Snooker world champion Joe Johnson gave an interview to BBC Radio 5Live this Bank Holiday Monday 6th May 2013 on the morning of the world snooker championship final. Joe spoke to breakfast show presenter Nicky Campbell before later speaking to the Alan Brazil breakfast show on Talksport to give his views on the 2013 final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hawkins before the final days play commenced.
Joe Johnson is a snooker legend, he became the World Champion in 1986 as a 150-1 outsider and nearly won again the following year in a tense final. He remains an instantly recogniseable face in the game today with countless other victories under his belt to include the Scottish Masters and European Grand Prix. In addition to Legends tour events and TV commentary, Joe owns several snooker clubs in his home county of Yorkshire,within these venues he runs a coaching academy. Today he remains a global ambassador for the sport.
One of the best amateurs of his time, Joe Johnson was National Under-19 champion in 1971 and three times Yorkshire Champion. He was runner-up to Terry Griffiths in the English Amateur championship of 1978 and, with Terry being a Welshman, that qualified him as England’s representative in that year’s World Amateur in Malta. He gave a very good account of himself reaching the final where Cliff Wilson proved too good for him. That prompted him to turn professional in 1979.
Joe Johnson got off to a slow start as a professional, never getting beyond the qualifying stages of his first four world championships. A quarter-final in the 1982 Professional Players Tournament earned him his first ranking points and that season he reached the Crucible stage of the Embassy for the first time but lost his opening match. When he again lost in the first round of the Masters at Wembley people started to say that he could not perform in front of the TV cameras. It was not until the 1985 Mercantile Credit Classic that he won his first televised march. As an amateur however he held the world record break of 140; and that was televised! In the meantime, the 1983 Professional Players Tournament, provided him with his first ranking final. 1-6 down to Tony Knowles at one stage, he fought back and only lost in the decider 9-8. Needless to say, this event was not televised. When he finally laid the TV ghost in that 1985 Mercantile Credit event he went on to reach the semi-final and ended that year in the top 16 – just.
The 1985/86 season got off to a modest start with just two quarter-finals and Joe Johnson arrived at the Crucible in April as a 150-1 outsider still looking for his first match win at that venue. In fact he had still not earned a single ranking point from the world championship in six attempts. This time, however, he got off to a good start with a 10-3 beating of Dave Martin and he had finally got that first win under his belt. Mike Hallett was his second round victim and then he edged past Terry Griffiths by the narrowest of margins, 13-12. He saw off Tony Knowles in the semis before facing Steve Davis, determined to regain the title he had lost to Dennis Taylor. Joe proved up to the task and ran out the winner 18-12. Joe Johnson was champion of the world.
Winning the world title seemed to have an adverse effect on his form and he had a poor season in 1986/87 not getting beyond the last 16 of any ranking event and again was given no hope of retaining his world title. In the event he surprised everyone and reached the final again. This time however, Steve Davis got his revenge by 18-14. This did however prove to Joe, as much as to everyone else, that he was good enough to win tournaments and he started the 1987/88 season by taking the Scottish Masters title. He followed this with a UK semi-final and got to the last four of the Masters.
His second world final had taken him to fifth in the rankings but it proved to be down hill from then on. By the end of the 1989/90 season, although he picked up the non-ranking European Grand Prix title, he had dropped out of the top 16, never to return. His eyesight was also giving him problems and he took a while to come to terms with playing in glasses. He did get back to the scene of his greatest triumph, the Crucible, in 1991 but did not get beyond the first round and since then his best performances have been a couple of quarter-finals in ranking events. With some health problems which he has since overcome, Joe retired from professional matchplay in 2003/04.
Joe Johnson remains the player who came closest to beating the “Crucible curse”, in that no first-time world champion has ever successfully defended the title. Joe Johnson’s defence saw him both reach the final and come within four frames of victory.
Joe Johnson also won the Seniors Pot Black Trophy in 1997, beating Terry Griffiths in the final. He was also an early influence on, and friend of, the late great snooker player Paul Hunter.
Today Joe Johnson remains a snooker ambassador, he runs 3 clubs and has his own coaching academy within these. He commentates for various broadcasters on televised tournaments to include Eurosport. He is married with five sons and two daughters.
World Professional champion – 1986
World Professional Championship runner-up – 1987
Scottish Masters champion – 1987
European Grand Prix champion – 1989
Professional Players Tournament runner-up – 1983
World Amateur Championship runner-up – 1978
English Amateur Championship runner-up -1978
National Under-19 champion – 1971 Seniors Pot Black - 1997