fcsnooker - Top Quality Snooker Coaching and Instruction - In association with Mr Frank Callan -
Joe Davis versus Steve Davis - Who was the Greatest?

Everyone who has seen Steve Davis and Joe Davis at the match table has been asked the same question:

'Who was the better player?'

I have lost count of the times I have been asked this question because of my association with Steve and the fact that, while I didn't get to know Joe as well as I would have liked, I did watch him play several times - even as an opponent in exhibition matches.

Comparisons can be odious in any game, but they are all the more so in snooker, which has changed so much since Joe first put the sport on the map.

Joe Davis had to learn about snooker on his own. There was no television to help him or other senior players to show him the shots, methods, and various techniques. He had to find out for himself, and on top of that Joe was in his thirties before taking up the game seriously, having concentrated on billiards in his earlier years.

He won the first World Professional Championship in 1927 and then virtually had to look around for opponents. He held the title for twenty years, but preferred not to play in the Championship for the remaining eighteen years of his career.

Joe won his titles on tables which had tighter pockets than they have today. They were the standard 3 & 1/2 inches, but there was no undercut of the rubber at the entrance. This made potting that much more difficult, particularly at narrow angles or along the cushion.

In addition the balls were heavier, which made each shot more difficult if position had to be obtained as well, because the harder you hit the ball, the less accurate you tended to become. Although technically speaking the difference in weight was not that great, it was appreciable in terms of feel.

Steve was lucky in that, as a young teenager, he had his father to guide him in the right manner when he decided to take up the game seriously. Together, they studied Joe's book, and while in the end they didn't agree with everything it contained, it gave them a sound basis on which to work. Steve's parents, to their credit, gave him every opportunity to pursue his career and there was no way his father would allow things to be done half-heartedly.

His motto was simple: 'lf a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.'

Steve never looked back. Later, Barry Hearn came on to the scene to become Steve's manager. Steve has had all the advantages of Barry's business acumen and the facilities available to him at Romford. It was a very successful apprenticeship and toughened him up to withstand the greater pressures the game had in store for him, as compared with those Joe had faced half a century earlier.

Barry has organized Steve so well that all he has to worry about is his game!

Steve Davis was under constant threat from a huge army of professional players. Again, that is something Joe never experienced during his playing career, at the end of which there was no more than seven or eight playing; of those only one, his own brother Fred, was capable of posing a real threat. Indeed, for several seasons, Fred was every bit as good as Joe in my opinion.

Because of these differing circumstances therefore, it is not easy for me to say that one player emerges as superior to the other. But if we could put Joe in the same environment as Steve after he had won his first world title, I simply cannot believe he would have had a better record.

It's history now that Steve has gone on to win five further world championships, so if you twist my arm I would have to put my money on Steve. But having said that, Joe would still have been among the top players of today. What I am sure about is that the two of them had very much in common besides their surname.

Both were fully dedicated to snooker and fine ambassadors for the sport. Snooker owes a very great deal to Joe Davis, not only because he was a world champion, but also because the knowledge of the game conveyed through his books has benefited so many players.

It is an amazing coincidence that two of the best players the world has ever seen should have the same surname.

The surname Davis will always be synonymous with the game of snooker!

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