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Bankrupt snooker ace Steve on cue for return.

IN the red snooker star Steve James hit rock bottom after being forced to sell his practice table.

But now the ex-postman from Staffordshire, who has blown a staggering pounds 700,000 on fast living, is battling back to the big time.

Despite suffering a season of misery, on and off the table, he has won through to the World Championship finals at Sheffield.

And later today he takes on former champ Ken Doherty in a first round match which guarantees him pounds 12,500 - doubling his season's earnings.

Rejuvenated Steve, aged 37, said: "I've made it to The Crucible against all the odds but a win over Ken would kick-start my career."

Steve, from Cannock, shot to fame in 1991 when he came from nowhere to reach the World Championship semi-finals.

But the early promise failed to materialise as the player battled against the booze, diabetes and marriage bust-ups.

Motorbike-loving Steve, who had to sell his beloved machine, declared himself bankrupt at Walsall County Court last year, after running up debts of five figures.

Steve, whose ranking has plummeted from a high at seven to 51, said: "My money problems were down to a loss of form. I had to sell my house, because I couldn't afford the mortgage, and my match-play snooker table. I'm now living in rented accommodation in Stafford and I have to use a local snooker centre to practise.

"The whole business affected me at the start of this season and I had a disastrous run. But slowly, my form returned and I gained a place in the World Championship finals. Now I'm playing at the venue where my career took off."

Amazingly, Steve used to practise with Ken years before he lifted the coveted crown.

He said: "Ken knew my agent and travelled to my house to practise. However, back then he spent most of his time picking the colours I potted out of the pockets!

"Now Ken's a fantastic player, but I'm confident I can pull off a shock result as I'm playing some of the best snooker of my life.
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Author:Larner, Tony
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 18, 1999
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