1) IAN SARGENT – “The quickest I’ve seen,” said expert Phil Yates. “He was extraordinary.” The Welshman was fast, but never broke into the top 100 of the world rankings and left the professional circuit in 2005.
2) TONY DRAGO – ‘The Tornado’ from Malta once made a century break in three minutes, 31 seconds and explained: “I’m a very hyper active and nervous character on and off the table and that’s why I play fast. If I go to buy a pair of shoes and there are 10 people in front of me in the queue, I go home and come back the next day.”
3) ALEX HIGGINS – Ronnie O’Sullivan said of ‘The Hurricane:’ “The way he played at his best is the way I believe the game should be played. It was on the edge, keeping the crowd entertained and glued to the action.” He told reporters he was always thinking six shots ahead and had once raced to a 118 break in two minutes 18 seconds. His speed around the table was a consequence of his misspent youth. As a 12 year old, Higgins, apparently drawn to snooker by the “coloured balls and sticks,” had developed his skills enough to take some extra pocket money off the regulars at The Jampot in Belfast and fearing a clip round the ear from whoever he was humbling, would move onto his next shot as quickly as possible.
4) JIMMY WHITE – The Times once wrote of ‘The Whirlwind’ in the mid-1980s: “He has everything the people could wish for. A great crashing adventurousness with the balls, staggering skills, awesome power . . . He makes snooker seem a gay, chivalrous thing, one in which a young man could happily toss away his life with a smile : if Harry Hotspur had been a snooker player, he would have been Jimmy White of Tooting.”
5) RONNIE O’SULLVAN – Blessed with an extraordinary snooker brain – “He knows where the balls are going to go,” said Yates – O’Sullivan rocketed to a record-breaking maximum 147 in just five minutes 20 seconds in the first round of the 1997 world championships against Mick Price. He said once: “I like to win frames in one visit, put my opponent under pressure and force him into making mistakes. I don’t want to be out there for three or four hours. I want to get the match over as quickly as possible, win or lose. I couldn’t do what Peter Ebdon does. I need to be flowing.”
6) CLIFF WILSON – Snooker expert Clive Everton described the Welshman as being “born ahead of his time: in his teens he was every bit as fast, fearless and brilliant a potter as Alex Higgins and Jimmy White have ever been. Unfortunately, his prime coincided with a time when there was no future in professional snooker and the game was comprehensively ignored by Fleet Street.”
7) WARREN SIMPSON – Everton said the Australian was “as quick around the table as Alex Higgins and almost as quick on the shot.” He reached the world championship final in 1970 and was beaten 37-29 by a peak John Spencer.
8) JOE DAVIS – Considered the father of modern snooker, Davis didn’t hang around. At the age of 61, he made a century break in around six minutes on television.
9) TERRY GRIFFITHS – The Welshman was a reckless youth – he was expelled from his grammar school for persistent truancy – and admitted that when he started playing snooker: “I would try and pot everything, safety was non-existent.” Griffiths won more matches than he lost, but in a bid to find a way to beat Steve Davis, he slowed his game down.
10) WILLIE THORNE – Once among the reds, ‘Mr Maximum’ – Gary Lineker’s best mate – was a wonderfully fluent break builder. Thorne returns to competitive snooker after a 14-year break for the World Seniors, that gets underway next month.