My best teacher

4th July 2003 at 01:00
I enjoyed woodwork. I made a beautiful case for my cue, but I got my centimetres and inches muddled up and it came out too big

Snooker has ruled my life since I was eight. I hated going to school, which I saw as something that interrupted what I really wanted to be doing. I started playing on a 6ft by 3ft table when I was seven, and by the time I was eight Dad was taking me to play in his club in the West End. I won my first tournament when I was nine and made my first 100 break when I was 10.

I went to Wanstead high school. I wasn't very clever. I was all right at maths - I was good at adding up because of snooker - and I was good at woodwork and sport, but hopeless at everything else. I just sat there going through the motions. I used to watch the clock, waiting for 3.15pm when I could go home. I had nine minutes in which to run to the bus stop and catch the 148. I'd rush into the house, throw down my schoolbag, grab my cue, ring for a cab and be in the snooker club by 3.50pm.

Because I spent so much time mixing with adults, I got on better with some of the teachers than I did with the kids. The headmaster, Mr Challon, was a snooker fan. He was elderly and walked with a stick. He had that look that meant you didn't mess with him, but he was as good as gold with me. He couldn't believe it when I started getting cheques for pound;1,000 at the age of 12 or 13, and asked me to bring my trophies into school to show him.

He would have me pulled out of class to go and have a cup of tea with him in his office. He was like an uncle.

Mrs Abbot, the deputy head, was my favourite. She had a soft spot for me and I loved her to bits. When she saw me on telly playing snooker when I was 14, she wrote to my mum and dad saying how proud they must be of me.

I've always been quiet and shy, but I was disruptive at school and in the third and fourth years ended up in a class with all the naughty kids. At lunchtimes, three or four of us would go down to the snooker club where I'd play for money to buy us fish and chips and a Coke. We were often 15 or 20 minutes late getting back for lessons. I got a very bright kid called Fasel Nadir to do my homework for me for a fiver a time. I told him not to make it too good or the teachers would know it wasn't mine. I didn't bother to copy it out in my handwriting because he was in the top group and it was marked by different people. Nobody ever found out.

One lesson I did enjoy was woodwork, with Mr Townsend. I made a beautiful case for my snooker cue, but I got my centimetres and my inches mixed up and it came out too big. It took me a year to make and was a work of art - but it wasn't much use. I liked sport, but the master, Mr Gleeson, used to get frustrated with me because I wouldn't run. I was more of a skills player. I could probably have made the grade to be a professional footballer if I'd put in the same dedication as I did with snooker. I was overweight - but so was Gazza, who was my hero.

Mrs McPhee, who taught cooking, was tough if you got on the wrong side of her, but we got along great. She taught me to make macaroni cheese and basic stuff like that. I love cooking. Another cookery teacher, Mrs Hayes, was also one of my favourites. She was beautiful and had the patience of a saint.

There were a number of teachers I liked, but the person who really taught me more than anyone is my dad. When I was a kid I dreamed about being on telly, playing snooker. Dad saw how much I loved the sport and helped me fulfil my ambitions. He has been my rock and I love him. Now he's in jail (Ronnie O'Sullivan's father is serving a life sentence for murder), it's time to do something for him. The family is fighting to get his sentence reduced. It was terrible that someone got killed, but we've always thought of it as an act of self-defence on Dad's part.

Snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1975 Born in Birmingham

1982 Family moves to Ilford, Essex

1986-90 Attends Wanstead high school

1988 Wins British junior snooker championships

1990 Wins southern area, English amateur snooker championships; first 147(maximum) break

1993 Wins professional UK championships

2001 Becomes world champion

2002 Wins UK championships, premier league and is a semi-finalist in world championships

2003 Publication of autobiography Ronnie (Orion, pound;17.99). Wins Scottish, Irish and European championships; scores 147 in world championships

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