Snooker: Mark Selby a working class hero in sport wrongly accused of lacking characters

Snooker: Mark Selby a working class hero in sport wrongly accused of lacking characters

07/03/2015 at 14:49Updated

The image of him clasping snooker's greatest silver pot fails to tell you the real story that Mark Selby was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Far from it. Mark Selby is a world champion who has been battered with greater emotional body blows than a barrage of century breaks.

He could easily have quit and disappeared between society's cracks, but Selby has made it through the rain and kept his point of view.

Like the Steve Davis-Dennis Taylor world final from 1985 and a salivating 18.5 million television audience, an engrossing documentary Mark Selby: Life of a World Champion truly was something to behold. Unfortunately, Sky Sports 5 at 9pm on a Friday night is not an obscure outpost most people are turning their thoughts to when "personalities" such as Jonnny Vegas and Cheryl Cole are washing up on The Graham Norton show on the main terrestrial channels.

One would just conclude that the documentary on Selby was far more interesting, revealing and thought-provoking than anything else doing the rounds on mainstream television on the cusp of the weekend.

It is just a pity that such an excellent programme should be relegated to such an niche time slot by Sky Sports when it is worthier of more recognition. Most snooker enthusiasts know Selby is an outstanding sports professional, but he is much more than the one-dimensional figure who people see on television.

Critics who say Selby is boring to watch are not seeing the bigger picture. They are doing a disservice to a figure whose voracious appetite to practice and succeed in his chosen field should be a blueprint for any aspiring youngster in any sport.

During the documentary, Selby reveals that he was eight when his parents split up. His mum ran out on him and his brother.

"It was difficult to focus on snooker knowing I had the heartbreak of my mum leaving me at that time as well," he reveals.

For a man nicknamed the 'Jester from Leicester', life has been no laughing matter. Selby came from the wrong side of the tracks in Leicester, so to speak.

"I come back so much because it seems to keep me grounded," he reveals as he revisits the modest house and dilapidated area where he was raised, partly by himself.

When his mum left the family home, he had to help out his father David with the cooking as his dad wasn't the best in the kitchen. At eight or nine he went to the local social club with his dad. For a year or two, he was playing at the social club. Then he started to beat the local members. Life being life, a few people complained. He was stopped from playing there.

Malcolm Thorne, the late brother of the Leicester professional and snooker pundit Willie Thorne, saw potential in the aspiring Selby. It was due to his support and financial assistance that he could attend junior events. But Willie Thorne admits: "I never thought he'd make it as a pro. A good amateur, but never a professional."

In the autumn of 1999, Mark's father died of cancer. His dad was diagnosed in September before passing away at the end of October. At the age of 16, he was left without a mother or father before a family friend provided valuable refuge in his formative years.

"It gives you that extra bit of steel if you come from nothing. Because things haven't been handed to you on a plate then you have to be that little bit better. It is quite good in a way to be yourself against the world, " commented the World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.

Selby is the archetypal working class hero. Having spoken to Selby a few times over the past few years, you would never know what he has been through by looking at him. He is always a thoroughly pleasant, well-mannered chap. In such a respect, you should never judge a book by its cover.

The hoary old line trotted out about snooker being devoid of characters or personality should really be dispensed with as quickly as Ronnie O'Sullivan running in a ton. It is garbage trotted out by ignoramuses with the attention span of a mite.

To say that Mark Selby, still only 31, has succeeded against the odds is an understatement. His recovery from 10-5 down against O'Sullivan to win his first world title last May is simple in comparison to what Selby has handled with unerring wisdom and maturity in life.

Yet remarkably, he has swatted it all off with an astonishing single-mindedness to make the best of himself despite overcoming hurdle after hurdle to reach the very summit of his profession.

Not only is the Selby documentary heart-warming, it should be filed as required viewing for people who are feeling a bit despondent about their lot in life.

"I wasn't as naturally talented as a lot of the players, but in a way I preferred it like that 'cause I had to put the hours in on the table. And put the hard work in," said Selby.

Selby has never deviated from where he came from. His lack of qualifications from school due to his voracious appetite for snooker has not made him less of a man.

Selby is hardly representative of the old mantra that snooker is the sign of a misspent youth. He is a man with a PHD in potting balls for a living.

In his spare time, he continues to dedicate himself to the charity work of the hospice in Leicester that cared for his father as he fought a losing battle with cancer.

If you adopt the Selby approach to life and his snooker game, good things can happen if you hang in there. Nice guys can finish first.

One was left with the opinion that not only is Selby an outstanding snooker player, here is an exceptional human being.

A working class hero remains something to be.

Desmond Kane