Feb 15 2013 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser
Nearly two years after calling a halt to a trophy-laden green baize pro career, Stephen Hendry still finds himself besieged by excited autograph hunters and fans wielding mobile phones seeking snapshots with their hero.
But nowadays the scene is more likely to be unfolding thousands of miles from the long-time family home in Auchterarder.
Along with Steve Davis, Hendry, now 44, ranks as the most decorated snooker player of all-time, turning pro at the tender age of 15 and exerting a stranglehold on the world championship throughout the nineties, with an eighth title pocketed for good measure in the noughties.
While fond memories of the days when he was the all-powerful “King of the Crucible,” or even, in his younger days, “The Golden Bairn,” will bring out snooker fans to Perth Concert on Friday, February 22 for a Legends clash with free spirit Jimmy White, Hendry expects the reception to be polite rather than frenzied.
These days, Hendry finds business commitments taking him to the Far East more often than ever, with China a lucrative growth market for snooker.
“I’m over in China nearly every month,” confirmed the Scot, who fulfils an ambassadorial role for a company tagged Joy, which meets the ever-escalating demand for tables which are a mongrel mix of snooker and pool.
“I usually fit in visits to three or four different cities on each leg, taking on local champions. I must have been in more than 20 across China since signing a contract with the idea of bringing the sport to the masses.
“The tables are three-quarters the size of a snooker table and the sport has been going for about 50 years.
“My first time in China was back in 1987 but I am recognised more nowadays than I was when I was world champion.
“It’s weird to be honest and quite intense. If you are stopped in the street by a few fans, very quickly there will be 30 or 40 crowding round looking for an autograph or a photo.
“It sounds daft but it is a bit like the full rock star treatment. It can be incredible at times. But the people are always very kind and positive. They admire foreign sports stars and tend to put them on a pedestal. You are treated very well over there.”
The Perth Concert Hall head to head with long-time adversary White won’t see Hendry clocking-up the air miles. Instead, he faces a short trip in from the Lang Toon.
“I have played before at the Concert Hall, against Ronnie Sullivan, and it is a great venue. Usually the exhibition matches are down south so to have one right on my doorstep is great.
“It will be very relaxed and John Virgo will keep things moving along in his own inimitable style. And both Jimmy and I will be eager to produce some good snooker for the audience.”
To secure advance tickets call 01738 621031, or book online at www.horsecross.co.uk