Robert 'The Milkman' Milkins has remarkably lived a lifetime inside three weeks of rabid turbulence on and off the snooker table.
After being largely reduced to a state of apologetic rubble during his 46th birthday celebrations in the Turkish city of Antalya at the outset of March, the fast-moving Bristol professional ended the month as a tournament winner of unapologetic granite on the Rock of Gibraltar.
One day you are a feather duster, the next you are a potting peacock. Or something like that.
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“It’s been a long time coming,” said Milkins. “I have worked all my career for this.
I can't believe it. It is a dream come true. It is our life. It is hard to keep going, practising, practising, practising. Moments like this, it is all worthwhile.
As far as stories of sporting redemption go, this one should be firmly reserved for folklore with the outrageously talented and likeable Milkins clasping the first ranking title of his plodding 27-year career as Gibraltar Open champion and a £50,000 first prize.
'The Milkman' delivered after enduring what is commonly known in popular red top parlance as a "booze hell" amid some sozzled tales of yore.
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His success came only three weeks after he unwittingly paid homage to the sport’s character-laden golden days of the 1980s by downing a few pints of confidence at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Turkish Masters on Sunday 6 March in the coastal city of Antalya.
By Saturday 26 March, he was clutching a major trophy amid some surreal happenings.
"Big Thx everyone for great messages, really appreciated!," he said on Twitter. "Will get back to you all individually over next day or so!been eventful couple of weeks and now absolutely drained, goodnight."
Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins on the rampage at the peak of his unquenchable powers could not have provided more juicy fodder with Milkins apparently becoming embroiled in verbal jousts with guests, dignitaries and a “heated exchange” with WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson in Turkey.
Of course, it is all wonderfully silly stuff easily fixed with an apology after the misery of a lingering hangover, but the more worrying aspects of his big night on the sauce saw Milkins fall and cut his chin before being wheeled off to a local hospital by fellow professional Jimmy Robertson to have his stomach pumped.
“I drank far too much, and something happened. I genuinely don’t know exactly what and cannot remember details – I was in a state where I didn’t know where I was," said Milkins.
“It was my birthday and I had been drinking for a long time, but that is no excuse and I know that. I don’t know why, I did all this when I was in my 20s.
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“I don’t remember what happened with the hotel guests or Jason Ferguson – none of it. I can only apologise to any guests I offended that night. I wouldn’t have known who it was.
“And I have apologised to the organisers and the hotel. It is the first time snooker has come to Turkey, and my behaviour was totally out of order."
There but for the grace of God go I. If Milkins had done lasting damage due to his over exuberance, he would not have known what was around the corner as he turned the corner in quite spectacular style when compos mentis.
Milkins can pot balls for fun at a spectacular rate of noughts – with 173 centuries he is inside the top 50 of all time – and knots, but he did not expect his dreams to suddenly crystalise after such a sustained period on the wane.
He lost 5-4 to Ding Junhui in the second round of the Turkish Masters from 4-1 up after his well-documented drinking session, a defeat commensurate with the rest of a fairly dismal campaign that had witnessed him win only three matches and fail to go beyond the last 64 of any event.
The journey to Gibraltar altered the nature of his season and perhaps his career as he enjoyed wins over Lei Peifan (4-0), Jamie Wilson (4-1), Mark Allen (4-3), Lyu Haotian (4-2), Ben Hancorn (4-2) and Jak Jones (4-2) before a 4-2 final success against Kyren Wilson completed a remarkable renaissance period.
“I’m just happy with life. I’ve got two great kids, a great missus, a great coach and a great manager. I don’t need anything else in life. I was £30,000 in debt, going to the pub every day and I was just going down in the gutter a few years ago, so to be here now is amazing,” he said after toppling Neil Robertson 10-8 in the first round of the 2013 World Championship, the first of two Crucible victories against the Masters champion.
I lost my mum, my dad and I got divorced. It blew me apart. I didn’t get any help at the time.
With 15 breaks over 50 compiled in carrying off the trophy at the Europa Point Sports Complex in Gibraltar, Milkins is provisionally up to 27 in the world from 43, looking upwards in safeguarding his spot on the main circuit.
After Jordan Brown and Joe Perry upset the odds to lift the Welsh Open, Zhao Xintong's win at the UK Championship and Fan Zhengyi usurping Ronnie O'Sullivan in the European Masters final, Milkins continues the year-long theme of snooker events being wide open to the bloke who most fancies the job.
A figure whose walk-on music is the pointed 1970s I Am A Cider Drinker by the Wurzels certainly possesses the attributes to extend this golden summer after becoming the oldest maiden ranking event winner since Doug Mountjoy usurped Stephen Hendry 16-12 at the 1988 UK Championship.
Milkins has been blighted by heavy drinking and debt after the untold pain of losing both his parents, but his unique tale is one of personal and professional redemption. About picking yourself up off the deck when times are bleak.
The Ides of March and the tides of sporting fortune prompt greater meaning.
Such startling success could not happen to a more deserving bloke, but his story represents more than merely winning a snooker tournament.
It is a rousing personal triumph and a genuine life lesson in the value of wonderful mental fortitude.
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