Ronnie O’Sullivan has told heir apparent Judd Trump he must win the Betfred World Championship in the next three years or he may never get his hands on the trophy.
Five-time champion O’Sullivan landed his first Crucible title at the age of 25 in 2001, at the ninth time of trying, before making it a regular habit.
He considers 26-year-old Trump equipped to mount a serious challenge for snooker’s premier silverware over the next 17 days in Sheffield.
But O’Sullivan suspects the pressure will only increase if Trump, who was runner-up to John Higgins in 2011, misses out this year.
Asked if Trump has what it takes, O’Sullivan said: “Absolutely. He’s 26 and he’s at the prime age now to push on.
“If he’s going to make it happen he’s got to make it happen in the next two or three years, because once you go into your thirties and you haven’t won the world title, and then there’s a new batch of young players coming through from China, from here, there and everywhere, you can start to think that ‘maybe I might not’ - and the pressure gets more and more.
“And sometimes it’s not about the best player who wins this tournament, it’s the guy who can hold himself together and play solid snooker.
“It’s not always about playing brilliant match after brilliant match, it’s about steadying the ship sometimes and biding your time and pouncing.”
Trump played his own brand of “naughty snooker” in the year he went closest to landing the biggest prize in the sport.
The aggressive long-potting game made him an immediate crowd favourite and the Bristol-born cueman remains hugely popular, arguably second only to O’Sullivan with the thousands who flock to the Crucible each year.
While O’Sullivan begins against David Gilbert on Sunday, Trump must wait until Wednesday to tackle Liang Wenbo, the Chinese player who beat him at the UK Championship in December.
World number five Trump won the China Open at the start of April, just as he did before his run to his first Crucible final. It could be a good omen.
He was a semi-finalist at the World Championship last year, losing to eventual champion Stuart Bingham, and his desire to take the title is immense.
“I’ve got enough experience now,” Trump said.
“There’s no reason anymore why I shouldn’t be winning here. I’m not too young, it’s not come too early now, so there’s no more excuses. I’ve had my five or 10 years of growing up.
“Ronnie won it when he was 25, which is quite old for someone that good, so if I win it this year or next year I’m still not far behind him and he’s the greatest player ever. I’m still young but I’ve got a lot of experience that people my age shouldn’t really have so I need to use that now.”
The £330,000 top prize would be a welcome bonus, but Trump does not need the money at this stage of his life.
Joining the ranks of the world champions whose portraits line the walls of the South Yorkshire theatre is his objective.
“In my eyes it’s 10 times bigger than the other tournaments,” Trump told Press Association Sport.
“It’s the last thing I need to top off what I wanted to do when I was a kid. I feel I’ve achieved everything else.
“To win it this year would be extra special.”
Saturday sees Bingham begin his defence with a tricky opener against two-time runner-up Ali Carter, while former champions Peter Ebdon and Shaun Murphy are among those also beginning their campaigns.
There is no other challenge like it in snooker. The so-called marathon of the mind will be won by the player who matches a measured approach to the challenge with the form of his life.
O’Sullivan knows exactly what it takes, after his triumphs in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013, and he starts as the favourite.
But he has hit stumbling blocks in the past, including Bingham at the quarter-final stage last year.
“Good luck to the fella that wins here because he deserves it,” O’Sullivan said.
“If that’s me, fantastic.”