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Big Interview: Dennis Taylor and that grand finale

It was 34 years ago, but no-one has forgotten about it.

Dennis Taylor is now a familiar voice on snooker coverage – and has begun playing on the seniors tour after retiring from playing on the professional circuit in 2000
Dennis Taylor is now a familiar voice on snooker coverage – and has begun playing on the seniors tour after retiring from playing on the professional circuit in 2000

Dennis Taylor coming back from 8-0 down to clinch the 1985 Snooker World Championship to beat Steve Davis is snooker’s greatest-ever final.

Taylor – the unmistakeable upside-down glasses-wearing Northern Irishman – pulled off the most thrilling of upsets, beating Davis, who had won three of the previous four world championships, 18-17.

It was watched by so many at the time as well.

A whopping 18.5million tuned in to BBC2 and watched the gripping encounter which finally finished at 12.23am.

The viewership remains the highest for any programme broadcast after midnight – and the most-watched show on BBC2.

And Taylor, understandably, never gets tired of talking about it.

“It’s amazing, really, that 34 years later, we’re still talking about it. People remember that,” he said.

“There have been some great finals down the years, but that one sticks in everyone’s memory, which is great for Steve and myself.”

Davis was called a ‘bad loser’ in the game’s aftermath for one-word responses at a press conference.

You can sympathise with the man for being like that straight after losing in such a manner, though.

And Taylor said: “Steve handles the whole thing very well – you’d think he’d be fed up of talking about me coming back from 8-0 down and beating him.

“He now realises we were both involved in a little bit of snooker history. I was just the lucky one to have knocked the final black in.

“It was great to be involved in that, and it’s always nice to get people – and young people who weren’t even born that have had parents tell them, or they’ve watched it on YouTube – talk to you about it.

“The biggest audience ever, on any channel, after midnight. And BBC Two’s biggest audience ever. That’s memories you never forget.”

Unsurprisingly, that victory goes down as Taylor’s career highlight.

He did not manage to come out on top again at the Crucible, but he did win the Grand Prix in 1984 and the Masters in ‘87. And the latter was down to some premature celebrations from Alex Higgins’ manager.

“The world championship is the big one, but my first major title was the Grand Prix, where I beat Neal Foulds who was world No.3 at the time 9-2 in the semi-final, and then Cliff Thorburn, world no.2, 10-2 in the final,” said Taylor.

“That was just after my mum had passed away. I wasn’t even going to play in that, so that would be second to the world championship.

“The other one that is up there is winning the Masters against Alex Higgins, with 2,700 people there.

“I came from 8-5 behind and my good friend told me Alex’s manager had ordered champagne to celebrate, so I went back out after hearing that and won the last four frames.

“To have beaten Alex, that was down to Alex’s manager!

“If I hadn’t had heard that, I probably wouldn’t have won the Masters that year.”

Taylor retired from playing in 2000, but snooker has remained a massive part of his life.

Before hanging up the cue he chipped in as a commentator, and has continued to do so for the BBC.

He has also been a regular on the World Seniors tour.

“I’ve been doing commentary for an awful lot of years,” said Taylor.

“Some people think I just started doing it after I retired, but I was doing it 35 years ago.

“I was thrown in at the deep end at the UK Championships. Someone was taken ill and someone asked me if I wanted to try a bit of commentary.

“I sat down next to ‘Whispering’ Ted Lowe, the voice of snooker who was there from when snooker first came on TV.

“It was an absolute delight, and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed.

“When I’m sat in the commentary box, I always do it as if I’m sat in someone’s lounge, telling them about what’s going on. That’s how I always go about it.

“I always had that in mind. When I watch, I listen to the commentary team.

“You have to introduce a little bit of humour, when it’s called for – you can’t be making a funny at a big stage of a match.

“But a little bit of light relief is not a bad thing.”

Snooker, although not attracting those colossal viewing figures of the 80s, remains a very popular sport.

Taylor, assessing the current state of the game, said: “I don’t think you’ll ever get it back to that.

“There were only three TV channels then, so that’s why the viewing figures were colossal.

“The game is still very popular. The world championship was watched in 130 countries this year, so the game is growing.

“In Germany, they are mad-keen on the game. You get 2,500 people turning up.

“And there’s no bigger place in the world than China. Players are treated like pop stars out there.”

As mentioned, Taylor is more than happy to reminisce about his past.

But what does the future hold for him?

“In the commentary box, and I’ve got the cue out again,” said Taylor.

“There’s the world seniors which is growing and growing. I commentate with John Virgo and play.

“Ronnie (O’Sullivan) keeps saying, tongue-in-cheek, that he’s looking forward to the seniors.

“It’s open to amateurs and it’s growing.”

And Taylor joked: “The only bad thing about it is that the seniors is for over-40s.

“Me and Cliff Thorburn are organising a protest to make it for over-70s. Then, the two of us just can play in them all.”

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