THE privatisation of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) nearly 30 years ago had a major impact on the early career of professional Robert Milkins.
Speaking during the Cuestars under-21 finals day at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon, the world number 36 gave a fascinating insight into his life as a teenager.
The 43-year-old also revealed how he first picked up a cue to play pool, why he never played in junior tournaments and why he doesn’t have a huge amount of time for coaches.
“I used to play pool,” explained Milkins. “That’s how it started for me. I used to go to the pub most nights with my dad (a self-employed builder).”
Mum worked for the CEGB in Bristol and at weekends Milkins would play in her works social club on two old Burroughes & Watts tables paying 10p for ten minutes.
“The old boys used to get a bit annoyed with me,” he said. “You couldn’t keep me off the table as a kid.
“At the age of 14 or 15, I was flat out playing snooker. I loved it so much.
“I didn’t really play in any junior tournaments. Nothing at all.
“Snooker wasn’t the be-all and end-all for me at that age.”
But that was soon to change. His family moved to Gloucester after Nuclear Electric was formed in 1990 following the privatisation of the CEGB.
At the age of 16, Milkins joined Westgate Snooker Club where Nick Pearce was the resident professional.
Taking up the story, Milkins said: “I practised with him, getting beat by him for six months non-stop. That was my home, that club. I just loved playing there.
“I gradually started beating him. He taught me so much.”
At Pearce’s suggestion, Milkins started entering Pro-Ams and he first turned professional in 1995 when the game was open.
So what does it take to become a professional snooker player?
“It’s something that’s in you,” he said. “I wanted to practise non-stop.
“These kids nowadays, a lot of them, it’s hard work for them to do an hour or two. The odd one or two, they’ll take beatings all day long and want to come back for more and keep practising.
“Dedication. That’s something that’s in you. You can’t teach that.
“And I would also suggest not too much coaching. I’ve messed around towards the end of my career with a lot of coaching and I’ve gone back to how I used to play.”
And after playing 18 exhibition frames against our juniors, how did he feel?
“I’m knackered,” he laughed, before heading back into the club to present the trophies.
Picture by Tim Dunkley
Robert Milkins and six-year-old William Thomson receiving the club rankings trophy on behalf of Chandlers Ford Snooker Club
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)