For gentleman of a certain age, the World Snooker Championship will always mean late nights in front of the television, unfinished homework, the assured commentary of Ted Lowe and Clive Everton, and the click of the balls as characters from Cliff ‘The Grinder’ Thorburn through to Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins chased one of the biggest prizes in sport over 17 days of increasingly intense competition.

The glory days of the 1980s and ´90s may have ebbed away, and today’s players might not be front-page news, subject to accusations of cocaine addiction (Kirk Stevens) or cross-dressing (Tony Knowles), but this year Sheffield has seen the return of Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan and the tournament carries a prize fund of more than £1m. Tickets are reported to have sold out in record time.

Everton believes the intimacy of The Crucible is key to this. “There are only 980 seats and you feel that you can almost touch the players,” he says. “The atmosphere is hard to describe, but it is special and communicates itself to those watching on television. It has changed so little over the years that it’s like you’re in the presence of the ghosts of the past.” Ghosts like these…



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