Chris Norbury pleased with snooker's direction

Lancashire Telegraph: Chris Norbury Chris Norbury

CHRIS Norbury will allow himself a few days off over Christmas.

The Accrington snooker star who secured a stunning surprise success over Martin Gould in the UK Championship, the final of which is played tomorrow, to reach the second round, admits he will have some time off during the festive season.

But the 27-year-old is grateful for a busy December diary where he will attempt to qualify for the German Masters and the World Open before returning to action in the new year.

For not so long ago, Norbury would not only have had Christmas off., he would have had all of January and most of February off too.

But since Barry Hearn has shaken up the snooker calendar and created a host of events, there are now tournaments almost every week rather than the sporadic scheduling of previous years.

Norbury said: “The way snooker has been since Barry Hearn took over is just unbelievable. He has done wonders for the sport.

“Before he came in you might only have six tournaments in a year.

“I remember playing in a UK Championship qualifier and playing well but losing. I went to the official to get the date of the next competition and it was in the middle of February, which was over two and a half months away.

“I was a professional snooker player and I had no tournaments to play in for two and a half months. It was ridiculous.

“Now there are tournaments all the time and you are always going on to the next one. That is much better.

“I know some people are saying there is too much snooker but I just go back to when I was first getting onto the tour and all I wanted to do was play snooker. That hasn’t changed.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the top three in the world are Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui. You never hear them complaining about the schedule. You never hear them moaning and they just come to every tournament and do their best and play snooker.”

Norbury’s fantastic win over world No.24 Gould was made possible in part, due to snooker authorities opening up the UK Championship to an expanded draw of 128 players rather than 32.

That move drew some criticism from a number of top players but Norbury believes it is a move that had to be made.

“I just think it’s got to be the way forward,” he said. “There used to be a huge advantage to the top 16 because you would always be guaranteed entry into the later rounds if you were in the top 16.

“I know a few of them have complained about it but if you are in the top 16 you should back yourself to beat whoever you are playing.

“Having 128 in the draw has obviously benefited me because before I would have had to play four qualifiers just to get into the tournament.

“It is the only way to keep taking snooker forward. It’s the same in tennis, I don’t hear Roger Federer or Andy Murray complaining at Wimbledon that they have to play a round one match with 127 other players in the draw. It happens in other sports so it should happen in snooker.”

Norbury rallied from 3-2 down to beat Gould 6-3 in York but admitted he was slightly disappointed he couldn’t follow up his win in round two where he was beaten 6-0 by Anthony McGill.

“I didn’t think I played that badly,” said Norbury of his defeat. “I came off at the interval thinking I should be 2-2 but instead I was four down and from there you are always fighting.

“I lost the next frame when he got a bit lucky and then he made a century to win the match. I actually thought I played as well as I did in the first round match but that’s snooker.

“It was frustrating because the balls just didn’t run for me and I couldn’t build on that win over Martin.”

But despite falling at the second hurdle, one round short of playing in the main arena at York, Norbury admits he has taken a huge amount of confidence from disposing of Gould – a winner of three tournaments last season.

“Martin is a great player and to beat him was a great result,” added the world No.112 “I had a very poor set of results before the UK Championship and my confidence was not high going into the tournament but that result turned it around straight away.

I always thought I had a chance. I know how well I can play and I don’t know how well Martin was playing but it meant a lot to get the win.”

Norbury, who co-owns Elite Snooker Club in Preston where he practices, is now targeting an improved ranking as he heads to his qualifying double-header in Barnsley next week.

He added: “I want to get my ranking as high as I possibly can. I think it will rise to around 100 when the new rankings are published but it just a case of going as high as I can.

“Having the snooker club has really helped me as well. The business is going well and I really enjoy it. I want to keep it growing and make sure anyone who comes down wants to come back and enjoys themselves.

“It gives me somewhere to practice and it gives me something to get away from snooker with.

“I don’t see any reason why I can’t be a top 64 player. I look at some of the guys around there and I believe I am as good as them and it is now time for me to show that.”

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