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The Crucible? It's a Twithole; Williams sparks a war of the Worlds.

Byline: NEIL GOULDING

MARK WILLIAMS has taken an astonishing potshot at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on the eve of this year's World Championship.

The Welshman yesterday used Twitter to brand the iconic venue as a "s*** hole" and "rubbish".

And Williams, a Crucible winner in 2000 and 2003, said he hoped snooker's biggest tournament would head to China.

He tweeted: "World Championships just around the corner. Shame it's played in the Crucible, s*** hole, hopefully it will be in China soon. Rubbish, rather play in Pontins."

When contacted, Williams - thrashed 5-1 by Ronnie O'Sullivan in the China Open last month - confirmed it had been him who had tweeted the remarks.

He said: "I don't like the venue and have never liked playing there. It is everything about it, from the players' lounge upwards.

"I think it is inevitable it will end up in China, they have five events already and we only have three."

The timing of Williams' remarks certainly won't please World Snooker, who have been working hard to make their annual 17-day showpiece a success.

Ill-judged tweets have already landed colleagues Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Allen in hot water with the game's governing body this year. And Williams even hinted he might be disciplined for his remarks.

He again used Twitter to add: "Over hyped is correct. It's only my opinion about the Crucible WSA so don't send me any letters or fines."

HISTORY But World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn was quick to defend the famous Sheffield venue.

Snooker's greatest tournament has been staged at the Crucible Theatre since 1977 and the current contract runs until 2015.

And Hearn said yesterday: "We've had fantastic support from Sheffield council, Welcome to Yorkshire and the BBC and as long as that continues I'd be happy to keep it at the Crucible until the day I die.

"It's an outstanding venue and the recent refurbishment has greatly improved the facilities.

"There is so much history associated with the Crucible, it is synonymous with snooker and the World Championship. There's something unique and magical about the atmosphere in the arena which couldn't be replicated anywhere else.

"The vast majority of people involved in snooker would say the same."

Former world champion Graeme Dott admits he relishes the intense pressure of the Crucible cooker and hopes not to fluff his lines on the sport's biggest stage.

The Glaswegian potter won the title in 2006 with a battling win over Peter Ebdon and this year bids to roll back the years with a trademark performance at his most successful venue on the world circuit.

Dott said: "Hopefully something clicks for me when I get to Sheffield and I do myself justice because the last thing you want to do is go there and get knocked out straight away.

"It's very nerve-racking in the dressing room before you get ready to go out, I feel sick. It's like an actor going out on stage and forgetting his lines, there's so much pressure on you to play well.

"But I don't feel like that at any other tournament, not even the Masters or the UK, two of our biggest tournaments.

"I wouldn't have it any other way though, I like feeling that pressure and excitement because it makes me play better.

"I tend to go to the Crucible needing to play my best snooker because I've not always had the best of seasons - but I do play my best there. My record down the years is pretty good."

Dott clashes with former Crucible semifinalist Joe Perry on Tuesday, with a potential last-16 showdown against either compatriot Stephen Maguire or Belgian wonderkid Luca Brecel.

Brecel broke Stephen Hendry's record when he became the youngest player to qualify for the tournament aged 17 years and 26 days.

Dott added: "He looks about 10, so I'm sure the crowd will be on his side.

"I played him in a match at the World Series a few years ago and he was fantastic.

"But Stephen's done really well this season and has a lot of experience behind him, so he's undoubtedly the favourite."

CAPTION(S):

KNUCKLING DOWN n Once he chews it over, Williams may come to regret tweeting his opinions about the Crucible, which was described as a "magical" venue yesterday by Hearn, bottom right
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Apr 21, 2012
Words:715
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