Nov 21 / Snooker System

The newest addition to snooker’s top 16 is gearing up for York

Battling jetlag and skipping the qualifiers. It’s fair to say preparation for this year’s MrQ UK Championship has been something of a new experience for Tom Ford.
Fresh from his inspiring run to the final of the International Championship, the Leicester cueman finds himself ranked inside the top 16 for the first time in a career spanning more than two decades and with it comes a visit to York as one of the seeded players.
“It feels a bit weird to be honest – a little bit strange that everyone’s out there playing and I’m not,” Ford told Snooker System. “Obviously it’s great news that I’ve not got to win two matches to get through.
“I’m also still feeling it from getting back from China. I’m trying to practice but feel quite lethargic so maybe the break has come at the perfect time.”
The world number 16 pocketed £75,000 for his efforts in Tianjin, including high-profile wins over four-time world champion Mark Selby and one of the players of the season Barry Hawkins. But he was to be denied silverware losing to Zhang Anda 10-6 in the final. 
After the crushing feeling of coming so close but not quite finishing the job, Ford is now ready to reflect on the positives.
“I was obviously gutted when I got beat and once I shook his hand I wanted to get out and not be in the arena,” he said.
“After a few days and getting back home, I can look on the bright side of it all. I’ve not got to qualify for the UK Championship, I’m in the top 16 and I’ve got the money in the bank so I’m over the moon.
“If somebody had said to me I’d have got to the final at the start of the week, I’d have snapped their hand off.”


Ford turned 40 this year and despite his vast experience on the baize is all too aware of his own frailties as a player – admitting he’s never been the most disciplined on the practice table. He’s also spoken at length in the past about his challenges manging his fiery character when in the heat of the battle.

But automatically through to the UK Championship starting on Saturday at the Barbican, Ford thinks his breakthrough to the elite in the rankings could give him the focus he needs.

He knows that if he can retain his place in the top 16 by the end of the tournament, he’ll also secure his place at the Masters in the new year – so the stakes are high and the rewards potentially greater.

“I’m playing well at the moment, and I know that if I feel good in myself then I can go out there and win matches,” said Ford.

“The focus is completely on the UK Championship and trying to secure my place at The Masters. It would be a huge tournament (for me) because there’s not many players who can say they’ve played there, and it really is a prestigious event.”

Ford has forged his career as the hunter to the top players, but now turns to the hunted and is all too aware of the challenges that being a seed presents.

“It’s very tough to get into the 16 but probably even tougher to stay in it because you look at the players below you and think that any one of those players could win a tournament.

“This is where the hard work begins. Typically, I’m not a massive practice player but now I’m in the top 16 I think I’ve got to put a few more hours in to stay there because there’s a lot of good players chasing you down like I have been for years.”


A key to his success in more recent years has been his ability to manage his emotions thanks to work with mindset coach Sabrina Francis who comes from the academy of famous sports psychiatrist Steve Peters.

But he tamed expectations around whether those days of self-destruction are behind him.

“My game has improved because mentally I’ve improved but I’ll always be that player and I can always lose my head at any moment. It’s been about learning to deal with it more,” he explained.

“Once you’ve got that in you that your head could explode at any moment, you’re not just going to walk away and say that used to be but it’s not me anymore. It can always still happen; I wear my heart on my sleeve and unfortunately sometimes it comes out. Learning to deal with it has made me a better player.”


For a large proportion of the general public, the UK Championship in York also marks the start of snooker’s season of major events.

This is the first of three events broadcast on the BBC every campaign and an opportunity for the sport to put itself in the shop window – particularly in the UK.

It’s also a massively popular event for the players – with Ford ranking the Barbican as one of the best venues they play in.

“It’s gone back to the two-table setup, and I always used to love York like that. It’s the best venue like that – more than the World Championship,” said Ford.

“Everything about York makes it feel like a special tournament. Don’t get me wrong, playing at the World Championship at the Crucible is nice but as a preference I prefer playing here.

“I don’t think there’s ever an empty seat. York is a lovely place and at this time of year the Christmas markets are on. You go up there and the BBC TV cameras arrive up there and everything about it makes it a special tournament.”

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