SNOOKER star Chris Norbury is hoping to pot his way to plenty of television exposure in the coming year.
The Accrington teenager begins his first year as a professional snooker player in less than a month and is ranked number 63 in the world.
He achieved the ranking by coming fifth on the Challenge Tour last year and he admits that was a tense year. But this year, the 18-year-old could grace our television screens as, with a world ranking, he has a huge chance of challenging the snooker big guns.
"It is a dream come true. If someone had told me that at 18 I would be number 63 in the world I would have snatched their hands off. I still can't believe it," said the Accrington star.
Chris began playing snooker aged eight after winning a pool tournament on holiday. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, has a snooker table in his house and even got days off school to participate in tournaments.
"I won a pool competition when I was about eight and then I joined Accrington Snooker Club. That closed down and I have been at the Potters Snooker Club in Great Harwood ever since under coach Mick Caddy."
He went to Moorhead High School and admitted his school teachers were a bit bemused when he kept saying his career choice was to be a snooker pro.
"But in the end they really helped me, giving me days off for tournaments and doing their best for me. They just let me get on with it.
"But I also was helped by getting a snooker table in my house as it was hard travelling to Potters every day and still doing school work.
"It is nice having it there and my friends enjoy coming round!"
Chris has travelled round the world as an amateur and he puts some of his current form down to practice partner World Number 16 Ian McCullouch from Preston who he trains with at Potters.
"I play him at least once a week. He reached the semi-finals of the World Championships last year and has got the experience which I haven't. It can only help me playing against someone of his calibre every week."
His highest break in a competition is 144 but he is hoping the magical 147 comes soon.
"I want to get one before I take part in my first professional match. I will be practising against people like Ian and Shokat Ali, who I think is about 52nd in the world now, between now and my first match to see if I can clear the table."
It has been all a bit of a whirlwind for Chris over the last few months.
If he hadn't finished fifth in April on the Challenge Tour - where 128 players compete - his dreams of playing the top snooker players would have been more distant.
"The top six on this tour were guaranteed to be in the top 64 in the world and, with coming fifth, I got the 63rd ranking.
"I do still have to qualify for tournaments but instead of playing maybe 10 matches to qualify, I may only have to play one or two. It has changed everything around."
Chris does still live at home with his parents so the pressure to make money is not the first thing on his mind - although his parents might disagree!
"The money I have won so far has gone back into funding my snooker. But, if I win a match now, I may get around £1,000 although I don't think about the money. It is pressure, though, and any sponsorship is always appreciated."
The clash he wants to win first is his qualifying match in Prestatyn against a still unknown opponent at the end of September.
If he wins this, then he will be at the prestigious Grand Prix tournament at the Guild Hall, Preston in October which could see him up against the likes of Ronnie O'Sullivan and could also see his TV debut.
"It is so exciting that I could get the chance to do this. When I was young I won the chance to play a game against Steve Davis, Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon and I played doubles against Ronnie and chatted to him a long time after that match about snooker. He was really good.
"But it would be amazing to play them in a competition. And I really want to get through the qualifier as, because it is in Preston and local, all my mates could come and watch!"
He is just getting used to playing in front of a crowd as 200-300 watched him take part in the final of the European Under 19 championships in Russia recently
"I loved it. It was absolutely buzzing. I lost to Mark Allen 6-5 from Northern Ireland but it was great to play in front of a crowd, except when you play a bad shot and you can hear a few moans!"
And he says there is more to being a snooker player than just practising on a table - even though he does that for six hours every day.
"Mentally it is very tough. In some tournaments, in the best of 17 frames, you can play eight frames in the morning and then the rest at five o'clock until the finish. It can be so draining as one lapse of concentration, you miss a shot and then you could lose the frame and the match.
"And there is also the need to keep yourself fit. Ronnie O'Sullivan runs eight miles a day, Ian cycles for an hour and I tend to go on the treadmill every day.
"I don't drink or smoke although I do like my food but, even in a sport such as snooker, you do have to look after yourself."
And he is hoping his clean living lifestyle will help him go further in his sport.
"This year is all about picking up more experience. There are tournaments all over the world in China and in Malta so it is a big year. And there are the World Championships and UK Championships and now I stand a much better chance of getting though to them with my ranking. It is about buckling down and practising but it is going to be a tough year.
"Of course, I would love at the end of it to have jumped 30 places up the rankings and played some of the top players but I have got to be realistic, cement my place and keep my feet on the ground."
And hopefully any television appearances in his opening year will be the first of many.
- CHRIS is doing his first exhibition as a professional snooker player at the Pioneer Club on Friday 26 August around 7.30pm.