Nick Matthew Column: Achievement of ‘veteran’ Bingham is remarkable

Stuart Bingham
Stuart Bingham

I know there will have been a fair few so-called veteran sportspeople with huge smiles on their faces when Stuart Bingham became world snooker champion late on Monday night – I know I did.

Every sportsperson reaches a time in their career when all the talk about them is suddenly of how they have passed their peak, that their best days are behind them and their career is in decline. I speak from experience on that one.

At 38, Bingham fell into that bracket. And after two decades of being the snooker equivalent of a journeyman, I don’t think anyone expected him to win a world title. That is what makes his achievement all the more remarkable.

The mental strength he has shown throughout his career and especially over the last fortnight has been incredible. Being in big matches like the semis and final over the weekend are not the norm for him. So for Bingham to deal with the intense pressure of that shows how strong his character is.

He will definitely have to show that again now he is carrying the pressure of the title of world champion around with him. He has a target on his back and the scrutiny on him will be huge. Bingham now has to deal with that and suddenly being world number two.

I know people were a little underwhelmed by the line-up of the final beforehand with the big names being knocked out earlier on. But it turned out to be a cracking final. The tension was incredible, particularly with the score at 15-15 with the frame that went more than an hour.

The World Championship is a tournament Sheffield should be proud to hold. It’s great to see Barry Hearn say he is determined to prevent it being taken away from the Crucible. It’s an incredible sporting venue as well as being a brilliant theatre. We had a major squash event there for a few years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a court fit into a venue as tightly as it did. The front row could literally touch the glass. But the acoustics of the place were brilliant and it was a fantastic place to play. The Crucible is synonymous with World Snooker and it should never leave.

Snooker has had a resurgence in recent years and the talk has started again about it becoming an Olympic sport. I’m not against that because other target sports like archery and shooting are already there. The physicality levels required are not as high as other sports but you need to be fit to cope with the length of some of the matches.

But snooker will have to wait its turn. Squash has definitely been waiting for longer.