Richard Mann caught up with Eurosport's snooker pundit Neal Foulds ahead of the start of their coverage of the UK Championship in York.
For snooker fans across the land, Neal Foulds is synonymous with the sport.
Ranked as high as number three in the world when snooker was at its most popular, competing hard with the likes of Steven Hendry, Steve Davis and Jimmy White, Foulds has now become one of the leading pundits in the game.
Foulds can currently be found proffering his wisdom on Eurosport’s excellent snooker coverage which doesn’t only operate at the ‘Triple Crown’ events, but continues to support and promote the sport throughout the year.
Alongside long-time friend Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan – when O’Sullivan is not in action himself – Foulds has helped drive coverage that is fast becoming the most popular and widely respected in the sport.
Speaking exclusively to Sporting Life ahead of the UK Championship, Foulds spoke about his pride of working on a channel that is working hard to try and cover snooker in the ‘right way' while also explaining why he thinks O’Sullivan to be hard to beat in York.
Foulds said: "The idea is to try and keep snooker real. It’s never a dull moment working with Jimmy White. He interests people with genuine stories of the game, some stories that maybe can’t be told to camera!
"We’re trying to make sure that snooker stays in the right kind of environment. People like watching it and having a laugh but also respect it for the serious sport that it is.
"What Eurosport does do is show live sport, live snooker. We don’t show anything recorded and if you want to watch live snooker you can watch it. That’s the most important thing of all."
Someone Foulds has worked closely with at Eurosport is current UK Championship favourite O’Sullivan and Foulds thinks the further his colleague goes at York, the harder he will be to stop in his quest for a record seventh UK title.
He said: "He’s got a tremendous chance.
"The further he gets into the draw, the harder he will be to beat, as long as he doesn’t implode or do anything silly.
"You look at the previous winners of this event, you don’t get too many lesser lights in the final.
"The finalists here are usually the big, big guns – O’Sullivan, Selby, Murphy, Robertson. Generally, it [the title] usually goes to a top player.”
Foulds would know better than most what is required at the UK Championship having made the final of the tournament back in 1986.
"The tournament was a bit different then, the final was over two days and the best of 31 frames, but it’s still the first big tournament of the new season as such," he reflected.
"I think deep down a lot of players would look to win any tournament that’s going, especially a ranking event, but when you get to this time of year you’ve got this tournament and then the other side of Christmas you’ve got the Masters.
"For many, this is where the season really starts."
With Mark Selby having already made an early exit, two more players who will fancy their chances in York will be Kyren Wilson and Judd Trump - who whose rivalry has intensified in recent weeks.
On the pair, Foulds said: "I get on really well with the both of them, they are both good lads and snooker has had bigger rivalries than this. Look at Steve Davis and Alex Higgins, they couldn’t bear each other.
"We all like a little bit of needle, there is nothing wrong with that in sport. A bit of on-the-table rivalry, that’s what it's all about."
Jack Lisowski is another young player who Foulds rates highly, with a lack of tournament wins something he hopes can be put right sooner rather than later.
Foulds added: "He’s a terrific player. The problem is with him, he’s got to start winning things.
"He’s been very, very consistent. I’m a big fan and I really would love to see him win because I like him a lot.
"He’s got to prove that he’s got the grit and determination and when it comes to the big players, he’s got to prove he can go and beat them.
"What he is doing is getting his game together which is a good thing. He’s a gifted player."
One of those big players Lisowski might need to overcome in York is O’Sullivan, and Foulds is in no doubt that The Rocket is the greatest player to ever grace the game, just ahead of Stephen Hendry.
Foulds explained: "A 17-year-old Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Stephen Hendry in the UK Championship final. People look for these mythical match-ups, but that was a match that really happened.
"Stephen Hendry in his prime was a wonderful player but during that time, a 17-year-old O’Sullivan managed to beat him.
"There was a ten-year period where Hendry was almost unstoppable, but if O’Sullivan had have been there during that period of time I think he would have had the edge.
"For me, O’Sullivan is the best player I’ve ever seen. Hendry is right in there, there’s so little between them, but O’Sullivan has been there for longer and has done more.
"He does things on a snooker table that I don’t think we’ll ever see anyone else doing."
- You can follow the UK Championship live with Neal and the rest of the Eurosport team on Sky channels 410 and 411.