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Snooker legends make reporter's night in Catford
As a little girl, I was always desperate to meet John Virgo, have a bash at his trick shots and try on one of his jazzy waistcoats for size.
That’s right – I was fixed to the screen when Big Break came on the TV every week, and Virgo was my favourite.
With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to be a VIP guest at the Snooker Legends exhibition match in Catford last Tuesday night, where the infamously colourful waist jackets had promised to make an appearance.
John’s trick shots would be followed by a match between World Snooker Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White at the Broadway Theatre.
But I never really knew anything about snooker, so when I was invited to interview the ‘Whirlwind’ White before the event, I asked my colleagues to fill me in on his history.
One of my friends was particularly thrilled at the mention of his name, telling me what a beloved character Jimmy had always been – also mentioning the hotshot’s autobiography where he admitted to jumping out of window to avoid a journalist.
‘This is going to go well then’ I thought.
Funnily enough, the charming player was a pleasure to talk to – and I’d found my plus one for the night.
Before the match began, we joined a room full of excited VIPs waiting for Ronnie, John, Jimmy and glamorous World Championship Final referee Michaela Tabb to come out, sign autographs and pose for snaps.
I have never in my life seen such a random group of men – including one goth sporting an afro mullet and thick black eyeliner - look so incredibly happy.
Not even a hall full of naked Page 3 stunners could have made these hardcore fans cheerier.
I got totally swept up in the hype, my companion and I steaming in to get pictures with the stars.
Jimmy was beaming - it was fabulous to see him having so much fun with his adoring fans.
He didn’t even mind posing for the same picture for an entire five minutes when my camera failed us.
I just hoped the well wishes went some small way towards compensating his World Championship title being cruelly snatched away six times.
When I finally got my moment with John, who was signing autographs next to the ladies’ toilets, his waistcoat was just as magical as I’d hoped.
Sadly struggling with his back these days, the trickster’s posture looks as though he’s constantly on the verge of taking a shot.
And while his fluffy hair gives him the appearance of a friendly sloth, Jimmy’s jet black hair and tux reminded me of a cute penguin and Ronnie was Dennis the Menace as a real life boy.
They really are a fantastically fun group to meet.
On stage, we were treated to John’s colourful jokes, latest trick shots and that famous Big Break music.
During the match, it felt like the entire audience was gunning for Jimmy to beat the current champ.
But history repeated itself and the Whirlwind – who looked increasingly sad - missed out on a win.
I just wanted to give him a cuddle – whoever knew snooker could be so captivating.
For upcoming shows at Broadway Theatre, visit broadwaytheatre.org.uk