old haul from Southport to London every fortnight, a long day for 27 minutes of programme.

“And I absolutely adore the horse racing. We try to make it as light hearted and informative as possible. Basically, If I was at home I would be watching the racing most days, so I try to cover what I would want to know. If I was there I would want to know who the big bets are, who the punters are backing.”