West Midlands snooker star Mitchell Mann scores World Championship debut
West Midlands snooker star Mitchell Mann grew up with the dream of playing football at Wembley but will settle for snooker at the Crucible after earning a World Championship debut.
The Birmingham-based 24-year-old – who plays for Oldbury-based Brandhall Labour in the West Midlands League – locked in his place on the big stage with a nail-biting 10-9 win over Thai showman Dechawat Poomjaeng tonight, in the final qualifying round at Ponds Forge.
And as he awaits Thursday morning's first-round draw, Mann is 'buzzing' with excitement.
At the age of eight he was diagnosed with Perthes disease – a condition that rots the hip bone – and had to give up all his footballing ambitions. But it was not long before Mann found a passion for snooker thanks to dad Jeff's influence, and the biggest win of his career gives him a guaranteed minimum £13,000 in prize-money, and a return to the venue where in 2007 he won Junior Pot Black.
"I used to play football when I was a kid and signed for Birmingham City – although I'm a Villa fan," Mann said.
"I had some pains in my leg one day and we went to the hospital and had X-rays and they said it was growing pains. The pain never went away so we looked into it further and found out it was Perthes disease and I've had to have numerous operations on my hip, and they told me I could never do high-impact sports again.
"When I was bored in the house one night, my dad took me to a local snooker club and I've never looked back. I don't really follow the football much anymore – when you support Aston Villa, you don't want to be following that."
Mann is relishing his opportunity now.
"You can't argue that it is snooker's Wembley. It doesn't get much bigger than this, the Crucible, so I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"I'm buzzing inside. I think I was always going to do some sort of sport and I'm glad it's snooker now with this kind of feeling.
"My dad's remortgaged his house about five times to keep me going."
Jeff Mann teaches construction to 14- and 15-year-olds.
"He's never stopped believing," said cue star Mann. "Even when I've been down and out he's pushed me, he's been there and he's been brilliant."
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