Published Tuesday, 17 April 2012
There will be plenty of eyes focussed on Allen when the Snooker World Championship kicks off in Sheffield next week both because of his form and his press conferences.
The Antrim man has enjoyed relative success in the past three years at the famous arena having reached the semi final in 2009 and quarters in both 2010 and 2011. However, he faces a tough challenge to better his previous results following yesterdays draw leaving him in the same bracket as past winners Neil Robertson and Ronnie O'Sullivan along with second seed Mark Selby and the ever dangerous Marco Fu.
Allen should go into the tournament with confidence following his win at the World Open in March and UK Open final appearance but he doesn't strike me as someone who is particularly low on self-confidence in the first place. I admit I am not an avid follower of snooker, in fact other than what I manage to catch on terrestrial TV I don't really pay much attention to it but this year I can't wait to watch the World Championship. It's not that I have suddenly developed an intense passion for it, though I have always enjoyed the game, no I just want to watch and listen to Mark Allen.
Over the last few years, possibly even the last decade, snooker has lacked the intriguing characters it once produced. Northern Ireland was at the forefront of this, producing the most entertaining man to lift a snooker cue, the late great Alex Higgins. I remember my dad telling me all about him and Jimmy White and the famous black ball fight between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis and I remember hearing the passion in his voice and seeing the nostalgia in his eyes. Now, he barely watches the sport not because he no longer cares for it but because there is no sense of theatre or personality any more, instead every snooker player looks a carbon copy of the other.
That is why Mark Allen is so good for snooker. He is bringing people back into the game because he is making noise, he shouts to the rest of the world "Oi, look over here, look what I'm doing" and we all pop our head out like little meerkats to have a look. Just like Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Alex Higgins he likes to shake up the establishment and ruffle a few feathers, from his publicised spat with Barry Hearne, showing up for a press conference with his mouth gagged with gaffer tape and even tweets which only upset a billion people in China. Mark Allen is good at creating a bit of buzz.
For my own personal enjoyment, I want Mark Allen to change his nickname to Mark 'Anarchy' Allen and walk into the crucible with the Sex Pistols 'Anarchy in the UK' blasting out behind him. Ok, I realise this will never happen and I'm probably going a bit overboard with how I'm portraying Allen as snooker's answer to Johnny Rotten but that is what sport is about.
For too long now snooker has been dull, drab, boring, uneventful and any other description you care to use. I would describe snooker over the last few years as a personality vacuum, it's an empty space void of character but thankfully Mark Allen is introducing some sort of interest and reason to watch.
On the 7th May I would like to see Northern Ireland's own Mark Allen with the World Championship in one hand, microphone in the other and deliver something memorable I can tell my son about with the same glint in my eye as my dad had when he spoke about the Hurricane.