The World Snooker Tour will stage a minimum of three tournaments in China later this year, including the first world ranking events since 2019. CLICK HERE for the 2023-24 WST Provisional Calendar Aside from the 2022 Hong Kong Masters which was an eight-player invitation event, these will be the...
John Virgo has been inducted into the World Snooker Tour Hall of Fame for his outstanding contribution to the sport for more than 50 years. Virgo joins a select list of snooker’s greatest ever players and influential figures in the Hall of Fame. The 77-year-old from Salford played on the...
Scotland has produced several brilliant snooker players over the years and one of those that has to be recognised is John Rea. John was Clydeside’s first professional snooker player, born in Glasgow Road, Clydebank on 5th December 1951, a pupil at St Eunan’s Primary School and St Columba’s High School, John left school at the age of 15 to work in his parent’s fish and chip shop but during his spare time, he loved nothing more than to play snooker with his brother Giulio in the old Royal Snooker Rooms beside the Atlantis Bar on Kilbowie Road.
John Rea was an impressive amateur, the top-ranked player for five years. During this period becoming West of Scotland, the Scottish Open and Scottish Amateur champion. Turning professional in 1984, his first major success came at the Grand Prix that year where he reached the last 32 of the tournament, beating Jack Fitzmaurice 5-2, and Eugene Hughes 5-4 before losing to David Taylor 5-1. He also had a good run at the UK Championship that year, defeating Bernard Bennett 9-5, John Dunning 9-3, and Ray Edmonds 9-6 before losing to Joe Johnson 6-9 in the last 48.
John wouldn’t be so fortunate in the 1985 UK Championship. Reaching the last 96 of the event, Rea drew the former world champion, Fred Davis, who was 72 at the time. In a tense match, Rea pulled the match back from 4-8 to 8-8 but lost the decider to lose 8-9, making Fred the oldest player to ever win a professional match. A game where the highest break was 89 by John and the Scot outscored his opponent on points 898-800 yet still lost.
More success would come in the 1986 British Open where he beat Warren King 5-1 and Ray Reardon 5-3 before being whitewashed 5-0 by John Virgo in the last 32 round. However, seven quiet and uneventful years would ensue and it wasn’t until the 1988/89 season that we saw this Scottish player making an impact again and returning to form. He defeated Craig Edwards 5-2, Roger Bales 5-2, and Peter Francisco 5-1 before losing to David Taylor 4-5 in the last 32.
Shortly after this in 1989, John Rea would win his only title. It would come at the 1989 non-ranking Scottish Professional Championship, held at Marco’s Leisure Centre in Edinburgh in the February of that year. Rea beat Ian Black 5-3, Jim Donnelly 5-1 and Murdo MacLeod 9-7 to win the title. He also achieved a 147 break in his quarter-final match against Ian Black when he was 2-3 down in the match, becoming only the ninth player and first Scot. This was a televised event and John went on to get a 142 break in his semi-final match against Jim Donnelly.
Sting in the Tail
The downside to achieving this maximum break was that there wasn’t a monetary prize for it. The consolation prize was that Bert DeMarco, the owner of the leisure centre gave him £147 for the achievement and he was invited to the Scottish Masters. In a tournament where the other headline was that Stephen Hendry didn’t enter the event on the advice of his manager Ian Doyle. This was to do with the tournament having no sponsorship and created the phrase ‘no sponsor, no enter’. John later remarked about the missing prize fund for the maximum break saying :
“I have been told that the WPBSA will be sending me a letter of congratulation but I cannae show this to my bank manager”.
John Rea retired as a professional in 1994 after losing his place on the tour, aged 43 and would go on to open a snooker club, the Lucky Break snooker club in Clydebank. He was also the manager for Stephen Maguire. He would also bring back the Scottish Professional Championship to his club after he remained the only champion of the tournament. A welcome return in 2011 after a twenty-two-year hiatus. He would enter it himself but lost in the first round to Stephen Wylie 1-5. He would also go on to enter the World Seniors in 2012 and 2015 but lost to Bill Oliver in the earlier and Mark Davis in the latter.
John Rea was a great player and did have some success as a professional. A player who even got to the first round of the World Championship in 1989 but sadly lost to Steve James 7-10. He also did well in the 1992 UK Championship before losing 9-3 to the now World Snooker chairman Jason Ferguson in the last 32. A reputable manager and snooker club owner, he deserves a mention and I would like to thank his brother Giulio for allowing me to write about another great of the game.