The sport of snooker was famously transformed in the 1980s. Flamboyant stars such as Alex Higgins and Jimmy White, alongside more studious opponents such as Steve Davis, helped to fire the imagination of a new TV audience.
Among the more exciting players to watch in the present day is Mark Allen. Nicknamed The Pistol, he hasn’t always fired across his career, but the 2022/23 season has been his most productive.
The Biggest Challenge
Irrespective of what happens at the World Championships at the Crucible in April, it could be argued that Mark Allen has been the standout performer of this campaign. Those that are betting on the snooker will find The Pistol down as a 14/1 shot to win in Sheffield and that puts him firmly among the chasing pack.
Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan led the way here at 4/1 with Judd Trump and Mark Selby at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively. All three are former or current world champions and they’ve enjoyed productive seasons, but they are lagging behind Mark Allen in terms of recent wins.
A Catalogue of Trophies
Mark Allen claimed his first win of the 2022/23 snooker campaign at the Northern Ireland Open last October. On occasions, the man from Belfast had struggled in his home event but, this time around, he went all the way, beating Zhou Yuelong 9-4 in the final.
Allen didn’t have to wait long for his second win of the campaign. In November at the UK Championships, he beat Ding Junhui in the final to claim his second ranking title of the season.
The Pistol enjoyed his biggest success of the year at the World Grand Prix, edging out Judd Trump by ten frames to nine in a thrilling final. With three wins in one season, this has been Mark Allen’s most successful campaign of his professional career, but can he carry that form into the World Championship and beyond?
Mark the Man to Watch
Mark Allen attracts a legion of fans because of his style of play. There is something of a throwback to his compatriot Alex Higgins in the way he approaches snooker. He’s fast around the table, but his safety play is much improved this term.
Allen has a short backlift and doesn’t tend to let the cue ball travel too far. He stays in control of the table, and constant improvement has led to those three title wins in 2022/23.
The Northern Irishman also seems to have moved on from certain distractions away from the table. He’s lost a good deal of weight and that may also have helped his stamina to compete in the longer tournaments.
In short, while he may have been a professional snooker player for 18 years, Mark Allen may well be approaching his peak. Three wins in a season proves that theory and he will be looking to take that form and momentum into the 2023 World Championships.
He may not win in Sheffield, but there are signs that Mark Allen will remain a threat in major tournaments for years to come.