Shaun Murphy shocked the sporting world when he won the World Snooker Championships as a 150/1 outsider. Soon afterwards people discovered the 23 year old was a Christian. Here he tells his story.
Mike Rimmer met snooker champion Shaun Murphy at the Grapevine event in the summer where the unassuming snooker player was quietly manning a stand raising money to support missionaries from his church.
When Shaun Murphy became Embassy World Snooker Champion, there were a couple of surprises. Firstly he was a complete underdog outsider who had fought from the qualifying round to the final. Secondly it soon became clear from newspaper reports that he was a Christian.
It's no surprise that after reading stories about how he tithed his winnings to his local church, he should be working quietly with Clare, his wife, on a stand supporting missionary work. We head off to a quiet corner behind the scenes at Grapevine to have a chat. Here you can check out the whole conversation.
MIKE: No insult, but you were very much the underdog when you became champion, weren't you?"
SHAUN: Very much so. I started the rounds at The Crucible Theatre 150/1 outsider. No outsider to that extent has won since Terry Griffiths won back in 1979. So I made a little bit of history there and the local lad from Rotherham did good in the end!
MIKE: So were you tempted to have a little bit of a bet on yourself?!
SHAUN: No I wasn't. But I know plenty of people who did, and plenty of people from when I was younger whose bets will have come in. It was in the Press that a guy who'd had a bet of £11 at 1000/1 that I'd win the championships before the end of 2005. So he scraped in £11,000! There was a consortium of gentlemen from the snooker club that I started playing at when I was 9, who did at the time write off to ask if they could get odds on me winning it before I was 23. They got 1000/1 and if they did have what they told us they had, which was £1000 each, they will have won a million! But I don't know!
MIKE: Is it good that you don't really know about that kind of thing before you start?
SHAUN: I think so because at The Crucible, you're playing for the biggest tournament in the game. You're playing in front of a packed house, and there was 7.8 million watching it on Telly in this country and 190 million around the world watching it. So that's pressure enough!
MIKE: Tell me about growing up and playing snooker.
SHAUN: I first started playing when I was 8. I got a little snooker table for Christmas. Never been interested in snooker before then at all. I'd asked for a Commodore 64 computer, which all my friends had and I'd asked for one too. It was also the year I found out that Father Christmas didn't exist because I came downstairs to find my dad asleep on the couch having put the snooker table together! It was only 4ft-something from Toys'R'Us. But that morning I didn't unwrap any of the presents until very late that day and just loved it instantly. Before I was 9 I'd joined a club and I was down there every night after school with my dad and at weekends we were down there. I loved every minute of it.
It just went from there. I started playing in the local league; playing in the junior competitions. And before I knew where I was I was 15 and turning professional."
MIKE: So with turning professional is there added pressure because you've got to earn a living doing that?
SHAUN: There is. I'd been completely doing my own thing up until that point and then it was, you're a professional now. You're playing for lots of money and stuff. But I still lived at home. I still lived with my dad. Unfortunately my parents had split up and there was just me and my dad. But he had a good job and I was just looking after myself basically. Whatever money I won I spent on my own things because I had nothing else to spend it on. So the money was never, 'Oh I must win this match because I've got my gas bill riding on it!' Which is the case for a lot of snooker players.