Cliff Wilson

Clifford Wilson (10 May 1934 – 21 May 1994) was a Welsh professional snooker player who reached the highest ranking of 16, in 1988-89. He was the 1978 World Amateur Champion and won the 1991 World Seniors Championship. He was a successful junior player, known for his fast attacking snooker and potting ability, and won the British Under-19 Championship in 1951 and 1952. In the early 1950s both Wilson and future six-times World Professional Champion Ray Reardon lived in Tredegar, where they played a succession of money matches that attracted large enthusiastic crowds.

Cliff Wilson
Cliff Wilson.jpg
Born(1934-05-10)10 May 1934
Tredegar, Monmouthshire
Died(1994-05-21)21 May 1994 (aged 60)
Sport country Wales
Highest ranking16 (1988–89)
Highest break136 (1989 Grand Prix)
Best ranking finishQuarter-final (5 times)
Tournament wins

A combination of factors, including Reardon leaving Tredegar, led to Wilson virtually giving up the game from 1957 to 1972, but after being asked to take up a vacant place in a works team, he returned to playing and later became the 1978 World Amateur Champion, achieving his victory with an 11–5 win in the final against Joe Johnson. In 1979 Wilson turned professional, aged 45, and, still playing with an attacking style, reached several ranking tournament quarter-finals during his career. At the inaugural World Seniors Championship in 1991 he beat Eddie Charlton 5–4 in the final to take the title. He won the Welsh Amateur Championship in 1956, 1977 and 1979, and was runner-up in the Welsh Professional Championship in 1981 and 1984. He suffered from a number of health conditions, including poor eyesight, during his career, but continued to play professionally until his death in 1994 at the age of 60.

Amateur yearsEdit

Wilson was born on 10 May 1934 and grew up in Tredegar, the same town as his friend and snooker rival Ray Reardon.[1][2] He learnt to play snooker in a steelworks club-room. Even as a teenager, Wilson was nearly sightless in his left eye.[3] In 1950, aged 16, Wilson was the reigning Welsh boys snooker champion and working as a storekeeper when he reached the final of the British under-19 Championship, where he lost 2–3 to Rex Williams.[4][5] In the same competition the following year, Wilson (now a steelworker) won the title, defeating Gary Owen 3–2 in the final.[6] In 1952 he beat Owen on his way to reaching the semi-final of the English Amateur Championship, where, using a cue that had been repaired overnight and reduced in length by an inch, he lost to Charles Downey.[7]

Having been called up into the Royal Air Force for his national service, Wilson was granted special leave to participate in the 1952 under-19 Championship. In the final he faced Owen again, this time winning 4–2.[8][9] A match report of Wilson's 3–1 semi-final win against Donald Scott in the Western Mail said that he played "spectacular snooker … he had breaks of 20, 25, 30 and 41 all at tremendous speed."[10] In 1954, Wilson was the youngest competitor in the English Amateur Championship and lost 9–11 to Geoff Thompson in the final.[11][12] He won the Welsh Amateur Championship in 1956.[13] Snooker historian Clive Everton wrote of Wilson's early career that he was "a phenomenal potter: quick, instinctive fearless."[14] :369

He played Reardon in a succession of money matches in Tredegar. In The Story of Billiards and Snooker, Everton described Wilson as being an "even more remarkable talent"[15]:80 than Reardon, who would go on to win the World Snooker Championship six times between 1969 and 1978. Everton went on to describe their contests, when each would attract hundreds of supporting spectators, as "modern snooker's nearest equivalent to a bare knuckle prize fight."[15]:80 Everton then suggests that when Reardon moved away, "the edge went from Wilson's game." Wilson's father, who had supported his son's snooker career, died at around the around the time that Reardon moved away, and Wilson also started having problems with his eyesight.[15]:80 Apart from this, snooker's popularity was on the wane during the 1950s and it was extremely difficult to join the small, closed professional circuit. Wilson gave up snooker almost completely, and continued working at the steelworks at Llanwern. From 1957 to 1972 he was retired from snooker apart from participating in a few games in 1960, which included the televised "Snooker Foursomes" in which he partnered John Price.[1][16][15]

In 1972 he started playing again when a friend asked him to take a vacant place in a works team in the Newport League. Within two years of starting to play again, he was selected for the Wales team for the 1973–74 Home International series, losing 1–2 against D. Lenehan of Ireland and beating W. McKerron of Scotland 2–1. He was selected again in 1976–77 for the match against Ireland, beating J. Clusker 2–1. In 1977–78 Wales won the series, although Wilson lost two of his three matches, including a 1–2 defeat by 1972 and 1974 World Amateur Champion Ray Edmonds. In the 1978 series Wilson won three of his four matches, including a 3–0 win over the captain of the England team Mike Hallett.[17][18]:298–299[19]:43 In 1977, he won his second Welsh amateur championship, following his earlier win in 1956, beating Dai Thomas 8–1 in the final.[19]:125[20][14]:370–371

As Welsh Champion, Wilson qualified for the 1978 World Amateur Championship in Malta. He was the only player in the three groups of the round-robin stage to win all of their matches, and then beat Maltese player Joe Grech 5–4 in the quarter-finals. Wilson built a 4–0 lead in front of a 4,000 strong audience that, according to Everton, started to deliberately distract him, as Grech levelled at 4–4 and led 37–0 in the deciding frame. Wilson eventually won the frame, and remained in the pressroom with Everton, guarded by police, until the audience left. He beat Kirk Stevens 8–2 in the semi-final and then Joe Johnson 11–5 in the final to take the title.[14]:368–372[18]:300

Following his world amateur championship win, Wilson was invited to participate in the 1979 Masters. He would have been the first amateur to play in the Masters, but withdrew due to a threatened boycott by professional players.[21] He lost 5–8 in the southern area final of the English Amateur Championship to Jimmy White after leading 4–2.[22] 1979 also saw him win the Welsh Amateur Championship for the third time, defeating Geoff Thomas 8–5 in the final; and take the National Pairs championship title with Steve Newbury.[20]

Professional careerEdit

Wilson turned professional in 1979 at the age of 45, and won his first match, 9–7 against John Pulman in the 1979 UK Championship, before losing 4–9 to Terry Griffiths in the following round.[18]:195–197[1] In his debut World Snooker Championship in 1980, he beat Frank Jonik 9–7 in qualifying and lost 6–10 to Doug Mountjoy in the first round. In the 1980–81 season, he reached the final of the 1981 Welsh Professional Championship, losing 6–9 to Reardon. He beat Roy Andrewartha and Eddie Sinclair, both 9–4, in qualifying for the 1981 World Snooker Championship and then was beaten 6–10 by David Taylor in the first round. In 1981–82 he again lost in the first round of the world championship, 5–10 to Eddie Charlton.[23] Wilson was the runner-up at the Pontins Spring Open in consecutive years, losing 3–7 to Willie Thorne in 1980 and 2–7 to John Hargreaves in 1981.[24][25]

With wins over Johnson, Mountjoy and White, Wilson reached his first ranking tournament quarter-final at the 1982 International Open, losing 4–5 to the eventual champion Tony Knowles. He next reached a ranking quarter final at the 1985 Grand Prix, with further losing quarter-final appearances at the 1986 International Open, 1987 classic, and 1989 International Open.[18]:205–206[23]

He broke into the top sixteen of the world rankings for one season, 1988/89, ranked 16th.[14]:372[26] This ranking entitled him to a place at the 1989 Masters, where he came back from 0-2 down to level at 2–2 against reigning World Champion and defending Masters Champion Steve Davis before Davis went on to win 5–2.[27]

He later went on to win the first World Seniors Championship in 1991, beating Charlton 5–4 in the final after earlier victories over Mountjoy and Griffiths. Charlton had led 4-2 and needed only to pot the blue and pink for the match, but Wilson took three frames in a row to win his first professional title at the age of 57 and collect £16,000, his highest prize winnings.[28][29][30]

He recorded wins over a number of prominent players as a professional. In January 1992 he beat Ken Doherty 5–2 in the 1992 Welsh Open before losing 1–5 to Darren Morgan. Later that year he played a young Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 1992 UK Championship, winning 9–8. Both Doherty and O'Sullivan won the respective tournaments the following year.[14][1][29] The highest break of his career was 136 at the 1989 Grand Prix.[31][23]

His popular exhibition matches were advertised with the phrase "You've never seen anything like it!"[14]:372 He was known as a fast, attacking, player[32][29] and has been described as an "outstanding potter" both by Everton and by snooker writer Ian Morrison.[19]:123[33]:40 In 1953, a Sports Argus match report described Wilson as having "lived up to his reputation as the finest potter in the country, one ball being hardly in the pocket before the next one was following it in."[34] Wilson's obituary in The Times noted that in the 1950s he was seen as a "phenomenal talent" and played an attacking game that was unlike the defensive approach generally prevalent at the time,[29] and Eurosport's Desmond Kane included him in a 2020 list of the ten "greatest long potters".[35] Jack Karnehm in 1981 wrote that Wilson was "probably the hardest hitter of a ball on earth. His high-speed accurate potting has to be seen to be believed" and added "it is said that the last time he played a safety shot was in 1959 and that was by mistake."[32]

Personal lifeEdit

He was married to Valerie Wilson, and had four sons, including twins.[32] Towards the end of his life, Wilson suffered from a number of problems with his back, knee and heart, eventually developing an "inoperable disease of the liver and pancreas" that led to his death.[31] Although he continued to play professionally, recording a century break in the 1994 International Open in January 1994, he died in May of that year, aged 60.[29][31]

Performance and rankings timelineEdit

Tournament 1979/
Ranking[36] [nb 1] UR 23 26 20 23 22 23 17 16 18 28 32 33 47
Ranking tournaments
Dubai Classic[nb 2] Tournament Not Held NR 2R 1R 1R LQ LQ
Grand Prix[nb 3] Not Held 3R 3R 2R QF 2R 3R 3R 1R 2R 2R 2R LQ
UK Championship Non-Ranking Event 2R 1R 1R 2R 2R 2R 2R 1R 3R 1R
European Open Tournament Not Held 2R 1R 3R 1R LQ LQ
Welsh Open Tournament Not Held 3R LQ LQ
International Open[nb 4] Not Held NR QF LQ LQ 3R QF 2R 1R QF Not Held 1R 1R
Thailand Open[nb 5] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event Not Held 1R 2R 1R LQ LQ
British Open[nb 6] Non-Ranking Event 1R 2R 3R 2R 3R 1R 1R 1R LQ LQ
World Championship 1R 1R 1R 1R LQ LQ 1R LQ 1R 1R 1R LQ LQ LQ LQ
Non-ranking tournaments
The Masters A A A A A A A A A 1R A LQ WD LQ A
Pontins Professional A SF A A QF QF SF QF A QF SF QF A A A
Former ranking tournaments
Canadian Masters[nb 7] NR Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking 2R Tournament Not Held
Hong Kong Open[nb 8] Non-Ranking NH WD Tournament Not Held
Classic Non-Ranking Event 1R 2R 1R QF 2R 2R 1R 2R 2R Not Held
Strachan Open Non-Ranking Event 2R Not Held
Former non-ranking tournaments
International Open[nb 9] Not Held LQ Ranking Event Not Held Ranking
Classic A A A 1R Ranking Event
Pontins Brean Sands Not Held RR Tournament Not Held
British Open[nb 10] LQ LQ LQ RR LQ Ranking Event
Shoot-Out Tournament Not Held 1R Not Held
Welsh Professional Championship SF F SF SF F SF SF QF SF QF QF QF Not Held
World Seniors Championship Tournament Not Held W Not Held
Performance Table Legend
LQ lost in the qualifying draw #R lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(WR = Wildcard round, RR = Round robin)
QF lost in the quarter-finals
SF lost in the semi-finals F lost in the final W won the tournament
DNQ did not qualify for the tournament A did not participate in the tournament WD withdrew from the tournament
NH / Not Held means an event was not held.
NR / Non-Ranking Event means an event is/was no longer a ranking event.
R / Ranking Event means an event is/was a ranking event.
  1. ^ He was an amateur.
  2. ^ The event was also called the Dubai Masters (1988/1989)
  3. ^ The event was also called the Professional Players Tournament (1982/93–1983/1984)
  4. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  5. ^ The event was also called the Thailand Masters (1983/1984–1986/1987) and Asian Open (1989/1990–1992/1993)
  6. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  7. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1979/1980–1980/1981)
  8. ^ The event was also called the Australian Masters (1979/1980–1987/1988)
  9. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  10. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)

Career finalsEdit

Non-ranking finals: 3 (1 title, 2 runner-ups)Edit

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Runner-up 1. 1981 Welsh Professional Championship   Ray Reardon (WAL) 6–9 [18]
Runner-up 2. 1984 Welsh Professional Championship (2)   Doug Mountjoy (WAL) 3–9 [18]
Winner 1. 1991 World Seniors Championship   Eddie Charlton (AUS) 5–4 [28]

Pro-am finals: 3 (1 title, 2 runner-ups)Edit

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Winner 1. 1976 Pontins Autumn Open   Paul Medati (ENG) 7–4 [37]
Runner-up 1. 1980 Pontins Spring Open   Willie Thorne (ENG) 3–7 [24]
Runner-up 2. 1981 Pontins Spring Open (2)   John Hargreaves (ENG) 2–7 [24]

Amateur finals: 5 (4 titles, 1 runner-up)Edit

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Runner-up 1. 1954 English Amateur Championship   Geoff Thompson (ENG) 9–11 [33]:122
Winner 1. 1956 Welsh Amateur Championship   V. Wilkins (WAL) Unknown [13]
Winner 2. 1977 Welsh Amateur Championship (2)   Dai Thomas (WAL) 8–1 [13]
Winner 3. 1978 World Amateur Championship   Joe Johnson (ENG) 11–5 [29]
Winner 4. 1979 Welsh Amateur Championship (3)   Geoff Thomas (WAL) 8–5 [13]

Under-19 Championship finals: 3 (2 titles, 1 runner-up)Edit


Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score Ref.
Runner-up 1. 1950 British Under-19 Championship   Rex Williams (ENG) 2–3 [5]
Winner 1. 1951 British Under-19 Championship   Marcus Owen (WAL) 3–2 [6]
Winner 2. 1952 British Under-19 Championship   Marcus Owen (WAL) 4–2 [8]


  1. ^ a b c d Hodgson, Guy (27 May 1994). "Obituary: Cliff Wilson". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  2. ^ Everton, Clive (28 May 1994). "Cue for a happy life". The Guardian. p. 30 – via ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  3. ^ Williams, David (18 November 1952). "He pots Wales to top". Daily Herald. p. 8.
  4. ^ "Snooker youths' bid for "double"". Leicester Daily Mercury. 28 October 1950. p. 12.
  5. ^ a b "Unique double for Williams". Birmingham Daily Gazette. 30 October 1950. p. 2.
  6. ^ a b "17-year-old is youth snooker champion". Birmingham Daily Gazette. 29 October 1951. p. 2.
  7. ^ "Fancy Butt" (1 March 1952). "Denis loses amateur snooker title". Sports Argus. p. 6.
  8. ^ a b "Round-up". The People. 2 November 1952. p. 12.
  9. ^ Williams, David (28 October 1952). "No happy birthday for young Tom". Daily Herald. p. 6.
  10. ^ "Champion in final again". Western Mail. 1 November 1952. p. 12.
  11. ^ "Youngest player in snooker tourney". Lancashire Evening Post. 19 March 1954. p. 12.
  12. ^ "Snooker". Birmingham Daily Gazette. 31 March 1954. p. 6.
  13. ^ a b c d "Welsh Championship Records". Welsh Snooker (WBSA). Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Everton, Clive (2012). Black farce and cue ball wizards. Edinburgh: Mainstream. ISBN 9781780575681.
  15. ^ a b c d e Everton, Clive (1979). The History of Billiards and Snooker. Cassell. ISBN 0304303739.
  16. ^ Bate, Stan (19 November 1960). "Secrets of that TV clash". Sports Argus. p. 3.
  17. ^ Clive Everton, ed. (1984). Benson and Hedges Snooker Year (First Edition). London: Virgin Books. p. 111122. ISBN 0863690513.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Hale, Janice (1987). Rothmans Snooker Yearbook 1987–88. Aylesbury: Queen Anne Press. ISBN 0356146901.
  19. ^ a b c Morrison, Ian (1988). Hamlyn Who's Who in Snooker. London: Hamlyn. ISBN 0600557138.
  20. ^ a b Morrison, Ian (1987). The Hamlyn Encyclopedia of Snooker. Twickenham: Hamlyn Publishing Group. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-60055604-6.
  21. ^ "Boycott of Wembley world snooker is averted". Harrow Observer. 22 December 1978. p. 28.
  22. ^ Smith, Terry (22 March 1979). "Jimmy's fluke is right on cue". Daily Mirror. p. 27.
  23. ^ a b c Hayton, Eric; Dee, John (2004). The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker: The Complete Record & History. Rose Villa Publications. pp. 1028–1030. ISBN 978-0954854904.
  24. ^ a b c Turner, Chris. "Pontins Open, Pontins Professional, Pontins World Pro-Am Series". Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  25. ^ Morrison, Ian (1989). Snooker: records, facts and champions. Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 90. ISBN 0851123643.
  26. ^ Kobylecky, John (2019). The Complete International Directory of Snooker Players – 1927 to 2018. Kobyhadrian Books. pp. 264–265. ISBN 978-0993143311.
  27. ^ Acteson, Steve (23 January 1989). "Hendry is a winner once more - Snooker". The Times. London.
  28. ^ a b "How Cliff Wilson became king of the golden oldies". Snooker Scene. No. November 1991. Everton's News Agency. pp. 17–19.
  29. ^ a b c d e f "Obituary: Cliff Wilson". The Times. London. 24 May 1994. p. 10 – via The Times Digital Archive. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  30. ^ "First for Wilson". The Times. London. 23 September 1991. p. 37 – via The Times Digital Archive. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  31. ^ a b c Turner, Chris. "Player Profile: Cliff Wilson". Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  32. ^ a b c Karnehm, Jack (1981). World snooker. Pelham. pp. 117–118. ISBN 0720713285.
  33. ^ a b Everton, Clive (1985). Guinness Snooker – The Records. Guinness Superlatives Ltd. ISBN 0851124488.
  34. ^ "Fancy Butt" (31 January 1953). "Adams out to turn tables on Jack Fitzmaurice". Sports Argus. p. 2.
  35. ^ Kane, Desmond (2 April 2020). "All-time top 10: Who are snooker's greatest long potters?". Eurosport. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  36. ^ "Ranking History". Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  37. ^ Morrison, Ian (1987). The Hamlyn Encyclopedia of Snooker. Twickenham: Hamlyn Publishing Group. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-60055604-6.

External linksEdit