Mitchell Mann has made it to the Crucible, a debut that will make up for seeing some early football dreams of playingat Wembley dashed.
The 24-year-old from Birmingham beat Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng 10-9 in a thriller at Ponds Forge on Wednesday to reach the first round of the Betfred World Championship.
World No74 Mann, in only his second season on tour, was at Birmingham City’s academy as a youngster – even though he is a long-suffering Aston Villa fan.
But suffering with Perphes’ disease, a rare disorder that rots the hip bone in boys, doctors told him to pack up football.
Mann turned to snooker – and after guaranteeing a biggest payday of £13,250 he can prepare for the biggest game of his life in Sheffield against Northern Ireland's Mark Allen, recent winner of the Players' Championship.
The path to snooker’s biggest stage has been rocky – taking a total of 55 frames to beat Kishan Hirani 10-7, Matt Selt 10-9 and then Poomjaeng.
Mann, who won Junior Pot Black at the Crucible at 15, said: “I hardly know what to say – but I am buzzing inside. I have played there, but never even watched the main tournament.
“I had to stop playing football or any high-impact sport when I was diagnosed with Perphes’ disease, and I have had a lot of operations on my hip.
“I was with Birmingham City as a Villa fan – but I got pains that didn’t go away. I think I was always going to do some competitive sport, and my dad showed me snooker.
“I’m so glad he did, and for us the Crucible is our Wembley. That is what my manager said to me before the match, and he was right.
“It is amazing. My dad Jeff still supports me, has put every last penny into me, and this payday is huge for all of us. It will mean I can support my two-year-old daughter and my family.
“And it will just help me with my travel expenses on tour, which is really important.
“One day I’d like to earn enough to pay my dad back for everything he has done, so he can give up his job – he teaches construction to teenagers.”
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker