DOMINIC DALE is one of snooker’s genuine characters but last month proved he is also still a force with which to be reckoned on the table when he won the Shootout at Blackpool.
Inside Snooker sat down for a chat with the ‘Spaceman’ to hear his views on the event, his dual role at the Welsh Open, why he prefers a nice episode of Downton Abbey over most modern entertainment and a lot more besides…
Dominic, a couple of weeks on from winning the Shootout, what are your reflections on the event?
I told myself going to Blackpool to get the right balance between having fun with the audience and taking it seriously because of the prize money at stake, and that I could win it. That type of format suits my personality. I love to have fun with the crowd but on the shot I take it seriously. To me it’s a prestigious tournament because it’s the only one on the circuit with all that razzmatazz, which I love. I think it’s great for snooker, like Twenty/20 has been for cricket. It gives the players an opportunity to showcase their personalities.
But also you have to prove that you can not only play quickly but also think quickly.
Yes and I forgot myself at one point against Mark Allen. I thought I’d played a good safety but forgot the cushion rule, so I was lucky to win that game. You have to think quickly, watch the cue ball, know where it’s going and think of your next shot. You have to commit yourself.
I’ve taken more pleasure, or certainly as much, winning that as winning my two ranking titles because of the type of tournament it is and the fact it gave me a chance to express my personality. The only problem is that I might now have to go to the end of season awards.
What’s the problem with that? You’ll love getting up on stage.
I know, but I’m not an elitist. I don’t like glorifying sportsmen. I’ll have to find the loudest suit to wear, like a ballroom outfit. I want to make Judd Trump’s shoes look like a pair of sandals.
There were no ranking points available at the Shootout but winning it must have given you a lot of confidence, and you went to Berlin and did well there didn’t you?
Yes, I played Steve Davis in the first round at the German Masters and it was tricky because his safety is still great and he does sometimes play matches where he scores heavily. He’s an awkward person to play because of who he is. You almost want to impress him. So I was pleased to win and then I played John Higgins, who I don’t think I’d beaten since the Grand Prix final in 1997. I played some solid stuff to lead 4-0 but he came back at me like a train after the interval and I was relieved to win 5-3. In the next round I was 3-1 up on Ding Junhui but after the interval he played fantastic snooker and of course won the tournament.
Playing those guys gave me a refresher. It told me where my game was and where it needs to be if I’m to be as good as them or playing as well as them. I’m looking forward to the majors now, in particular the World Championship. I’d like to lose a stone before then so I plan to hit the gym.
Well you’ve already hit the hairdressers. What was the thinking behind dying your hair blonde?
I’m 42 now and go a little bit grey at the sides, so I always have my hair dyed anyway. I went into my local hairdressers in Stroud and the woman who does my hair had had hers dyed, and it was a really nice shade of peroxide blonde. I thought, shall I or shan’t I? And I decided, why not? Let’s do it one more time. Part of my decision was a self-esteem thing. I’ve been messing around most of the season with new cues, using some of the PTCs to practise with them. So I thought the peroxide would get me noticed. I don’t like to merge into the mists – I want to stand out. I want people to talk about me. So I did it and it gave me a feel-good factor going to Blackpool.
The Welsh Open is coming up where you’ll not only be playing but working for BBC Wales. Is it difficult to balance the two jobs?
No it’s an easy balance. You’re either commentating or in the studio with the presenter and it keeps you involved in the matches and pretty relaxed. As long as you don’t allow it to be an issue which can affect your own matches then it won’t. Look, you’re not out in the cold walking round the shops, you’re just watching snooker. It’s good and relaxing as long as you realise you will also be playing a match. I wouldn’t want to do it at every event but I’m prepared for it mentally at the Welsh and it’s something I’d like to get into when I’ve finished playing.
How Welsh are you, really?
I was born in Coventry but I moved to Wales when I was ten. I don’t remember Coventry at all and I regard myself as Welsh because I’ve grown up in Wales, even though my parents are English and I don’t have much of a Welsh accent.
Did you ever consider playing for England as a junior?
Never, no, that’s never been a consideration. I started on a full sized table at 11, when I’d already moved to Wales. I grew up in west Wales and if you wanted to play then it was in the Welsh juniors, never for England.
You’re known as a man of many interests, including Ealing comedies. If you were going to suggest one film for someone who knew nothing about them, what would it be?
It’s got to be the Ladykillers with Alec Guinness, Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers. It’s a classic. The Ealing comedy era runs from about 1947 to 1957. I’d suggest buying a boxset. They’re timeless films.
And do you prefer them to modern films?
I like some modern horror films but I don’t like bad language in films. I like the simplicity of old films, the clothes they wore, the look of the sets and so on. I prefer the more innocent era. I feel there were better standards in those days. I don’t like the foul language and gratuitous violence you see in modern films. I feel it’s unnecessary, plus a lot of films with blood and guts and machine guns are aimed at a younger audience. They don’t appeal to me.
But I like classic series like Downton Abbey and Foyles War. They’re really well done.
Maybe you would have thrived in a different age, such as the Joe Davis era?
Yes I would! If I could pick a time to be in my twenties it would have been in the 1920s. I love art deco, which was something which sprang out of the Russian Revolution period when the world was in a depression and people wanted to break away, which gave us the jazz age.
I’d loved to have visited Burroughes and Watts and some of the old billiard companies.
However, you’ve just won the shootout. That’s not really old school, is it?
No but one of my friends, a cue collector, is a stout traditionalist and he loved the Shootout. He thought it was brilliant for snooker and I agree. We need to try new things.
Speaking of which, is it time to change the dress code?
I’m a traditionalist and like the fact we play in waistcoats and smart trousers. I cannot stand the ties, the Abraham Lincoln-style, Quaker-style ties that players like Judd Trump and so many players wear these days. I do like the normal lounge tie but the knot in that can get in the way of your cue action.
They used to wear them in the 1980s and but I don’t know how they played in them. A lot of those players, bar one or two, were so technically inept that they probably got away with it but the players today are technically good. Their chins are on the cue and in line and the knot gets in the way. The PTCs I classify as pro-ams so t-shirts for them are great, I like them. But for ranking events I like the waistcoats and shirts.
People are starting to look ahead to the World Championship. What would it mean to qualify for the Crucible again?
It would mean a lot. There’s nothing worse than watching the guy who beat you to qualify playing at the Crucible. I love playing there. It’s a great atmosphere, even though I’ve had three tough draws in a row, against Ronnie O’Sullivan and then Judd Trump twice. But it’s a great place to play. If I don’t qualify this year I’ll go on holiday during it because it’s hard to watch when you’re not in it. It’s like watching somebody taking money out of your back pocket.