Snooker legend Dennis Taylor helps St Neots charity night

A SNOOKER legend gave a rare insight into the sport and its stars and helped raise �10,000 for charity when he came to St Neots.

Ex-world snooker champion Dennis Taylor entertained an audience of 300 local businessmen when he appeared as guest speaker at the Sportsman’s Night at the Priory Centre earlier this month.

The 62-year-old, best known for his Embassy World Championship win against Steve Davis in 1985, spoke about that life-defining moment and how his nerves nearly proved his ruin.

Money from the night, organised by the Rotary Club of St Neots St Mary’s, will go to a variety of local good causes.

Club president John Daniels said: “One of the coincidences was that the club was formed the same year he won the championship.

“He said he was so nervous when he went up for his first chance at the black that he missed.

“Then Steve Davis did the same thing, so he composed himself and went out for the next one.”

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Dennis also talked about his other rivals Stephen Hendry, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan, rating Hendry as the top snooker player of all time, with O’Sullivan and Davis coming in at second and third.

And he shared anecdotes about his life as a BBC commentator on the major championships.

Though professionally he has put away the snooker cue, Dennis is due to take part in a Legends tour, featuring some of the snooker greats, later this year.

Mr Daniels, who sat beside Dennis on the top table, said he was equally good one-to-one.

He said: “He is not just a good speaker. When he is speaking, he does not have any notes: he just talks.

“He still plays but not to the same extent that he did. He plays golf now. There is a similarity between golf and snooker.”

The club has been organising the annual Sportsman’s Night for 22 years. The night has helped raise �130,000 for charity in that time.

Dennis is the latest in a long line of sporting celebrities to have taken part. Other speakers have included boxing legend Henry Cooper, Scottish boxer Jim Watt, England footballer Nobby Stiles, former motor racing commentator Raymond Baxter and golf commentator Alex Hay.

Among the charities that will benefit from the night are the Teenage Cancer Trust, which is opening a dedicated ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, East Anglian Children’s Hospice at Milton, and Rotary International’s campaign against polio.

Next year’s event is already being planned, though the guest speaker is yet to be confirmed.