Gary Wilson: Ronnie O’Sullivan had a point, I can’t see the next top player


Gary Wilson is looking to fight his way into the top 16 this season (Picture: VCG)

Snooker is not short of good players by any means, but there isn’t anyone on tour who looks set to be the next superstar of the sport, believes Gary Wilson.

Ronnie O’Sullivan got people talking during the World Championship when he said he would have to lose an arm and a leg to fall outside the top 50 in the rankings, such is the lack of quality in the game.

The Rocket can take things to extremes, but there tends to be some truth to what he’s saying, and Wilson agrees that there is a missing generation of players that should be knocking the veterans off their perch.

Only three of the world’s top 16 are under 30-years-old – Kyren Wilson, 28, Jack Lisowski, 29, and Yan Bingtao, 20 – while four are over 40 – O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Joe Perry.

Wilson feels the overall standard in the game is good, even very good, but just not enough to topple the all-time greats that still occupy the top 16 and the Tyneside Terror cannot pick out a youngster who is ready to change that.

‘You need to take everything Ronnie says with a huge chunk of salt, but he has got a point,’ Wilson told Metro.co.uk. ‘There isn’t anyone around now that I would say will definitely go and be in the top four in the world.

‘It’s a bit of a generational thing. There’s sort of the Mark Selby and Neil Robertson generation that came behind the Class of 92, then obviously Judd [Trump], but you would expect more young players to have come through, the next generation.

‘Obviously I’m one of the players that wants to catch up and I’m trying to. I’ve been around long enough to see that the standard has improved throughout snooker,

‘99% of the tour are good players, but that’s it, they’re good, they’re not great like those guys. That’s why the same people are at the top of the rankings.

‘You never really know what to believe with Ronnie, because I read another interview where he said he was just trying to motivate young players with what he was saying. But there is usually some truth to it.’

O’Sullivan’s comments were seen as disrespectful by some, but Wilson echoes Stephen Hendry in agreeing with the Rocket.

The seven-time world champion is returning to the main tour this season for the first time since 2012 and does not think the game has moved on much in his absence.

‘I’ve always thought it’s not what people make out. People rave about how high the standards are,’ Hendry told Eurosport. ‘Going down the rankings, I think the standard has generally improved.

‘Looking back to the ’90s in the World Championship, you’d have two or three really comfortable rounds before you played anyone that thought they could beat me.

Stephen Hendry returns to the main tour for the first time since the 2012 World Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Generally, first and second round matches are a lot tougher now, the strength in depth is definitely better.

‘But I genuinely think that there’s many of the top players doing anything that I wasn’t doing at my peak, I genuinely believe that.

‘I think Ronnie on his day is an incredible player, Judd Trump on his day is too, these two have taken it a bit higher, but the rest of them aren’t doing anything I wasn’t doing.’

With Wilson’s current stint on tour only starting in 2013, he has never faced the legendary Scot and would relish the challenge of playing one of his snooker idols.

‘Yeah I’d love to play Hendry,’ said Gary. ‘He retired just as I was coming onto the tour so I’ve never played him before.

‘He was someone I always looked up to, watching him win absolutely everything. The way the draws work in some tournaments, there’s a decent chance I might get him so I’d really look forward to that.’

As he stated, Wilson is trying to force his way into snooker’s elite himself and is aiming at a spot in the top 16 and a piece of silverware by the end of the forthcoming season.

The 35-year-old proved his quality with a run to the World Championship semi-final last year and showed flashes of brilliance last season – including four centuries on the spin at the UK Championship – but just needs to find more consistency in his game.

‘Top 16 is the aim, just like it was last season, and hopefully to win a tournament,’ Wilson explained. ‘Last season was okay, I won quite a few matches, but only really had one good run to the semis in Austria [European Masters].

‘Otherwise there was the odd quarter-final here and there. I need to push on this season because I’ll have a lot of money to defend from the World Championship semi-finals.’

Wilson has been rocking a rear mohawk over the last year (Picture: Getty Images)

Wilson’s career is certainly on an upward trajectory, sitting at his best ever ranking of #18, but he is well aware that he must capitalise and kick on from this position.

‘People can look at it and see you’re climbing up the rankings, semi-finals of the World Championship, but it’s about how you feel as a player, because that stuff can’t start to mean nothing,’ he said.

‘I’m feeling pretty good, but there’s always something I’m struggling with and I need to find the consistency, which will hopefully come from feeling sharp again.

‘With all these tournaments coming up, it suits me down to the ground, I’m a professional snooker player, at the end of the day, so I want to get playing and regularly.’

As the former China Open finalist searches for the consistency that every player craves, he has weighed up the merits of various coaches on the snooker scene, but is currently trying to cherry pick what he can from each of them.

‘I have thought about getting involved with SightRight, and I’ve had a conversation with Steve Feeney before,’ said Wilson. ‘I really respect what he’s doing, but I’m not ready to commit to that yet.

‘There are a few good coaches around on the circuit and I try to take little bits from all of them. Obviously they don’t want to just give you knowledge for free, but I’m just trying to pick up different things where I can.

‘I generally feel pretty good with my game at the moment so there’s no need to dive in, but if that changed then I would happily commit to something like SightRight because I’d have nothing to lose.’

Wilson has made three ranking semi-finals and one final (Picture: Getty Images)

Wilson’s memorable run to the Crucible semi-finals in 2019 could not be replicated this year as he was downed 6-3 in qualifying by the thoroughly impressive Alexander Ursenbacher.

Clearly it was a disappointment, but Wilson is more comfortable with missing out this year given the unusual circumstances of no crowd being allowed in Sheffield.

‘He [Ursenbacher] played great, I was hanging in there at 3-3, but that’s all I was doing, he played really well from start to finish,’ said Wilson.

‘If it had been best of 19 I would have expected to come back in a second session. You never know, he could have just carried on playing like that and beat me easy, but I would have been confident to back and win it 10-8 or something. You expect the World Championship to be best of 19 rather than best of 11, but obviously they had to do it that way.

‘I was obviously disappointed not to get to the Crucible, it takes the shine off a season that was solid enough, but in a way I didn’t mind so much because of what it was like this year.

‘Getting to the semi-finals and experiencing the Crucible at its best, full house, the one-table set-up, it would have been strange going back to play in an empty room.

‘My good pal Elliott Slessor played there for the first time and he was really disappointed with it, it’s not how you want your Crucible debut to go. Obviously it wouldn’t have been my first time, but it wouldn’t have been the same, it definitely made it less disappointing to miss out.’

Wilson gets his season underway in Group 3 of the Championship League on Monday against Rob Milkins, Chen Zifan and Jamie Jones.

In his opening group of the last edition of the Championship League, Wilson was in tremendous form, making four centuries in 10 frames and only dropping one frame as he topped the group.

Illustrative of the fact Wilson, like many players, can be a bit hard on himself, he described that performance thus: ‘I played alright in the odd frame, everyone was a bit rusty.’

MORE: Jackson Page is crystal clear on his snooker goals: ‘I want to be world champion, world number one’

MORE: Stephen Hendry’s snooker comeback ‘has nothing to do with Ronnie O’Sullivan’

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