By Marcus Stead

BARRY snooker legend Anthony Davies took some time to reflect on his career, and revealed that at the age of 50, he’s still got the competitive bug.

Anthony’s snooker journey began at the age of 12 when he used to sneak in to Butlin’s holiday camp in Barry Island with his friend, Paul Dawkins, who went on to become Welsh amateur champion in 1988 and 1989, but only spent one season on the professional tour after struggling to adapt to its demands.

“Paul was an incredible player as a youngster, he had a tremendous talent” Anthony said.

“There used to be snooker exhibitions on a regular basis in Barry Island, we saw so many of the world’s best players there.

David Taylor, the Silver Fox was very popular, as were Willie Thorne and Silvino Francisco.

“They were great days.”

At the age of 18, he made his first 147 maximum break in practice, and two years later, he earned a place on the professional tour.

In 1994, Anthony reached the last 32 of the World Championship for the first time, which saw him play at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, where he lost 10-7 to the experienced Neal Foulds, and he returned the following year, where he was defeated by fellow Welshman Darren Morgan, who he had been playing since their days in the local junior ranks.

A year later, he had the best tournament run of his career when he reached the quarter-finals of the European Open in Valetta, Malta, with victories over Thai great James Wattana and 1986 world champion Joe Johnson, before losing 5-3 to Joe Swail.

Later in 1996, he was part of a three-man team that represented Wales in the World Cup, alongside Darren Morgan and Mark Williams, where they suffered an agonising 10-9 defeat to host nation Thailand in the quarter-finals.

Arguably the most memorable moment of Anthony’s playing career came in late September 2001 at the last 32 of the British Open in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, when, in front of a live TV audience on Sky Sports, he caused a massive upset by defeating seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry 5-1. Anthony looks back on that victory fondly:

“The press attention after that was incredible.

“I’d been looking to life beyond snooker for a while and had tried to get into the police force.

“The next day, there was a newspaper headline ‘Hendry Cops It!’, which I’ve kept for all these years.”

Anthony failed to get into the police on his second attempt, but looking back, he says that gave him a ‘kick up the backside’ to rededicate himself to snooker.

A year later, Anthony reached the Crucible for the third and final time, where he defeated 1994 Masters champion Alan McManus 10-7 in the opening round, after which he again faced Hendry, but there was to be no fairy-tale this time, as he succumbed to a 13-3 defeat.

This was to be the high water mark of Anthony’s career, he reached a world ranking of 26, though in 2003/04 he suffered a severe loss of form, leading to his relegation from the Main Tour in 2005.

With his professional playing days behind him, Anthony became Wales’s national snooker coach, helping to develop the games of numerous youngsters, including fellow Barry based players Sam Thomas and Ryan Rowlands, who went on to represent Wales at international amateur events.

In the years since, Anthony has worked for organisations that assist youngsters with autism, and today he works for Llamau, a charity offering support to young people and women who are homeless or have been abused.

“It’s challenging on times but it’s a very rewarding job,” he said.

“Inevitably, the current covid-19 pandemic brings with it some new problems.

“There are a lot of anxious, worried people at the moment, and we do what we can to help.”

Anthony remains involved by coaching and occasionally playing at the Savoy Snooker Club, in Barry, which is run by fellow former professional Mark Bennett.

Now aged 50, Anthony is considering a playing comeback of sorts, by entering the World Snooker Federation Open, due to be staged in Australia early next year, which will attract a strong field of leading amateur players:

“My son Alfie has done very well as a Wales junior international so he’s likely to take part, and there’s nothing to stop me from entering as well.

“None of us knows when normal life will resume, but if the tournament goes ahead, I hope to be there.”