THE TRAGIC death of Paul Hunter has devastated not only the snooker community but also the hearts of people all round the world. Aged just 27, he has left behind him a legacy that can never be filled.

Nicknamed the ‘Beckham of the Baize’ because of his dazzling looks, his stunning wife and his ambition to be the best, Paul will forever be remembered as one of the finest snooker players ever to grace the the green baize.

Born in Leeds, he first potted a ball at the tender age of seven and was a revelation ever since.

The likeable potter turned professional at 16 and most notably burst onto the big stage back in 1998 when he won the Welsh Open at just 19, becoming only the second youngest player ever to win a major event.

This was just the beginning for a player who was to become something very special.

Success continued for Paul in the shape of his first Masters title in 2001 – a tournament he seemed to fall in love with.

Paul famously revealed the reason behind his famous victory that year after admitting have result to ‘plan B’ with his then girlfriend Lyndsey during the mid- session interview. This justified his status as the pin-up boy of snooker.

He came back the following year to win the Masters title again which capped a fantastic season for Englishman after winning three major tournaments and by now he had firmly established himself as one of the finest snooker players on the circuit.

Anyone who wins back-to–back is a great player,” described former player now commentator Willie Thorne.

He told the BBC Sport: “Paul Hunter was a great player and I’m sure that he would have been a future world champion, without a doubt.”

As Paul’s world ranking grew so too did his reputation. As well as winning tournaments, Paul showed to the world that snooker wasn’t the only thing important to him as he married his beautiful girlfriend.

His next and what tragically proved to be his last tournament victory was the Masters title once more in 2004 as he became only the third player in snooker history to win the event three times.

He beat close friend and rival Ronnie O Sullivan 10-9 in what many would consider one of the greatest games in the history of the sport.

In March 2005 Paul was diagnosed with Cancer while as the peak of his game.

But showed bravery and pride by playing through the pain barrier, participating in the World Snooker Championships against all odds that same year.

Unfortunately he was knocked out at the first hurdle to Michael Holt, but his presence was miraculous.

In his final season, Paul slipped to 34th in the world rankings and his game was clearly affected by his illness.

Off the table he battled on and was granted what some would call a miracle when his wife gave birth to their daughter Evie Rose.

Paul sadly passed away from the world he dearly loved on October 19 2006 just a couple of days short of his 28th birthday.

He has left behind him a legacy which no player or person could fill. Snooker has been robbed of a potential world number one.

Former World Champion, Ken Doherty, a close friend of Paul, passionately described his close friend in no better way: “We’ve lost a great character, champion and a great friend.

“It’s a shocking loss. He had everything, the world at his feet and it’s such as shame. He was one of our characters and a fantastic player.”



JUDD Trump is predicting a bright future for his friend Michael Wasley after the world number 73 pulled off one of the biggest shocks at the Crucible in recent years.

Qualifier Wasley, who won for matches to qualify for the Dafabet World Championships, defeated in-form Ding Junhui 10-9 late on Monday night.

Chinese sensation Ding was one of the favourites to win his first world title heading into the tournament having already won five ranking events this season.

But Wasley, from Gloucestershire, produced the performance of his career to progress into the last 16 where he will meet Dominic Dale on Saturday evening.

Trump, who is also 24 and saw off Tom Ford 10-8 to progress to the next round, grew up with Wasley and believes his shock win can inspire a new generation of players to come through the ranks.

It’s good to see another player my age starting to come through,” said Trump.

I watched a bit of his match. It was good to watch and really good for him.

We’re the same age so I played in all of the junior tournaments with him.

This is only his second year on the tour and getting into the last 16 of the World Championships at that stage is something that I didn’t do so hopefully he’s got a big future in the game.

His next match will be harder because he’s coming in off the back of an excellent win – probably the biggest biggest shock in five years beating Ding who has won so many tournaments this year.

But I think if he can win the next game he could be a dangerous opponent because his performance against Ding would have frightened a few players I think.”

Despite progressing through to the last 16 himself, Trump was admittedly disappointed with his own performance.

But the 2011 finalist is drawing on the positives and is pleased not to have hit anywhere near top form ahead of his match against Ryan Day on Saturday.

Trump added: “But there’s probably going to be guys who play well in this tournament and lose so for me to play badly and still win is very pleasing.

In a way I’m quite happy I didn’t play quite well in my first game.

I’ve taught myself to be patient and not really worry about my performance too much because there has been times this year where I’ve played really well and lost.

At the end of the day that’s not important. There’s going to be people who flick on the TV on Saturday and see I’m still in the tournament so for that game has gone now.

It’s irrelevant. I’ve got four more matches to win the Championship. There’ still a long way to go and no player wants to be playing their best stuff in the first and second round.”

CCFC31_c1612372_121231_266MIDFIELDER James Bailey admits the 1-0 defeat at home to Shrewsbury Town on New Year’s Day was a wake up call.

It was the end of the Sky Blues’ eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

Marvin Morgan scored the only goal of the game as Shrewsbury recorded the double over Mark

Robins’ side this season.

The result leaves them five points off the play-offs heading into the second part of the season

and Bailey, who re-signed on loan from Derby until the end of the season this week, is confident the

squad has enough quality to make a return to the Championship.

“It’s unfortunate this has happened but it’s a wake up call and we’ve only got ourselves to blame,” Bailey told the Observer.

“The lads were devastated in the changing room after the game.

“It was a good chance to let every other club know that we’re here to mean business and get ourselves up the league but we just let ourselves down.

“But there’s no point dwelling on it now because we’ve got a big game on Saturday against

Spurs which will be a big day out for the fans and the players as well so we’re all looking forward to that now.”

Bailey was disappointed not to have started the game having missed the trip to MK Dons because his initial loan spell at the club had expired.

But the young midfielder is happy to be back at a club which can offer him first team football.

“I wanted to come back because I knew I wouldn’t have played at Derby.

“I’m not the sort of person that is happy to just sit on the bench. That isn’t me.

“You always want to start games as a player but the lads picked up a great result at MK Dons. I don’t think as a player you can ever just expect to play because if you do you might let your standards drop.

“So although I was disappointed not to start as you would do, the gaffer decided to stick with the

same midfield at MK Dons and I respect that.

“I’m getting on a bit now, I’m 24 so I wanted to come here on loan, do as best as I can and hopefully help get Coventry back up into the Championship.”

Striker David McGoldrick could have made his last appearance for the club after his three-month

loan spell at the Ricoh Arena came to an end on New Year’s Day.

The 24-year-old returns to Nottingham Forest this week having scored 17 goals in just 26

appearances for the Sky Blues.

And Bailey revealed McGoldrick will be a big miss both on and off the pitch should he decide not to return.

“He will be missed. He has had a huge influence since I’ve been here at the club.

“The fans love him to bits and he’s popped up in almost every game for us and scored throughout his loan spell.

“The fans will miss him and the lads will miss him too because he’s a good character to have

around the place.”

l102d997_c_c1643020_121212_357GARY McSheffrey has put his return to form down to being handed a first team lifeline by manager Mark Robins.

Last month McSheffrey revealed how he felt he needed to win the supporters over following a series of below-par performances.

But the 29-year-old seems to have done that with an inspirational performance against Walsall on

Saturday which earned him a standing ovation when he was substituted after 75 minutes.

“The standing ovation was nice, but I would have preferred to have stayed on the pitch for the full 90 minutes because there were more goals in that game,” he told the Observer.

“But it was a lovely feeling because only a few months ago there was one game when I got booed after we lost so it is nice.

“I know deep down my individual performances weren’t up to the standards I’ve set myself in the past, but I’ve always said I need to get match fit and give myself a run in the team.

“It always helps when other people are chipping in. David (McGoldrick) has got a lot of goals, Carl Baker is playing well and is getting goals too, our midfielders are playing well and the defence is looking quite solid.

“Everyone is doing their job at the minute.”

Saturday’s 5-1 victory moved the Sky Blues up to 15th in the table, nine points off the play-offs.

“Hopefully we’re heading back in the right direction but there’s still loads to do,” added McSheffrey.

“There’s still lots of games to come and we’ve just got to make sure we keep this momentum going because we had a bad start and it would be disappointing if that lets us down come the end of the season.”

Having remained unbeaten in the last four matches at home, the Sky Blues head to Doncaster on Saturday looking for their fourth consecutive away win without banned Baker.

“Carl (Baker) is having a good season. He’s showing the potential that he was showing before he came to the club,” said McSheffrey.

“He’s assisted and he’s scoring goals too so he’s really got his head on this season and he’s doing the business.

“We’re without him on Saturday so that will give someone else an opportunity and we’ll go there trying to come away with all three points.

“Doncaster is going to be a tough game but we’re definitely one of the most in-form teams in the league.

“We’ve got to go there with confidence, fear nothing, and hope we can win the game.”

As for the club’s well documented off-field problems, the Coventry born and bred midfielder said: “What will be, will be. We’re not in any control of that.

“We’ve just got to show the fans we’re fighting for the cause and not let things get to us.”

l102d425_c181241_121114_448DESPITE their precarious position just outside the League One relegation zone, Sky Blues defender Cyrus Christie is just happy to be back in the side after recovering from a serious nee injury quicker than first anticipated.

The 19-year-old suffered knee ligament damage during a 1-1 draw away to Burnley towards the end of last season and was expected to miss the first half of this campaign through rehabilitation.

But the academy graduate recovered sooner than expected and looks to have established himself as Mark Robins’ preferred right back.

“I’ve had a bit of a tough time since I got injured at Burnley,” Christie told the Observer.

“It was probably about seven months in the gym and it was definitely tough but it’s good to be back in the team.

“I came back against Birmingham when I came on as a sub way ahead of schedule, way ahead of where I thought I would have been.

“And then I played against MK Dons where I thought I did well, but Robins preferred Jordan Clarke to begin with.

“There’s competition all over the pitch in positions, but it’s all healthy competition.

“I’ve now come in and hopefully I can be a positive change. I think I have done that and shown the manager what I can do and now I feel I’m getting better with each game.”

Looking back on Saturday’s defeat, Christie admitted the players were annoyed they could not hold on to the lead.

And the youngster believed he should have been awarded a penalty in the second half after being brought down twice inside the area.

“I’ve gone down in the second half which was a blatant foul. He pulled me back and took my legs from beneath me as well.

“There was another incident when I got myself into the box and he took my legs again and I think the ref has got to give the penalty.

“The linesman said it’s not his call to give it, so the officials haven’t helped us out there and those sort of mistakes can prove to be very costly.”

The result left the Sky Blues hovering dangerously above the bottom four and Christie admitted it should have been three points in the bag.

“It’s a poor result really because they haven’t troubled us one bit,” he added.

“We’ve had plenty of opportunities to score and to be fair their keeper has pulled off some good saves at the end but we never really should have lost that game.

“We’ve got to come away with the three points.

“We had built a bit of momentum but now we’ve taken another step back so we’re going to have to go again on Saturday.

“We’ve got some great players here and hopefully we can just start climbing up the league table now and take three points off Hartlepool.”

CCFC30_v02_c1651513_1312_820DAVID McGoldrick is the man to fire the Sky Blues up the League One table, but the big question is can we keep hold of him, writes Steve Carpenter.

When I was told the club were looking to sign him on loan I didn’t anticipate the sort of impact he would have. I don’t think any of us did.

We knew he would bring some much-needed pace to the side, but a bucket full of goals has come as a pleasant surprise.

In his first couple of games he was visibly short of match fitness, but one of the positive things about playing at this level is that games come thick and fast, and as McGoldrick’s fitness

improved, so too has his performances.

Now what we are witnessing is a striker hitting the same kind of form that saw him rise to prominence with Southampton back in 2008/09.

He has already found the back of the net eight times in just 13 appearances for the Sky Blues and that figure only looks like increasing with two months left on his loan period which expires in January.

But what happens after that?

The club’s development director Steve Waggott confirmed to me this week that although he will be

doing all he can to capture McGoldrick for a longer period of time, the decision ultimately lies with the striker.

At 24 and with his contract at Forest set to expire next summer, McGoldrick has a key decision to make in his career.

Does he look to move up the pecking order at Nottingham Forest? Will his eye-catching performances earn him a big-money move?

Or will he be tempted to become the first Coventry player since Dion Dublin back in 1998 to score more than 20 goals in a campaign?

Either way, let’s make the most of the two months we have left because although his long term future may be away from the Ricoh, he is proving to be a popular short term fix.

cov_footie_c1593364_121023_543IT has very much been a season to forget so far for the Sky Blues and the same can be said for John Fleck following his move to the Ricoh Arena this summer.

The highly-rated midfielder was a surprise signing from Scottish outfit Rangers and was expected to become a key figure in the club’s instant return to the Championship.

But an injury picked up on the opening day of the season proved to be a setback for both Fleck and the club.

A series of successive draws signalled the departure of Andy Thorn and four consecutive defeats triggered the arrival of Mark Robins, who has slowly been able to ease Fleck back into action in

recent weeks.

“It was obviously very disappointing to get the injury so early on in the season,” Fleck told the Observer.

“But I’m back now and I just need to keep working hard and get more games.

“Robins is getting us working really hard and he’s got his own way of playing. All the boys have got a lot of respect for him.

“I thought Andy Thorn was great as well but they’re both very similar.

They both like to play football, get the ball down and work hard and that’s all they can ask you to do and if you do that then results should take care of themselves.”

The 21-year-old midfielder looked likely to face another spell on the sidelines after picking up a nasty head injury during the 2-2 at Swindon, which forced him to spend an evening in hospital.

Fleck was still feeling the full effects the following day after revealing how he feinted, but was happy to return back to action in Robins’ starting 11 for the 2-1 defeat at home to Notts County on Saturday.

“I don’t actually remember what happened. I’ve never been unconscious before and I remember absolutely nothing at all.

“I started getting back to normal on the Tuesday so hopefully that’s me fine now.

When you get out onto the pitch you just try and forget about it really.

“I’m just very disappointed we lost.

“I had two or three chances myself, but it was just one of those days, it happens, you just need to keep working hard and the chances will eventually come.”

So far this season Fleck has played in a variety of roles across the Sky Blues’ midfield, something he is happy to continue with.

He added: “I’ll play anywhere for the manager to be honest.

“I feel comfortable in any of the positions across the midfield. Growing up I used to play in central midfield behind the strikers, but I don’t really mind to be honest.

“It just depends on the type of formation the gaffer wants to play and I just need to get on with it.

“We’re in a bit of a bad run at the moment and haven’t managed to get many wins but we just need to keep going.”