John Spencer (snooker player)

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John Spencer
Born(1935-09-18)18 September 1935
Radcliffe, Lancashire, England
Died11 July 2006(2006-07-11) (aged 70)
Bolton, Lancashire, England
Sport country England
Highest ranking2 (1977/78)
Career winnings£203,631[1]
Highest break147 (1979 Holsten Lager International)
Century breaks62[1]
Tournament wins
World Champion

John Spencer (18 September 1935 – 11 July 2006) was an English professional snooker player who won the World Professional title at his first attempt, was the first winner at the Crucible Theatre, was the inaugural winner of the Masters and Irish Masters, and was the first player to make a 147 break in competition. This is regarded as an unofficial maximum break as the event used non-templated tables. He was born in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.


Early years[edit]

Spencer attended Stand Grammar School for Boys in Whitefield.[2] He started his snooker career at the age of 15. Snooker was in decline during his youth, and he did not turn professional until the age of 31, when interest in the sport was starting to revive. Spencer was runner-up to Ray Reardon in the 1964 English Amateur Snooker Championship (the first tournament he ever entered) and lost to Pat Houlihan in the final of the 1965 event. Spencer finally lifted the trophy in 1966 with an 11–5 victory over Marcus Owen.[3]:116

In February 1967, Spencer made the bold decision to turn professional. At this time there were effectively no officially organized professional tournaments, and no player in the UK had turned professional since Rex Williams in 1951.[4] This proved to be a very important step in re-establishing snooker as a viable sport, with amateur rivals Gary Owen following suit in September 1967[5] and Ray Reardon on December 3 of that year.[6] This influx of new professionals led to the World Championship being revived on a challenge basis in the 1968/9 season.

He first won the World Championship in 1969 after being loaned £100 by his bank to raise the entry fee. On 22 November 1968, Spencer defeated reigning world champion John Pulman 25–18 in his opening match before going on to defeat Rex Williams 37–12[7] and Gary Owen 37–24 in the final, held at Victoria Hall in London from 17 to 22 March.[8] 'Dead' frames were then played out to give a final frame tally of 46–27 to Spencer, who (with additional bonuses) took £1,780 from the event.[9] He thus became the only player to win the World Championship at his first attempt since Joe Davis won the inaugural championship in 1927 (the feat was emulated by Alex Higgins in 1972 and by Terry Griffiths in 1979).[3]:89

In the April 1970 World Championship, Spencer beat veteran Irish Professional Champion Jackie Rea 31–15, but lost his semi-final by 33–37 on a poor-quality table to Ray Reardon, who went on to claim his first title.[3]:89 Oddly, the de facto 1971 championship was held in November 1970 and played in Australia. Following an incomplete round-robin Spencer thrashed Reardon 34–15 in the semi-final before defeating Warren Simpson in the final 37–29.[3] During the final Spencer made three centuries in four frames (105, 126 and 107), the first time this had been achieved in the championship.[10]:9

Spencer gained important TV exposure by winning BBC TV's Pot Black series in 1970 (reversing his defeat by Ray Reardon in the 1969 final) and again in 1971 when he beat Fred Davis in the final. Spencer also claimed the highest break prize in 1972, was runner-up in 1974, and won the event again in 1976 (beating Dennis Taylor in the final), thus becoming the first three-time winner.[11]

In 1971 and 1972, four events sponsored by Park Drive (the Park Drive 2000) were held where each of the four players involved played nine matches, the top two placed professionals playing a final match. Spencer won three of these events and lost the fourth only 3–4[3]:90 in the final to Ray Reardon with whom he battled for supremacy throughout the 1970s as snooker emerged from a phase of obscurity to become one of Britain's most popular sports. From 1969 to 1978, only three players defeated Spencer in the World Championship (Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins and Perrie Mans) and from 1973 to 1977 he did not lose a World Championship match by more than two frames. In 1971, Spencer also won the Stratford Professional with a 5–2 victory over David Taylor.[12]

1972 World Championship[edit]

Pivotal in the rise of snooker as one of Britain's most popular sports was the 1972 World Championship final. As defending champion in the 1972 event, Spencer beat Fred Davis 31–21 and Eddie Charlton 37–32, before facing championship debutant Alex Higgins in the final. The week-long final was fairly balanced until the Thursday evening session which Higgins won 6–0, creating a gap Spencer never looked like closing. Higgins duly went on to take the match 37–32.[13] The match was played at the British Legion Club in Selly Oak, Birmingham, often with emergency generators providing the lighting and with hundreds of spectators crammed in, many seated on beer crates; it provided the crucial spark of interest in the modern era. Higgins was already generating much interest in the sport and had been the subject of a documentary by Thames TV ahead of the final.[14]

Spencer made no excuses for his defeat, despite being exhausted and ill from a major tour of Canada, trapped in a lift ahead of one of the sessions, and involved in a minor car crash on the way to another session. He had also expended effort in beating Higgins 4–3 in the final of the Park Drive 2000 event the night before their final commenced.[15] In his 2005 memoir, Spencer made clear that Higgins had played the better snooker and won the match 'fair and square'.[16]:74 Curiously, Higgins used this exact expression when discussing his victory in his memoir two years later.[14]:56 Spencer was also quick to admit that Higgins' win brought in more sponsorship, more promotions, better organisation and more media interest.[10]:10 Later that year, Spencer would also lose his Stratford Professional crown to Higgins, losing 3–6 in the final.[17]

Spencer went on to win one further world title, which was the historic inaugural event at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 1977. He never reached the top of the world rankings, however, always being eclipsed by his rival, Reardon. Spencer played down talk of a friendship between himself and Reardon and stated that they never socialised together.[16]:106 However, Spencer and Reardon paired up for the first two World Doubles events. In 1983, they lost 2–6 to Jimmy White and Tony Knowles in the quarter-finals,[18] and in 1984 lost 0–5 to Cliff Thorburn and John Virgo, also in the quarter-finals.[19] The partnership only ended when Spencer thought he would be too ill to play in the 1985 event.[20] Late in his life, Spencer joined Reardon for a special Crucible feature.[21]

In 1973 and 1974, Norwich Union sponsored a snooker event which unusually contained both professionals and amateur players. Spencer won the event both times it was held beating Alex Higgins 8–2 (in the semi-final) and John Pulman 8–7 (in the final) to win the 1973 event and beating Cliff Thorburn 9–7 (in the semi-finals) and Ray Reardon 10–9 (in the final) to win the 1974 event. This latter victory was even more notable given that his cue had been broken into four pieces ten days before the 1974 event and he had to have it pieced back together.[22] Spencer was runner-up in both inaugural Pontins events, first held in 1974. He lost the Open (conceding 25) to Doug Mountjoy 4–7 and the Professional event 9–10 to Ray Reardon (after Spencer had trailed 4–9).[23] He also won a minor tournament at the end of 1974, the Jackpot Automatics tournament, beating Alex Higgins 5–0 in the final.[24]

A sign of growing interest in snooker's resurgence came when Ladbrokes held a gala evening towards the end of 1973 to celebrate its £8,000 investment into the sport in the 1973–74 season. The gala evening event (held at the Cafe Royal) saw Spencer take first prize with a 3–2 win over Ray Edmonds.[25]

Spencer's good form was not to be translated into positive results at the 1973 and 1974 World Championships. Arguably his most disappointing career loss was his 22–23 defeat by Ray Reardon in the 1973 World Championship semi-final, after leading 16–9 and 19–12. Prior to this, Spencer had shown decisive form in defeating David Taylor 16–5 and Rex Williams 16–7. In the final, Reardon defeated Eddie Charlton, a player to whom Spencer would not lose in a major match until 1979.[3]:91

In 1974, he lost 13–15 to Perrie Mans in the second round. Spencer refused to blame the defeat on a dose of flu from which he had been suffering (and Mans did indeed defeat Spencer again in the 1978 event). Spencer's only consolation was a plate competition for first and second round losers where he easily crushed his opponents, notching up six centuries in defeating David Greaves 5–1, Dennis Taylor 9–4, Jim Meadowcroft 9–3 and John Pulman 15–5 in the final.[26]

In 1975, Spencer won the inaugural Masters event held at Fulham's West Centre Hotel. He defeated John Pulman (5–3), Eddie Charlton (5–2) and overcame Ray Reardon in the closest of finals.[3]:92 Spencer trailed 6–8, but leveled at 8–8 and took the final frame on a re-spotted Black.[27] In the spring, he won the invitational Ashton Court Country Club event (and took the highest break prize) by defeating Alex Higgins 5–1 in front of a sell out crowd in the final.[28] Spencer lost 2–5 to Higgins in the final of the Castle Open pro-am at the end of the year.[29]

Spencer again faced disappointment at the 1975 World Championship, in a somewhat controversial manner. With the tournament being staged in Australia and organised by Eddie Charlton, Spencer found himself in a half of the draw which featured both Ray Reardon and Alex Higgins, meaning that all the champions since 1969 were in the same half of the draw. Still worse, the organisational seedings placed Spencer at 8, meaning that he met Reardon in the quarter-final. Despite opening up with two centuries in the first four frames and leading 17–16, with the scars of their epic 1973 semi-final still fresh, the match slipped away from Spencer 17–19. At the time, both Reardon and Spencer stated boldly that it was the greatest match yet played.[30]

The following year, the 1976 World Championship saw an even narrower defeat for Spencer at the same stage. Having defeated David Taylor 15–5, and claiming the highest break prize in the process,[31] he lost to Alex Higgins in the quarter-final 14–15, having trailed 12–14. The quality of the match was a pale shadow of their 1972 encounter.[32]

A minor consolation came when Spencer won the 1976 Canadian Open that year, defeating John Virgo 9–4 in the semi-final and Alex Higgins 17–9 in the final to claim the $5,000 prize.[33]

Final World Championship victory and other titles[edit]

Spencer returned to win his third world title in 1977, the first world championship to be held at the Crucible Theatre where it has remained ever since. Seeded 8, Spencer defeated John Virgo 13–9 (having trailed 1–4), Ray Reardon 13–6, a resurgent John Pulman 18–16, and finally Cliff Thorburn 25–21 (having trailed 11–15) in the final. Spencer won £6,000 for his victory. He followed this up by winning the Pontins Professional title a week later, defeating John Pulman 7–5 in the final to win another £1,500.[34] Spencer's World Championship victory in 1977 was the last time that he seriously challenged for the world title; he never again reached even the quarter-finals of any future World Championship.

Spencer reached the final of the Canadian Open again in 1977, where he lost to Higgins 14–17.[35] This event was played in a circus tent, with a traditional circus situated next to the event. Conditions were so hot that Spencer's chalk snapped in half upon using it due to accumulated dampness in his pocket.[36]

In the spring of 1978 Spencer won the very first Irish Masters by beating Doug Mountjoy 5–3 in the final at Goffs Sales Room. Spencer took £1,000, but the event was so successful it brought in around £3,300 in gate receipts.[37] Prior to this, Spencer had won a precursor to this event in Ireland, held at the National Boxing Stadium. In 1975, he beat Alex Higgins in a one off match and then beat Higgins again in the final of a four-man event held in 1976.[38] Spencer's good form continued when he beat Tony Knowles 7–4 in the final of the 1978 Warners Open. Despite conceding 21 points per frame, Spencer did not even drop a frame until the final.[39] Spencer was undefeated in the group stages of the Pontins Professional tournament that year, winning all five of his matches, but he lost 2–7 to Ray Reardon in the final.[40]

Spencer warmed up for the 1978 World Championship by winning the Castle Professional event, defeating Alex higgins 5–3 in the final.[41] However, he lost his opening match in the World Championship to Perrie Mans by 8–13, a result which had looked unlikely when a break of 118 had given him a 3–1 lead. Spencer began the final session with a 138 break, which would prove to be the highest of the championship, but did not win another frame. The break at least doubled his prize money to £1,000.[42]

First unofficial 147 break in a tournament[edit]

In January 1979 at the Holsten Lager International, Spencer compiled the first ever 147 maximum break in tournament play. He was playing Cliff Thorburn in the quarter-final and won the first three frames of their encounter 106–1, 147–0 and 119–0. Spencer could not resist giving the excited spectators a shock by lunging forward and hitting over the cue ball in his initial address, before potting the final black. Thames Television were resting their TV crew at the time following the previous match between Alex Higgins and David Taylor and so missed the historic moment. This did not count as an official maximum break as the event used non templated tables, so it remains an unofficial maximum break. Spencer went on to win the tournament, beating Rex Williams 6–2 in the semi-final and Graham Miles 11–7 in the final. The sponsors awarded Spencer an extra £500 for the break in addition to his £3,500 first prize.[43] Three years later on 11 January 1982, Spencer was Steve Davis's opponent when Davis made the first televised 147 at the Lada Classic tournament at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham. This occurred in the fifth frame of their quarter-final match when the scores had been poised at two frames each.[44]

Two months after Spencer's 147 he won the biggest tournament that India had yet staged when he won the Garware Paints Invitational event in Bombay. Spencer beat India's Arvind Savur 6–1, Patsy Fagan 6–4, Graham Miles 6–5 and Cliff Thorburn 6–3 to take the £2,000 first prize and another £200 for the highest break (108) and also claimed the 'Man of the Series' award.[45] In the same event the following year, Spencer remained undefeated in his group matches, before his semi-final loss to John Virgo. These matches included a 6–4 victory over Steve Davis (who won the UK title later that year).[46] Although Spencer would run Davis close in future years, this was his only victory over Davis in a recognised event.

Spencer reached the semi-final of the Irish Masters in 1979, losing just 2–3 to Ray Reardon, having made the highest break of the tournament (121) at the group stage. Spencer was also runner-up to Reardon in the 1979 Forward Chemicals event, the final of this extended event (which duplicated the old Park Drive 2000 format) was played in front of 680 people at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Spencer lost 6–9, and took £2,300.[47] Later that year, Spencer lost 1–4 to Steve Davis in the semi-final of the Pontins Open event.[48]

In January 1980, Spencer won £3,000 (a record for a two-day event) at the Wilson's Classic.[3]:100 Broadcast by Granada TV, the final contained another notorious push-shot incident adjudged against Spencer's opponent Alex Higgins.[49] Higgins received a £200 fine for his reaction to Jim Thorpe's controversial decision.[50] Spencer also won the Winfield Australian Masters in 1980, beating Dennis Taylor in the final.[16]:80–81 This was Spencer's last professional solo tournament victory (he was runner-up in the 1981 event).

In February 1981 in the John Courage English Professional Championship, after a 9–1 first round victory over Pat Houlihan, Spencer led Steve Davis 7–6 in the quarter-final, having notched in a break of 112. However, Spencer lost three tight frames to lose the match 7–9. Davis lost just five frames in his other 3 matches combined.[51]

Later in that same year, Spencer joined Steve Davis and David Taylor to become the first English team to win the World Team Classic. Spencer crucially defeated Terry Griffiths with the aid of a hard-fought 103 break (he was unable to pot the black during the entire break) in the final, Griffiths having not lost a match in the tournament up to that stage. Davis then secured victory against Ray Reardon in the tie-break to secure the title and £12,000.[52]

Such a victory only partially made up for Spencer's great disappointment at the 1981 Masters event. Having dispatched Dennis Taylor 5–2 and Ray Reardon 5–1, Spencer led Terry Griffiths 5–2 with Griffiths needing two snookers in the next frame. However, Griffiths managed to recover the match and eventually won by 6–5 after almost six hours of play. Spencer thus missed out on a major final with old rival Alex Higgins.[53]

Remarkably, Spencer's 10–9 first round victory over Ray Edmonds at the 1981 World Championship was his first victory in the Championship since his title victory in 1977. Hopes that Spencer might progress further were dashed by an even older adversary, Ray Reardon, who recovered from 0–3 and 5–7 behind to win the match 13–11.[54] It was to be the last time the two would meet in the World Championship.

Prior to the 1982 World Championship, Spencer beat Alex Higgins (who won the world title a few weeks later) 6–0 in the semi-final of the 1982 Highland Masters in Inverness. Spencer lost 4–11 to Ray Reardon in the final, after taking the highest break prize with an effort of 119. The 1982 World Championship itself produced a great many upsets and the loss of the top three seeds in round one. Despite a strong performance in beating John Dunning 10–4 in round one, Spencer could not take advantage of the more open draw and his form fell away badly after holding Willie Thorne to 3–3 in round two. He lost the match 5–13.[55]

At the end of 1982 Spencer finally won a match in the UK Championship, having lost his first match in every event since the inaugural tournament in 1977. This looked unlikely when his opponent, veteran Scot Eddie Sinclair opened up the deciding frame with a 54 break, but Spencer grabbed a lifeline and saw out the match with a 50 break to win 9–8. Spencer then followed this up by eliminating one of the favourites, Tony Knowles 9–6, before losing to Alex Higgins 5–9 in the quarter-finals.[56]

1983 also began very promisingly when Spencer defeated Ray Reardon 5–3 and David Taylor 5–2 in the Lada Classic. This guaranteed a cheque for £6,000 (the same as he won for winning the 1977 World Championship). In the semi-final, Spencer led Steve Davis 3–1, then 4–2, and 45–29 in the deciding frame, before Davis finally squeezed home, denying Spencer what would have been his highest ever payday.[57]

The 1983 World Championship also ended in disappointment. After seeing off the challenge of 24-year-old Mike Hallett in round one by 10–7, Spencer faced old foe Eddie Charlton in round two. Spencer moved into a 4–0 lead, but lost his intensity and despite a break of 106 allowed Charlton to move 12–7 ahead. Spencer fought back, but went in-off on the verge of levelling at 12–12 and lost the match 11–13.[58]

Immediately after this Spencer lost narrowly again when he was defeated by Tony Meo, 5–4, in the semi-final of the Pontin's event at Brean Sands. An even narrower loss came when Spencer and partner John Virgo lost the doubles event on the final black to Meo and Jimmy White.[59]


Spencer's later career was blighted by the ocular version of myasthenia gravis (with symptoms including double vision). He first noticed something was amiss when he felt unwell at the Pontin's professional tournament in 1984.[60] When the news broke in the press of Spencer's condition, he noted that only two players directly sent messages to him. One was Cliff Thorburn, the other was Alex Higgins, who turned up at his house, complete with bottle of Bacardi which Higgins drank as Spencer was not allowed alcohol at this point.[16]:158

While the illness affected Spencer late in his career, it robbed him of the modest upturn that had seen him rise to 13th in the 1984/85 rankings.[61] He had also only narrowly failed to capture the Pontin's Professional title that summer when he lost 7–9 to Willie Thorne in the final.[62] During the 1984 World Championship he had defeated Graham Miles 10–3 in the first round and held top seed Steve Davis to 4–6 in round two, before Davis pulled away to win 13–5. The Miles match was Spencer's last victory at the Crucible.[63]

Although Spencer was able to compete in the 1984/85 season, it was clear that the illness was affecting his form. He won only one ranking match during the season when he defeated Canadian Frank Jonik 6–0 in the Dulux British Open.[64] There was some cheer when Spencer partnered Tony Knowles to the semi-finals of the World Doubles in December 1984 which gave them a cheque for £11,250.[65] Spencer also marked his final appearance in the Masters with a 5–3 win over Eddie Charlton. Although he lost 2–5 to Jimmy White in the quarter-finals, he picked up one of his highest pay cheques of £8,250. Spencer was also part of the England 'B' team in the World Cup (with Jimmy White and Willie Thorne) which reached the semi-finals.[66] Such outings allowed Spencer to finish within the top 15 money earners for the season.[67] Another small consolation came when he narrowly lost in the 1984 final of Pot Black to Terry Griffiths.[16]:71

A major side effect of Spencer's condition was a susceptibility to eye strain under the bright TV lighting. When he competed in the 1985 Pontins Professional event under ordinary shaded lighting he once again reached the final, losing only 7–9 to Terry Griffiths, who Spencer would never defeat in a major singles event.[68] It also proved to be his last tournament final.

Spencer journeyed to Scotland ahead of the 1986 World Championship to get in concentrated practice. This paid off when he qualified for the Crucible to play old foe Alex Higgins in what was to prove their last World Championship meeting. Higgins led 8–2, but was eventually relieved to win 10–7.[69] It was to be Spencer's last playing visit to the Crucible. Gordon Burn relates that part of Spencer's Scottish practice was against a young Stephen Hendry. Spencer, after two money-match defeats, suggested to Hendry that they play next time in casual clothes. This occurred, with the result that Spencer won their third encounter 6–4.[70]

After falling to a career low 34th in the rankings for the 1986/87 season, Spencer continued to work hard on his game. In the 1986 BCE International Championship, he recorded breaks of 104 and 134 against Ian Williamson;[71] the 134 being the highest break of that year's entire event.[72] Spencer also made a break of 129 in defeating Terry Whitthread 5–2 in the Dulux British Open a month later. In the final stages of this event, Spencer defeated then World Champion Joe Johnson 5–3 en route to the quarter-final. This last-eight match against old friend Jimmy White saw Spencer compile a century and capture the sixth frame after needing six snookers (in a frame which took just 18 minutes to play). Spencer lost the match 3–5 but gained his highest ever snooker payday with a cheque for £9,000.[73] Another late career highlight came when Spencer defeated old friend Fred Davis 5–0 in the 1988 British Open and followed this with a 5–0 televised win over Dennis Taylor on 27 February. Spencer lost just 4–5 in the fifth round to Rex Williams, who thus recorded his first ever tournament victory over Spencer.[74]

Retirement and final years[edit]

Spencer fought hard to keep playing and keep his symptoms at bay. His final hurrah came in the 1990 World Championship qualifying, where he beat Ken Owers 10–8 before providing a surprisingly tough test for rising star James Wattana. Wattana won the final two frames on the final black and pink respectively to notch a 10–8 victory in the fourth qualifying round.[75] Spencer's victory over Owers was his last ever victory in a recognised ranking competition.[76] In the 1991 World Championship, he lost his first match to Ray Edmonds 4–10, finally giving Edmonds a victory over Spencer in a rivalry that stretched back to Spencer's victory over him in the 1965 English Amateur Championships. At the time Spencer indicated a strong desire to carry on playing and stated that he was planning to enter all of the events the following season.[77] This decision seemed especially poignant given that his old rival Ray Reardon had announced his retirement following his defeat in the 1991 World Championship Qualifying.[78]

Spencer was too ill to play in six of the ten events the following season, due to a flare-up of his condition in June. So many steroids were now required that they caused his hands to shake.[79] Spencer kept his playing hopes alive by joining the management group of Six Colours Promotions in February 1992. He hoped that this might provide a much needed 'morale boost' and the stable included then-World Champion John Parrott, whom Spencer had advised ahead of his 1991 World Championship win.[80] But when Spencer did play in the four remaining events he was only able to win a single frame (in the Pearl Assurance British Open against Euan Henderson).[76] His final World Championship appearance could hardly have been sadder: he scored just 207 points against Norwegian Bjorn L'Orange and lost this second round qualifying match 0–10.[81]

Spencer did continue to do some exhibitions and was grateful to Stephen Hendry's manager Ian Doyle for arranging some exhibitions after he stepped down as chairman of the WPBSA. Spencer was also pleased to have the assistance at these events of Len Ganley. Soon after this, he began to have trouble with veins in his legs, making mobility an issue.[16]:183

His last TV appearance as a player came in 1997 when he took part in Seniors Pot Black. Spencer later admitted that he was suffering from severe depression caused by his illness when he played this match.[16]:72 He generated applause with some of his shots during a frame against Dennis Taylor, which he lost 47–74.[82] Despite matches only being a single frame, Spencer did not play in the Senior Masters Competition in June 2000, leaving a field of 15. This event was won by Willie Thorne.[83]

Later years, personal life and death[edit]

Poor health led to Spencer's departure from the role of commentator in 1998. In his memoirs, he wrote movingly of struggling through his role before retiring back to his hotel room. He was deeply moved by the kindness of fellow commentators Ted Lowe and Ray Edmonds.[16]:172

In early 2003 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer[16]:184 but he later refused treatment for it in order to enjoy the rest of his life free from the effects of chemotherapy. Spencer emotionally paid a last visit to the Crucible for the 2005 Champions Parade.[84] He had for many years been a dedicated charity fundraiser and, despite his illness, he took part in a sponsored parachute jump in August 2005. His biography Out of the Blue and into the Black was published that same year.

Spencer had married Margaret A. Sawbridge in 1969, but they later separated.[citation needed]

On 11 July 2006 he died in a hospice in Bolton at the age of 70.[85]

Playing style[edit]

Spencer was the first major professional snooker player to use a two-piece cue, which he used to win the 1977 title. Spencer was given the cue by Al Selinger of the Dufferin Cue Company during Spencer's victorious run in the 1976 Canadian Open. He did not use the cue straight away but switched to it a few weeks before the 1977 World Championship.[10]:11 A few months later he changed his cue again to another 2 piece, this time from Japan.[86]

His cue action included an unusually long backswing which gave him immense cue power, and allowed him to develop shots using deep-screw from long-distance and maximum side spin which aided the progression to modern break-building.

Other snooker interests[edit]

He was the owner of Spencer's Snooker Club in Bolton in the 1980s, when snooker was at its peak popularity. Following his defeat by Perrie Mans in the 1978 World Championship Spencer was invited by producer Nick Hunter to try his hand at commentating on snooker for BBC television, a task he enjoyed for the next 19 years.[16]:79 He was also chairman of the WPBSA for six years from 1990, despite periods of extreme ill-health. When he resigned from his position in November 1996, he had been a member of the governing board for 25 years.[87]

Performance and rankings timeline[edit]

Tournament 1968/
Ranking[88] No ranking system 8 2 4 4 15 14 12 16 13 20 34 28 27 38 55 85
Ranking tournaments
Dubai Classic[nb 1] Tournament Not Held NR 2R LQ WD
Grand Prix[nb 2] Tournament Not Held 3R 2R 1R 1R 1R 1R 2R LQ LQ WD
UK Championship Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 1R 2R 3R 1R 1R 1R LQ LQ
Classic Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 2R 1R 1R 2R 2R 1R LQ LQ WD
Asian Open[nb 3] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event Not Held 1R LQ WD
British Open[nb 4] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event 2R 1R QF 3R 1R 1R LQ LQ
European Open Tournament Not Held WD 1R LQ LQ
World Championship Non-Ranking Event 2R QF QF W 1R 1R 2R 2R 2R 2R 2R 1R 1R LQ LQ LQ LQ LQ LQ
Non-ranking tournaments
Pot Black F W W LQ RR F RR W RR RR RR RR A A A F 1R A Tournament Not Held A
World Seniors Championship Tournament Not Held 1R
The Masters Tournament Not Held W SF QF SF QF SF SF 1R A QF QF A A A A A LQ A
Irish Masters[nb 5] Tournament Not Held W W A W SF RR 1R 1R A A A A A A A A A A
Matchroom League[nb 6] Tournament Not Held RR Not Held A A A A A A
Pontins Professional Tournament Not Held F F SF W F RR QF A A A F F QF A A A A A A
Former ranking tournaments
Canadian Masters[nb 7] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking 1R Not Held
Hong Kong Open[nb 8] Tournament Not Held Non-Ranking Event NH 1R Not Held
International Open[nb 9] Tournament Not Held NR 2R QF 1R 2R 1R 2R 3R LQ Not Held
Former non-ranking tournaments
Park Drive 2000 (Spring) Not Held W W Tournament Not Held
Stratford Professional Not Held A W F Tournament Not Held
Park Drive 2000 (Autumn) Not Held F W Tournament Not Held
Men of the Midlands Not Held F RR Tournament Not Held
World Championship W SF W F SF Ranking Event
World Masters Tournament Not Held F Tournament Not Held
Norwich Union Open Tournament Not Held W W Tournament Not Held
Watney Open Tournament Not Held SF Tournament Not Held
Canadian Club Masters Tournament Not Held SF Tournament Not Held
Dry Blackthorn Cup Tournament Not Held SF Tournament Not Held
Holsten Lager International Tournament Not Held W Tournament Not Held
Forward Chemicals Tournament Tournament Not Held F Tournament Not Held
Limosin International Tournament Not Held F Tournament Not Held
Padmore Super Crystalate Tournament Not Held SF Tournament Not Held
Bombay International Tournament Not Held W SF Tournament Not Held
Canadian Masters[nb 10] Tournament Not Held A QF W F A A 2R Tournament Not Held A A A R Not Held
International Open[nb 11] Tournament Not Held 2R Ranking Event Not Held
Highland Masters Tournament Not Held F Tournament Not Held
Classic Tournament Not Held W QF QF SF Ranking Event
Pontins Brean Sands Tournament Not Held SF Tournament Not Held
Australian Masters[nb 12] Tournament Not Held A W F RR 1R A A A A NH R Not Held
UK Championship Tournament Not Held 2R 2R 2R 1R 1R QF 2R Ranking Event
British Open[nb 13] Tournament Not Held RR LQ LQ RR LQ Ranking Event
KitKat Break for World Champions Tournament Not Held QF Tournament Not Held
English Professional Championship Tournament Not Held QF Not Held 1R 2R 1R 1R 1R Not Held
European Grand Masters Tournament Not Held QF NH
Performance Table Legend
LQ lost in the qualifying draw #R lost in the early rounds of the tournament
(WR = Wildcard round, RR = Round robin)
QF lost in the quarter-finals
SF lost in the semi-finals F lost in the final W won the tournament
DNQ did not qualify for the tournament A did not participate in the tournament WD withdrew from the tournament
NH / Not Held means an event was not held.
NR / Non-Ranking Event means an event is/was no longer a ranking event.
R / Ranking Event means an event is/was a ranking event.
  1. ^ The event was also called the Dubai Masters (1988/1989)
  2. ^ The event was also called the Professional Players Tournament (1982/93–1983/1984)
  3. ^ The event was also called the Thailand Masters (1983/1984–1986/1987)
  4. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)
  5. ^ The event was also called the Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament (1974/1975–1976/1977)
  6. ^ The event was also called the Professional Snooker League (1983/1984)
  7. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  8. ^ The event was also called the Australian Masters (1979/1980–1987/1988))
  9. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  10. ^ The event was also called the Canadian Open (1978/1979–1980/1981)
  11. ^ The event was also called the Goya Matchroom Trophy (1985/1986)
  12. ^ The event was also called the Hong Kong Open (1989/1990) and Australian Open (1994/1995)
  13. ^ The event was also called the British Gold Cup (1979/1980), Yamaha Organs Trophy (1980/1981) and International Masters (1981/1982–1983/1984)

Career finals[edit]

Ranking finals: 1 (1 title)[edit]

World Championship (1–0)
Other (0–0)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1977 World Snooker Championship (3) Canada Cliff Thorburn 25–21

Non-ranking finals: 48 (27 titles, 21 runners-up)[edit]

World Championship (2–1) [a]
The Masters (1–0)
Other (24–20)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1969 World Snooker Championship Wales Gary Owen 46–27
Runner-up 1. 1969 Pot Black Wales Ray Reardon 0–1
Winner 2. 1970 Pot Black Wales Ray Reardon 1–0
Winner 3. 1971 World Snooker Championship (2) Australia Warren Simpson 37–29
Winner 4. 1971 Pot Black (2) England Fred Davis 1–0
Winner 5. 1971 Park Drive 2000 – Spring England Rex Williams 4–1
Runner-up 2. 1971 International Park Drive Championship Wales Ray Reardon 0–4
Winner 6. 1971 Stratford Professional England David Taylor 5–2
Runner-up 3. 1971 Park Drive 2000 – Autumn Wales Ray Reardon 3–4
Runner-up 4. 1972 Men of the Midlands Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 2–4
Winner 7. 1972 Park Drive 2000 – Spring Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 4–3
Runner-up 5. 1972 World Snooker Championship Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 32–37
Runner-up 6. 1972 Stratford Professional Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 3–6
Winner 8. 1972 Park Drive 2000 – Autumn Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 5–3
Winner 9. 1973 Norwich Union Open England John Pulman 8–7
Winner 10. 1974 Ladbrokes Gala Event England Ray Edmonds 3–2
Runner-up 7. 1974 Pot Black (2) England Graham Miles Aggregate Score
Runner-up 8. 1974 Pontins Professional Wales Ray Reardon 9–10
Winner 11. 1974 World Plate Championship England John Pulman 15–5
Runner-up 9. 1974 World Masters Canada Cliff Thorburn Aggregate Score [b]
Winner 12. 1974 Norwich Union Open (2) Wales Ray Reardon 10–9
Winner 13. 1974 Jackpot Automatics Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 5–0
Runner-up 10. 1974 International Park Drive Championship – Event 1 Wales Ray Reardon #
Runner-up 11. 1974 International Park Drive Championship – Event 2 Wales Ray Reardon #
Winner 14. 1974 International Park Drive Championship – Event 3 Wales Ray Reardon 3–2
Winner 15. 1975 The Masters Wales Ray Reardon 9–8
Winner 16. 1975 Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 9–7
Runner-up 12. 1975 Pontins Professional (2) Wales Ray Reardon 4–10
Winner 17. 1975 Ashton Court Country Club Event Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 5–1
Winner 18. 1976 Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament (2) Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 5–0
Winner 19. 1976 Pot Black (3) Northern Ireland Dennis Taylor 1–0
Winner 20. 1976 Canadian Open Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 17–9
Winner 21. 1977 Pontins Professional England John Pulman 7–5
Runner-up 13. 1977 Canadian Open Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 14–17
Winner 22. 1978 Irish Masters (3) Wales Doug Mountjoy 5–3
Winner 23. 1978 Castle Professional Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 5–3
Runner-up 14. 1978 Pontins Professional (3) Wales Ray Reardon 2–7
Runner-up 15. 1979 Forward Chemicals Tournament Wales Ray Reardon 6–9
Winner 24. 1979 Holsten Lager International England Graham Miles 11–7
Winner 25. 1979 Bombay International Northern Ireland Dennis Taylor Round-robin
Runner-up 16. 1979 Limosin International Australia Eddie Charlton 19–23
Winner 26. 1980 The Classic Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 4–3
Winner 27. 1980 Australian Masters Northern Ireland Dennis Taylor Aggregate Score
Runner-up 17. 1981 Australian Masters England Tony Meo Aggregate Score
Runner-up 18. 1982 Highland Masters Wales Ray Reardon 4–9
Runner-up 19. 1984 Pot Black (3) Wales Terry Griffiths 1–2
Runner-up 20. 1984 Pontins Professional (4) England Willie Thorne 7–9
Runner-up 21. 1985 Pontins Professional (5) Wales Terry Griffiths 7–9

Pro-am finals: 2 (2 runners-up)[edit]

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1974 Pontins Spring Open Wales Doug Mountjoy 4–7[90]
Runner-up 2. 1975 Castle Open Northern Ireland Alex Higgins 2–5

Team finals: 3 (1 title, 2 runners-up)[edit]

Outcome No. Year Championship Team/partner Opponent(s) in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1975 Ladbroke International  England Rest of the World Cumulative score
Runner-up 2. 1979 World Challenge Cup  England  Wales 3–14
Winner 1. 1981 World Team Classic  England  Wales 4–3

Amateur finals: 4 (1 title, 3 runners-up)[edit]

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1964 English Amateur Championship Wales Ray Reardon 8–11
Runner-up 2. 1965 English Amateur Championship (2) England Pat Houlihan 3–11
Winner 1. 1966 English Amateur Championship Wales Marcus Owen 11–5
Runner-up 3. 1966 World Amateur Championship Wales Gary Owen Group

Further reading[edit]

  • Spencer, John (2005). Out of the Blue – Into the Black: The Autobiography of John Spencer. Parrs Wood Press. ISBN 1-903158-63-X.


  1. ^ The World Championship did not become a ranking event until 1974
  2. ^ aggregate points score across two frames[89]


  1. ^ a b "CueTracker – Career Total Statistics For John Spencer – Professional Results". Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  2. ^ Everton, Clive. "Spencer, John (1935–2006)". Dictionary of National Biography. OUP.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Everton, Clive (1982). Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker. Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 0851122566.
  4. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Billiards and Snooker, March 1969, No. 553, p.11. The article here is surprisingly small and may explain the very rare error in Everton's Guinness Book of Snooker, where he states Gary Owen was the first professional since 1967 (see 1982 edition, p.76).
  5. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Billiards and Snooker, Oct 1967, No. 560, p.5.
  6. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Billiards and Snooker, Dec 1967, No. 562, p.4.
  7. ^ With all frames played Spencer won by the even greater margin of 55–18; see Billiards and Snooker, No. 577, p.3.
  8. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Billiards and Snooker, No. 577, March 1969, p.3.
  9. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Billiards and Snooker, April 1969, No. 578 p.6
  10. ^ a b c Spencer, John (1978). Spencer on Snooker. Cassell.
  11. ^ Perrin, Reg (ed.). Pot Black. BBC Books. p. 22.
  12. ^ "Snooker champion in top form". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 21 September 1971. p. 32.
  13. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, April 1972, p.4.
  14. ^ a b Higgins, Alex (2007). My Story: From the Eye of the Hurricane. Headline. p. 56.
  15. ^ Everton, Clive (2007). Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards. Mainstream. pp. 48–49.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Spencer, John (2005). Out of the Blue into the Black. Parrs Wood Press.
  17. ^ ""Hurricane" again beats Spencer". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 9 September 1972. p. 14.
  18. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1983, p.7.
  19. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1984, p.19.
  20. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, September 1984, p.5.
  21. ^ Video on YouTube
  22. ^ Spencer, John, Spencer on Snooker, Cassell, Second Edition, 1978, p.10, although Spencer listed the date as 1973 in his 2005 book, Out of the Blue into the Black, see p.75, but photos of the broken cue appear in the February 1975 edition of Snooker Scene (p. 13).
  23. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1974, p.9.
  24. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, December 1974, p.20.
  25. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, December 1973, p.9.
  26. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1974, pp. 9 & 18.
  27. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1975, p.7.
  28. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1975, p.5.
  29. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1976, p.9.
  30. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1975, p.5.
  31. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1976, p.15. The break was 138 and the prize £200.
  32. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene. June 1976, p.15.
  33. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, November 1976, pp. 14–16.
  34. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1977, pp. 14–24.
  35. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, October 1977, p.15.
  36. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, October 1977, p.14.
  37. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1978, p.17.
  38. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, April 1976, p.15. Spencer stated that the Waterford Crystal trophy he received was the only one he still possessed as of 2005. Spencer, John, Out of the Blue into the Black, Parrs Wood Press, p.76.
  39. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1978, p.9.
  40. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1978, p.20.
  41. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1978, p.22.
  42. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1978, p.11.
  43. ^ Everton, Clive, Snooker Scene. February 1979, pp.12–15. The figure is given as £50 in Out of the Blue in the Black, see p.79.
  44. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1982, p.5.
  45. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, April 1979, p.16.
  46. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1981, p.7.
  47. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, March 1979, p.13.
  48. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1979, p.23.
  49. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1980 pp.16–17. See also
  50. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, March 1980, p.21.
  51. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, April 1981, pp.22–28.
  52. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, December 1981, p.11.
  53. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, March 1981, p.11.
  54. ^ Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, June 1981, pp. 7 & 10/11.
  55. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1982, pp.33, 15 & 20/21.
  56. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, January 1983, pp.8–15.
  57. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1983, pp.11–16. A finalist was guaranteed £10,000.
  58. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1983, pp.7 & 15.
  59. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1983 pp.10–11.
  60. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1984, p.3. Spencer gives the date as 9 May 1985 and calls the day 'the worst of his life' in his autobiography (p.9); however, Snooker Scene reported his condition in their July 1984 issue and issued an update on his condition in the September 1984 edition (p.5).
  61. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1984, p.13.
  62. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1984, p.6.
  63. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1984, pp.5 & 12.
  64. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1985, p.23.
  65. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, February 1985, p.10.
  66. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1985, p.9. The semi-finalists received £12,500.
  67. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1985, pp.6–7.
  68. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 1985, p.9
  69. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1986, p.5.
  70. ^ Burn, Gordon (1986). Pocket Money. Heinemann. p. 179.
  71. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, October 1986, p.16.
  72. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene November 1986, p.21; Spencer took an additional £875 prize money; the highest break in the main competition was just 116 by Cliff Thorburn.
  73. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1987, p.11
  74. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, April 1988, pp.8 & 15.
  75. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, March 1990. p.27.
  76. ^ a b Layton, Eric. 'Cuesport Book of Professional Snooker. pp. 913–14.
  77. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene May 1991, p.7.
  78. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1991, p.5.
  79. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, October 1991, p.13.
  80. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, March 1992, p.26.
  81. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1992, p.7.
  82. ^ Video on YouTube
  83. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, July 2000, pp.24–25.
  84. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, August 2006, p.16.
  85. ^ Everton, Clive (13 July 2006). "Obituary: John Spencer". The Guardian.
  86. ^ Everton, Clive (1978). The story of Billiards & Snooker. Cassell. p. 139.
  87. ^ Everton, Clive (ed.), Snooker Scene, December 1996, p.3.
  88. ^ "Ranking History". Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  89. ^ "Snooker win to Thorburn". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 July 1974. p. 63.
  90. ^ "pontins". 28 February 2012. Archived from the original on 28 February 2012.

External links[edit]