World Championship qualifiers: Jimmy White bids for one last Crucible hurrah

Snooker

Jimmy White is the headline act as the qualifiers for the World Championship begin at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on Wednesday.

The 'Whirlwind' will bid for one last Crucible hurrah when he kicks off his qualifying campaign against Sam Craigie this week.

Click here for the full Crucible qualifying draw, schedule and results

White firmly established himself as the 'people's champion' when bursting onto the scene in the 1980s, his bold, attacking style of play helping the game reach a new audience, and he has remained immensely popular ever since.

He has amassed an array of titles in a glittering career but it is his love affair with Sheffield and the World Championship that has defined White the player, and the person.

White has enjoyed some of his best moments at the Crucible, making a brilliant 147 maximum break in 1992 and producing some incredible snooker to reach six World Championship finals, but defeat on each of those occasions has left his CV short of the one title he has craved more than any other.

A first final appearance in Sheffield came in 1984 when he lost out to Steve Davis and despite reaching five consecutive finals between 1990 and 1994, White was to come up short each time.

The last of those defeats was arguably the most heartbreaking; White led Stephen Hendry by 37 points in the deciding frame when in the balls and seemingly on course for a first world title, only to miss a simple black off the spot and allow Hendry to clear up with a typically clinical break of 58.

White would never make another Crucible final - a run to the quarter-finals in 1997 the best performance he has managed in Sheffield since - as his powers waned over time.

Still, the Whirlwind remains as popular as ever with young and old alike falling for his charm and willing him on wherever he turns out, though his fans haven't had too much too cheer about this season.



With that in mind, he could have a tough task on his hands to get past Craigie before two more potential matches which need to be negotiated to earn another Crucible appearance.

Craigie is a player on the up and has enjoyed wins over Barry Hawkins and Jamie Jones this season before pushing Neil Roberston hard in the last 32 of the China Open.

The Sheffield air has always had a funny way of inspiring White, though, and with the snooker fraternity sure to be willing him on, it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that he could set up a potential clash with Joe Perry before one last push in the final qualifier.

White faces Craigie on Thursday and while the odds are seemingly against him, sometimes it is nice to dream and maybe, just maybe, there is one final act to be written in the Jimmy White story.



Elsewhere, Ryan Day, Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott are other headline names bidding to reach the first round proper.

Day has been one of the form players on the tour this season, winning three titles - two of those being ranking events - and it will be very disappointing if he isn't able to make the final stages.

Despite enjoying less high-profile success, Maguire has been back to somewhere close to his best at times this term and the UK Championship semi-finalist is another who is expected to progress through to the Crucible.

For Dott, World Champion in 2006, there will be added pressure to make it to the final stages but the Scot is a tough cookie and ought to find a way to get the job done.

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