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Stuart Bingham: ‘I’d been seeing this moment for 25 years – it really hit me hard’

In our exclusive interview, the 39-year-old discusses how things have changed – and stayed the same – in the six months since he triumphed at the Crucible.

26 Nov | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Stuart Bingham: ‘I’d been seeing this moment for 25 years – it really hit me hard’

“So what who you are. There’s a queue. You’re not no different.”

Stuart Bingham is retelling a story he heard about an Olympic athlete who took umbrage at being made to wait at a Pizza Hut in Basildon, Essex.

Bingham cringes at the thought of using his status as snooker’s world champion – which he finally achieved in May after two decades as a professional – to avoid life’s chores.

His friends don’t, though.

“If we go out for food and things like that, they’ll use it,” he says, smiling. “And I go: ‘If you say that one more time, you can get lost.'”

Bingham glances at the dictaphone in front of him – an acknowledgement that his choice of words would be stronger were they not being recorded.

“My manager and mum and dad – even my wife – never let me get too high for my boots. It’s just one of those things. It’s like, I’ve always been the same and I think I always will be very approachable.”

That Bingham is.

Not only did he agree to meet at the snooker club in Rayleigh where he practises an hour earlier than planned, he is now standing behind the bar and about to make a round of teas.

The Audi RS6 parked outside – complete with a personalised number plate commemorating his Crucible triumph – and Rolex on his left wrist are the only emblems of his life-changing year.

Six months on from that 18-15 victory over Shaun Murphy – a final watched by more than five million viewers on the BBC – Bingham recalls the moment he realised he was about to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“I remember being 14-11 up after the third session,” he says. “I went back to the hotel and had a bite to eat.

“I got out the shower – my missus was brushing her teeth – and just said: ‘I don’t want to go out there.’

“The nerves hit me. I’d been seeing this moment for 25 years and I’m there doing it. It really hit me hard.”

The conversation pauses, but only because Bingham has noticed the hot water filling the cups is now overflowing on to the worktop and trickling towards the floor.

“That’s not good,” he says.

Having won his first Triple Crown event at the age of 39, Bingham is aiming to claim his second in succession at this month’s Betway UK Championship.

The tournament – held at the York Barbican and broadcast live on the BBC – is one Bingham enjoys, having reached the semi-finals in the previous two seasons.

“I’ve got some great memories there,” he says. “The town’s lovely – all the cobbled streets and Christmas markets. It’s nice to walk through. I’m looking forward to going back – just to walk out as world champion will give that extra buzz.”

It will only be the second time Bingham has experienced that. In a language he understands, that is.

“Australia was roll on, roll off, so I didn’t get introduced,” he says. “In Shanghai, it was obviously in Chinese, and my Chinese ain’t that great.”

Neither, at present, is his form. The courageous, care-free snooker he played at the Worlds is harder to reproduce now he is the champion.

At this month’s Champion of Champions in Coventry, Bingham led 3-1 against 17-year-old Zhou Yuelong before losing 4-3.

“My coach said to me: ‘You’re playing not to lose,'” says Bingham. “I’ve got to keep attacking. That’s what won me the World Championship.

“I’m not saying I’ve changed, but sometimes when you don’t fancy a shot, you play safe. Obviously, at the Worlds, I thought: ‘Sod it.'”

Bingham says his “game’s good enough to win” the UK Championship, but is candid when discussing his recent performances.

“My results ain’t been great and it does affect you, confidence-wise,” he says. “It has been pretty tough. It’s different pressures.

“I miss an easy shot and I can’t help but think, like, everyone’s saying: ‘Look at that world champion. He’s rubbish.’

“I was missing that last year, but because I weren’t world champion, it didn’t bother me. This time, it’s bothering me a bit more.”

Those pressures of being world champion also exist away from competitive snooker.

Bingham has been “inundated” with requests to participate in exhibitions – both in the UK and across Europe – since his famous win.

He poses for photos with fans alongside the trophy and plays 10 frames, entertaining the crowds by splitting the pack and making century breaks.

“I’ve maybe done one a year – this year I’ve got 20 on,” says Bingham. “I don’t know if my match game’s suffered. It probably has a little bit. But I’ve said yes to everyone and now I’ve got to deal with it.”

That choice was influenced by a conversation he had with six-time world champion Steve Davis the morning after his Crucible win.

“I saw him at the reception at the hotel,” says Bingham, who first met Davis at the old Matchroom Club in Romford as a teenager and “cried my eyes out” when he lost to Dennis Taylor in 1985.

“I said: ‘Come on then, Steve, tell me. What do I do?'”

Davis’ reply? Everything.

“He said when he won it in ’81, he done everything he could. He said you just gotta embrace it.”

That is what Bingham has done.

Up next is an invitation to next month’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in Belfast, where he hopes to meet Lewis Hamilton, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Anthony Joshua.

“I’m sure I’ll be getting a few selfies,” says Bingham.

As one of sport’s most impressive – and charming – performers this year, Bingham should expect to receive a few requests himself.