OUR area has long been renowned for it's love affair with snooker.
As long ago as the 1960s and 70' professionals such as Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor chose to base themselves in East Lancashire and practice with local amateurs such as Bob Sharp and Harry Taylor.
In the 80s, Darwen's John Harrop was the player we all sought to emulate whilst the 1990s saw local men Alf Bellusci and Colin Morton flirt with the professional ranks.
But what about now? I'm happy to report that snooker in our area is alive and well and once again producing players with the passion and ability that should see the sport thrive well into the future. Bellusci is still going strong and Justin Astley has been on and off the main tour regularly over the past 10 years.
Add to these up and coming players such as Jonny Hannan, Mark Slattery and Jonathon Wignall and one can see why the standard is so high. Accrington alone can provide half a dozen or more players capable of competing with the best. Players like Dale Clark and Farak Ajaib to name just two.
The reason for this success can be attributed to the many thriving local leagues the area enjoys. Indeed during the winter season there are leagues taking place from Monday through till Thursday and quite a number of the quality players compete in them all.
he recent Individual Snooker Championship organised by Tommy Hannan has given these players the opportunity to showcase their skills and at times the standard has been remarkable.
Another reason for the game's popularity is the rapid upsurge in small tables snooker. With the demise of many local Working Mens and Conservative Clubs there simply aren't as many full size tables available.
The smaller three quarter tables are the ideal solution for the pubs and the clubs that are doing well are quick to see the opportunity to draw custom on a quieter night.
Venues such as Longshaw SSC and St Pauls WMC will be entering teams in the small tables league this season as will Hollins Grove Conservative Club if their search for a table comes off in time.
All in all it looks as though snooker in our area is in safe hands.
Shaun Pendlebury, Blackburn and Darwen Snooker League