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Steve Davis looks back at his Crucible career

Date: 17 April-3 May 2010 Venue: The Crucible, Sheffield
Coverage: Live coverage each day on BBC Two, BBC Red Button and BBC Sport website (UK only), updates on BBC Radio 5 Live. Full TV schedule

Interesting Times - 30 Years of Steve Davis at The Crucible

By Mark Ashenden at the Crucible

Hearing a six-time world champion reveal a hatred for much of his snooker career is a shocking revelation.

But with 21 years passing since his last world crown, Steve Davis is set to stroll out to a hero's welcome on Monday night and he'll be grinning like a child at Christmas.

The ginger locks are no more and he's not even fancied to get over the World Championship's first hurdle, but do you think 'the Nugget' cares? Not a chance.

"I'm playing in the biggest event of the year and I'm actually looking forward to it," the 52-year-old told BBC Sport ahead of his opening clash with Mark King.

"This is a hobby to me now. There was a time it was my bread and butter and I didn't look forward to it even if I knew I was going to win.

"I hated the process of having to prove I was going to win. Nobody thinks that now and people will be just pleased if I go through. There was a time when everybody booed!"

It is an incredible 31 years since Davis first played at Sheffield's famous arena, with his first world crown arriving in 1981 and the sixth and last achieved in 1989.

That decade was a sporting era of such dominance that out of 45 matches at the Crucible, he won 40 of them.

Over time it will be his last-frame defeat on the very last ball to Dennis Taylor in the 1985 final that is likely to be remembered the most, but it was the 1979 debut that should have been a warning for all those set to label this shy yet seemingly-cocky man from Romford in Essex as boring.

Debut: 1979 - Lost 13-11 in R1 to Dennis Taylor
Appearances: 29 (Did not qualify in 2001 & 2002)
Winner: Six times (1981, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89)
Finalist: Twice (1985, 86)
Semi-finals: Three times (1990, 91, 94)
Quarter-finals: Three times (1980, 96, 2005)
Second round: Five times (1993, 97, 98, 00, 06)
First round: 10 times (1979, 82, 92, 95, 99, 03, 04, 07, 08, 09)
Overall record: Played 81
Won 58 Lost 23

The opening chapter in the 21-year-old's Crucible tale began with a clash against that very same player from Northern Ireland.

"I was playing Dennis," Davis recalled. "The morning session dragged on into the afternoon and the organiser came up to me and asked if I wanted anything.

"I told him I wanted a ham sandwich and I ate it during the last frame of the session. The Daily Star later reported that I had brought the game into disrepute for eating at the table!"

Who would have thought then that 31 years later the new snooker chief [Barry Hearn] would be calling Davis "one of the world's best ambassadors across any sport" and demanding he be knighted?

It may be 15 years since his last ranking tournament win and 21 since his last World crown, he remains a force to be reckoned with and currently weighs in at a very respectable 23 in the world.

This season's only appearance in a major tournament has been a first-round defeat to Stephen Hendry at the UK Championships, yet he was coolness personified in a 10-4 win over Adrian Gunnell in last month's world qualifiers - or the "twitchy round" as he calls it.

Fred Davis will take some catching in order to be snooker's best old-timer. The three-time world champion [1948-51] reached a world semi in 1978 (the same year Steve Davis turned pro) aged 64 before his last Crucible appearance in 1984.

After losing his top-16 place in 2000 aged 42 for two years and then again two seasons ago, you might have expected a normal player to hang up his cue, but Davis is no ordinary mortal.

"You could make the case I should have evaporated and I'm proud of that," he insisted.

"I'm never going to beat Fred's record but I am a competitive animal. While the competitive juices don't flow as often as they used to, come the big events I still fire myself up.

"You have to be a decent all rounder to have longevity. You need to have a plan A, a decent plan B and a good grafting C game to get over the line and win some matches when everybody else is panicking.

"I'm probably the best player of the 1980s and it's natural I've lasted the longest coming into another era. I should have outstayed my era and the fact I'm still turning up makes me delighted."

Steve Davis
When you turn up in this theatre you get fired up

Davis has been armed with a cue at the Crucible every year since 2003.

He is just as happy with a BBC microphone in his hand once he has been knocked out, but the arena - refurbished this year - clearly brings the best out of him.

"When you turn up in this theatre you get fired up," he said. "It's deathly quiet and you have to pot balls with a camera staring at you right down the barrel of the pocket.

"You have to be a player to perform. You see some players fall to pieces and that's fascinating to watch. You just don't want it to happen to you - that's why every player wants to get through to experience that."

With Tom Ford and China's 17-year-old sensation Zhang Anda making their world debuts this weekend, does a snooker pensioner whose Crucible career spans five decades have any advice for anyone with early jitters?

"While you want exposure and become known in your first-round match, it's best to keep your head down and win," Davis said.

"There's time for talking afterwards. In the past, a few players have said they'll turn up in a limousine and wear a sparkly waistcoat.

"That's exciting until you walk through those curtains and collapse."

And what music can the Crucible crowd look forward to when the self-confessed elder statesman putters out for his first-round match for the 30th time on Monday?

"It's got to be Snooker Loopy hasn't it?" Davis replied.

Follow BBC Sport's Mark Ashenden on Twitter

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see also
Ask Steve Davis
29 Apr 10 |  Snooker
Davis victory earns Crucible spot
07 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Davis & Taylor stage 1985 rematch
29 Apr 10 |  Snooker
Steve's Little Nuggets - The Stance
21 Apr 09 |  Snooker
Steve's Little Nuggets - Buying a Cue
20 Apr 09 |  Snooker
Steve's Little Nuggets - The Back Arm
21 Apr 09 |  Snooker

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