Ronnie O’Sullivan explains ‘snooker brain’ comments after telling player to quit the sport

Ronnie O’Sullivan is taking no prisoners on punditry duty(Picture: PA)

Ronnie O’Sullivan is not playing at the Welsh Open this week, but is still attracting attention on punditry duty, telling John Astley he should consider quitting the sport as he ‘doesn’t have a good technique and he doesn’t even have a snooker brain.’

The world number 78 was handed a tough draw in his opener in Llandudno and came up short, losing 4-2 to three-time world champion Mark Williams.

Analysing the match in the Eurosport studio, the Rocket was baffled by a shot Astley played in frame five, missing a tricky red but leaving it on for Williams to win the frame.

O’Sullivan started with some sympathy, saying: ‘It’s hard to refuse balls. If I’ve got a chance, I think I should win the game. If I’m out of position I’m taking it on because I just can’t accept that I’m not going to win the frame so it’s hard to refuse balls sometimes. I’d probably try and screw that in, pinch it in a bit and at least if you miss it the red goes away.’

However, he made it clear he was not impressed with Astley’s choice, saying: ‘But to play it like that, he’s not even on the black… bad shot. He ain’t got a snooker brain really, that’s what it is. You’ve got to have a snooker brain.

‘Some people are good at maths, some people are good at English, some people just have a snooker brain and some people just don’t play the right shot and they’ll never play the right shot because their brain doesn’t think like a snooker player.

‘There’s a lot of fantastic players over the years, you’d be surprised, top five players, I won’t mention any names, that I don’t think have a snooker brain but they have such good technique that they can get away with it.

‘He has neither. He doesn’t have a good technique and he doesn’t even have a snooker brain.

‘He’s just going to make 30s, 40s, miss balls and never do anything really.

‘It’s unfortunate, but you’ve got to have one of the two. You’ve got to have good technique or a snooker brain and if you’ve got neither then maybe it’s time to find something else to do.’

It was brutal stuff from the world number one, with veteran player Barry Pinches, who sensationally beat Shaun Murphy earlier in the day, posting on X: ‘I think these comments are fair game until the last sentence which doesn’t seem fair to me especially with all the mental health talk around nowadays. “Maybe time to find something else to do….. “.

‘I hope John Astley who is a great guy btw doesn’t take this to heart.’

2017 Shanghai Masters - Day 2

35-year-old John Astley first turned pro in 2013 (Picture: Getty Images)

O’Sullivan expanded on his ‘snooker brain’ theory, adding: ‘What I’m saying is the way players go around break-building, playing certain shots. They’re giving themselves better opportunities. But some of the positional play you think, cor, its very basic stuff.

‘He hasn’t learnt it now, it’s too late. You either know this stuff or you don’t.

‘You look at [John] Higgins when he was a kid, Williams as a kid they’re no different to how they are now. They’ve just got more experience, but they played the game exactly the same.

‘Luca Brecel has a snooker brain, he creates shots and plays shots you can see it’s quite artistic.

‘If you haven’t found it by 14, 16, 18, you’re not going to figure it out at 35.

‘I think you can learn every facet of the game, be a better defensive player, attacking player, to be mentally better, you can always improve. Whether they’re that hungry to do it, I don’t know.’

O’Sullivan has already won the Masters and UK Championship in a brilliant season so far (Pictre: Getty Images)

The Rocket insisted that players who have gone as far as winning the World Championship do not necessarily have a snooker brain, as he sees it.

‘When I say snooker brain, you watch a player and you can see him thinking,’ the 48-year-old continued. ‘There’s some players out there, top players, you see them thinking but you know they’re blank. It’s not really registering.

‘And I’m talking about top players, world champions. It just shows you don’t have to have snooker brains, if you’re technically good and can just pot loads of balls then it’s fine.

‘But when you stop potting lots of balls and you ain’t got the brain to back it up then you’re bang in trouble.

‘That’s when you start having bad seasons, falling down the rankings. Look at people like Higgins, they have disaster seasons but never drop that far down the rankings, they’ve got a back up plan.’

O’Sullivan had said he was not playing in Llandudno this week due to anxiety, but asked about his decision not to play on Monday, he gave a different answer.

‘I think it is a great tournament, a great venue, and it is really nice to be on the coast,’ O’Sullivan said. ‘So it is always a great week and I think everyone loves just coming to this tournament. The key for me is if I can get away with playing the least amount, that is great for me.

‘Just trying to stay in the rankings and free some time up, just enjoying myself. I don’t want to be on the treadmill every week, you know.’


MORE : Xiao Guodong on challenges facing Chinese snooker players in UK: ‘It’s a different world’


MORE : Ronnie O’Sullivan says ‘stage fright’ is reason for Welsh Open withdrawal

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