Leith’s Chris Small, who was forced to retire from playing snooker through injury in 2005, is bidding to return to the sport as a coach.
Small’s greatest achievement as a player was winning the prestigious LG Cup in 2002 as a 150-1 outsider, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins before clinching a 9–5 win over Alan McManus in the final, pictured right. However, after years of pain at the table as he fought the spinal condition ankylosing spondylitis, Small was forced to quit.
Now, after seven years away from the sport, he is hoping to offer his expertise and experience to up-and-coming players in a coaching capacity.
He said: “I have decided that I have spent enough time away from snooker and it’s time to make a new start and get involved again.
“I can never play snooker again but I can help others and I think I can offer still something to the game.
“I know that the top players like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Alan McManus didn’t like playing me so hopefully I have some things that I can pass on to others and help them improve their game. I was watching the recent event in China and it is hard sometimes as I am thinking to myself that I should be playing there instead of being at home watching it on television – but I just couldn’t carry on after years of pain.
“I had a good career but I couldn’t get my head up high enough to see the balls so unfortunately I had to retire much earlier than I had hoped.
“I still get a real buzz from snooker and I now need to do something about it to get more involved again. I have spent a quite lot of time with (Bonnyrigg-based player) Michael Leslie throughout the years and it was a great feeling when he won the European Under-21s to turn pro, knowing that some of the things I have been able to pass on to him helped him get there.
“I now I want to help more young players improve their game and hopefully get some more Scottish players following him onto the pro circuit.”
Leslie, practising for UKPTC Event 5 in Gloucester where he will meet China’s Yu Delu on Tuesday, believes Small has what it takes to make the grade as a coach. He said: “Chris has definitely been a great help to me. I remember when I was just starting and he was able to help me with different things that made me a better player.
“I have seen many coaches in Scotland and Chris is the best one I have worked with. Last week, I spent some time with him and within minutes of watching me he had seen changes I needed to make in the way I was cueing. Whether you are playing the game seriously or you just want to play at a better standard in your local league or against your friends at your club then I am sure that Chris will definitely improve your game.
“He knows so much about technique, shot selection and the mental side of the game and he has so much experience that you can only benefit from spending time with him. He is also good fun to be around and makes you feel relaxed and it makes it more enjoyable.”
Granton star Craig MacGillivray, a rival of Small during their days in their junior ranks, also believes the 39-year-old can make his mark in coaching.
MacGillivray, who has won the opening two Masters events and first Main tour event of the Scottish amateur snooker season, said: “It’s great to see Chris is now starting to realise that he has a lot to offer the game. Chris is a winner and he proved that by beating the odds to win a professional ranking event, which was a fantastic achievement.
“He knows what is required technically and mentally to be a good snooker player and anyone who listens to him will become a better player. He has done it at the highest level and I really hope that he can make a real success out it.”
• To arrange a coaching session with Chris Small, call 07707 650567.