Jimmy White’s heartbreaking confession he ‘would have died’ if he won World Championship

The 58-year-old, affectionately nicknamed The Whirlwind, will roll back the years tonight as he takes on adversary Stephen Hendry in the World Snooker Championship qualifiers. White is often described as the greatest man to pick up a cue to never win the world crown, despite reaching an incredible six finals. Among those losses, four came against Hendry, including a final-frame decider in 1994 – the last time he reached that stage of the competition.

This history between the pair has given tonight’s match up – in the first qualifying round to progress to the elite competition – even more spice, with fans hoping of similar encounters from years gone by.

But White himself once admitted his life could have been completely different if he had actually claimed a world title, due to his addictive personality.

White and his friendship with maverick snooker star Alex Higgins has been well documented, with the pair embroiled in various escapades across the years.

They played each other in the World Snooker Championship on occasion, but White believed if he had gone on to beat Higgins in 1982, and eventually claim the title, he would likely not be around today.

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That year White and Higgins played out an epic semi-final, which saw the latter progress, and then beat Ray Reardon in the final.

And White recalled: “I would’ve died if I’d beaten Higgins and won the World Snooker Championship in 1982 because I’d just found cocaine and I liked to drink.

“I always liked cocaine – whether drunk or sober. It was no one’s fault but my own.

“I’d just become famous, because we only had four channels in them days and, instead of queuing round the block to get into a West End nightclub, I was getting the treatment.

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“I had such fun, even though I can’t remember much.”

White now leads a much healthier lifestyle, and continues to play snooker on the circuit, years after many of his old rivals have retired.

But when asked by The Guardian in 2019 how he managed to quit his addictions, he explained how he “couldn’t get any money out one night” as he had “drained one account completely”.

He added: “I got the heebie-jeebies. I had a day trying to think and then I knew. I had to stop.”

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The London-born star, who was also called the People’s Champion, noted how difficult it was watching Higgins before he passed away in 2010.

White was a pallbearer for the funeral in Northern Ireland, which was attended by fellow snooker players like Hendry, Ken Doherty, Joe Swail, Shaun Murphy and John Virgo.

Describing those last months while Higgins was alive as “horrific”, he added: “As much as me and his sisters done things for him it was no good.

“They did far more than me, obviously, but he fell out with them. So he wasn’t found for 10 days.

“He died of malnutrition. It was horrendous.”

More recently, Hendry delivered a blow to White by claiming he didn’t feel sorry for the snooker player, despite him losing a record number of finals.

Speaking in 2020, Hendry – the man with the most World Championship snooker titles – told Instagram Live that his job “is to go and win snooker tournaments”, adding: “Doesn’t matter who’s in the other chair, if it’s Jimmy it’s Jimmy, if it’s Steve [Davis] it’s Steve, whoever.

“No, I’ve never ever felt sorry for Jimmy.

“He’s had six finals, which is an incredible record in itself, but he’s not converted one.

“He’s probably… he’s the best player that’s never won the World Championship.”

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