|Born||18 September 1935|
Radcliffe, Lancashire, England
|Died||11 July 2006 70) (aged|
Bolton, Lancashire, England
|Highest ranking||2 (1977/78)|
|Highest||147 (1979 Holsten Lager International)|
|World Champion||1969, 1971, 1977|
John Spencer (18 September 1935 – 11 July 2006) was an English professional snooker player who won the World Professional title at his first attempt, was the first winner at the Crucible Theatre, was the inaugural winner of the Masters and Irish Masters and was the first player to make a 147 break in competition. This is regarded as an unofficial maximum break as the event used non templated tables. Spencer was born in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.
The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.
Snooker is a cue sport which originated among British Army officers stationed in India in the later half of the 19th century. It is played on a rectangular table covered with a green cloth, or baize, with pockets at each of the four corners and in the middle of each long side. Using a cue and 21 coloured balls, players must strike the white ball to the remaining balls in the correct sequence, accumulating points for each pot. An individual game, or frame, is won by the player scoring the most points. A match is won when a player wins a predetermined number of frames.
The Crucible Theatre is a theatre in the city centre of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England which opened in 1971, As well as theatrical performances, it hosts the most prestigious event in professional snooker, the World Championship. The theatre was refurbished between 2007 and late 2009 and officially reopened 18 February 2010.
Spencer attended Stand Grammar School for Boys in Whitefield. 116He started his snooker career at the age of 15. Snooker was in decline during his youth, and he did not turn professional until he was 31, when interest in the game started to revive. Spencer was runner-up to Ray Reardon in the 1964 English Amateur Snooker Championship (the first tournament he ever entered) and lost to Pat Houlihan in the final of the 1965 event. Spencer finally lifted the trophy in 1966 with an 11–5 victory over Marcus Owen. :
Philips High School is a community secondary school located in Whitefield, Greater Manchester, on the site of the former Stand Grammar School for Girls. The current Headmistress is Tina Owen.
Whitefield is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, Greater Manchester, England. It lies on undulating ground above the Irwell Valley, along the south bank of the River Irwell, 3 miles (4.8 km) south-southeast of Bury, and 4.9 miles (7.9 km) to the north-northwest of the city of Manchester. Prestwich and the M60 motorway lie just to the south.
Raymond Reardon, is a Welsh retired snooker player who dominated the sport in the 1970s, winning six World Championships, and is remembered as one of the best players of the 20th century. Despite being a genial figure, his dark widow's peak and sharp-toothed grin earned him the nickname "Dracula".
In February 1967, Spencer made the bold decision to turn professional. At this time there were effectively no officially organized professional tournaments and no player in the UK had turned professional since Rex Williams in 1951.This proved to be a very important step in re-establishing snooker as a viable sport, with amateur rivals Gary Owen following suit in September 1967 and Ray Reardon on December 3 of that year. This influx of new professionals led to the World Championship being revived on a challenge basis in the 1968/9 season.
Desmond Rex Williams is a retired English professional snooker and billiards player. Williams was an excellent junior player in both snooker and billiards, and a three time World Snooker Championship semi-finalist.
Gary Owen was a Welsh snooker player.
He first won the World Championship in 1969 after being loaned £100 by his bank to raise the entry fee. On 22 November 1968, Spencer defeated reigning world champion John Pulman 25–18 in his opening match before going on to defeat Rex Williams 37–12 89and Gary Owen 37–24 in the final, held at Victoria Hall in London from 17 to 22 March. 'Dead' frames were then played out to give a final frame tally of 46–27 to Spencer, who (with additional bonuses) took £1,780 from the event. Spencer thus became the only player to win the World Championship at his first attempt since Joe Davis won the inaugural championship in 1927. (Alex Higgins in 1972 and Terry Griffiths in 1979 would emulate this feat). :
The World Snooker Championship is the leading snooker tournament both in terms of prestige and prize money. The first championship was held in 1927 and was won by Joe Davis. Davis won the first 15 championships before retiring from the event, undefeated, after his 1946 success. In the 1950s snooker went into a period of decline and the championship was not held after 1952, although an unofficial championship was held until 1957. In 1964 the championship was revived on a challenge basis and in 1969 the championship became a knock-out event again. Since 1977 it has been played at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England. The tournament is currently played over 17 days and ends on the first Monday in May. In the modern era, the best record is that of Stephen Hendry, who won the title seven times. Steve Davis and Ray Reardon both won six times while Ronnie O'Sullivan has won five titles. The current champion is Judd Trump, whose 2019 win was his first.
Herbert John Pulman was an English professional snooker player who dominated the game throughout the 1960s.
Joseph Davis, was an English professional snooker and English billiards player. He was the dominant figure in snooker from the 1920s to the 1950s. He won the first 15 World Championships from 1927 to 1946.
In the April 1970 World Championship, Spencer beat veteran Irish Professional Champion Jackie Rea 31–15, but lost his semi-final on a poor quality table to Ray Reardon 33–37 who went on to claim his first title. 89 Oddly, the de facto 1971 championship was held in November 1970 and played in Australia. Following an incomplete round-robin Spencer thrashed Reardon 34–15 in the semi-final before defeating Warren Simpson in the final 37–29. During the final Spencer made three centuries in four frames (105, 126 and 107), the first time this had been achieved in the championship. :9:
John Joseph 'Jackie' Rea was a Northern Irish snooker player. He was the leading Irish snooker player until the emergence of Alex Higgins.
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
A round-robin tournament is a competition in which each contestant meets all other contestants in turn. A round-robin contrasts with an elimination tournament, in which participants are eliminated after a certain number of losses.
Spencer gained important TV exposure by winning BBC TV's Pot Black series in 1970 (reversing his defeat by Ray Reardon in the 1969 final) and again in 1971 when he beat Fred Davis in the final. Spencer would also claim the highest break prize in 1972, be runner-up in 1974 and win the event again in 1976, beating Dennis Taylor in the final. Spencer thus became the first three-time winner.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.
Pot Black was a BBC television series of annual snooker tournaments held in the United Kingdom from 1969 to 1986, which carried no ranking points, but played a large part in the popularisation of the modern game. The event was revived in the form of several one-off tournaments throughout the 1990s and up to 2007. Pot Black helped transform snooker from a minority sport with just a handful of professionals into one of the most popular sports in the United Kingdom. Mark Williams holds the event's highest record of 119.
Fred Davis, was an English professional player of snooker and billiards, one of only two players ever to win the world title in both, the other being his brother Joe. He was one of the most popular personalities in the game, with a professional career which lasted from 1929 to 1993. He was an 8-time World Snooker Champion.
In 1971 and 1972, four events sponsored by Park Drive (the Park Drive 2000) were held where each of the four players involved played nine matches, the top two placed professionals playing a final match. Spencer won three of these events and lost the fourth only 3–4 90 in the final to Ray Reardon with whom he battled for supremacy throughout the 1970s as snooker emerged from a phase of obscurity to become one of Britain’s most popular sports. From 1969 to 1978, only three players defeated Spencer in the World Championship (Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins and Perrie Mans) and from 1973 to 1977 he did not lose a World Championship match by more than two frames.:
Pivotal in the rise of snooker as one of Britain's most popular sports was the 1972 World Championship final. As defending champion in the 1972 event, Spencer beat Fred Davis 31–21 and Eddie Charlton 37–32, before facing championship debutant Alex Higgins in the final. The week-long final was fairly balanced until the Thursday evening session which Higgins won 6–0, creating a gap Spencer never looked like closing. Higgins duly went on to take the match 37–32.The match, played at the British Legion Club in Selly Oak Birmingham, often with emergency generators providing the lighting and with hundreds of spectators crammed in, many sat on beer crates, provided the crucial spark of interest in the modern era. Higgins was already generating much interest in the game and had been the subject of documentary by Thames TV ahead of the final.
Spencer made no excuses for his defeat, despite being exhausted and ill from a major tour of Canada, trapped in a lift ahead of one of the sessions and involved in a minor car crash on the way to one of the sessions. Spencer had also expended effort in beating Higgins 4–3 in the final of the Park Drive 2000 event the night before their final commenced 74 Curiously Higgins would use this exact expression when discussing his victory in his memoir two years later. :56 Spencer was also quick to admit that Higgins' win brought in more sponsorship, more promotions, better organisation and more media interest. :10Despite this, Spencer in his 2005 memoir made clear that Higgins played the better snooker and won the match 'fair and square'. :
Spencer went on to win one further world title, which was the historic inaugural event at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 1977. He never reached the top of the world rankings, however, always being eclipsed by his rival, Reardon. Spencer played down talk of a friendship between himself and Reardon and stated that they never socialised together. 106 However, it should be noted that Spencer and Reardon paired up for the first two World Doubles events. In 1983, they lost 2–6 to Jimmy White and Tony Knowles in the quarter-finals, and in 1984 lost 0–5 to Cliff Thorburn and John Virgo, also in the quarter-finals. The partnership only ended when Spencer thought he would be too ill to play in the 1985 event. Late in his life Spencer joined Reardon for a special Crucible feature.:
In 1973 and 1974, Norwich Union sponsored a snooker event which unusually contained both professionals and amateur players. Spencer won the event both times it was held beating Alex Higgins 8–2 (in the semi-final) and John Pulman 8–7 (in the final) to win the 1973 event and beating Cliff Thorburn 9–7 (in the semi-finals) and Ray Reardon 10–9 (in the final) to win the 1974 event. This latter victory was even more notable given that his cue had been broken into four pieces ten days before the 1974 event and he had to have it pieced back together.Spencer was runner-up in both inaugural Pontins events, first held in 1974. He lost the Open (conceding 25) to Doug Mountjoy 4–7 and the Professional event 9–10 to Ray Reardon (after Spencer had trailed 4–9). Spencer also won a minor tournament at the end of 1974, the Jackpot Automatics tournament, beating Alex Higgins 5–0 in the final.
A sign of growing interest in snooker's resurgence came when Ladbrokes held a gala evening towards the end of 1973 to celebrate its £8,000 investment into the game in the 1973–74 season. The gala evening event (held at the Cafe Royal) saw Spencer take first prize with a 3–2 win over Ray Edmonds.
Spencer's good form was not to be translated into positive results at the 1973 and 1974 World Championships. Arguably Spencer's most disappointing career loss was his 22–23 defeat by Ray Reardon in the 1973 World Championship semi-final, after leading 16–9 and 19–12. Prior to this Spencer had shown decisive form in defeating David Taylor 16–5 and Rex Williams 16–7. In the final, Reardon defeated Eddie Charlton, a player Spencer would not lose to in a major match until 1979. 91:
In 1974, he lost 13–15 to Perrie Mans in the second round. Spencer refused to blame a dose of flu of which he had been suffering for the defeat (and indeed Mans would defeat Spencer again in the 1978 event). Spencer's only consolation was a plate competition for first and second round losers where he easily crushed his opponents, notching up six centuries in defeating David Greaves 5–1, Dennis Taylor 9–4, Jim Meadowcroft 9–3 and John Pulman 15–5 in the final.
In 1975, Spencer won the inaugural Masters event held at Fulham's West Centre Hotel. Spencer defeated John Pulman (5–3), Eddie Charlton (5–2) and overcame Ray Reardon in the closest of finals. 92 Spencer trailed 6–8, but leveled at 8–8 and took the final frame on a re-spotted Black. In the spring Spencer won the invitational Ashton Court Country Club event (and took the highest break prize) by defeating Alex Higgins 5–1 in front of a sell out crowd in the final. Spencer would lose 2–5 to Higgins in the final of the Castle Open pro-am at the end of the year.:
Spencer would again fail at the 1975 World Championship, in a somewhat controversial manner. With the tournament being staged in Australia and organised by Eddie Charlton, Spencer found himself in a half of the draw which featured both Ray Reardon and Alex Higgins, meaning that all the champions since 1969 were in the same half of the draw. Worse still, the organisational seedings placed Spencer at 8, meaning that he met Reardon in the quarter-final. Despite opening up with two centuries in the first four frames and leading 17–16, with the scars of their epic 1973 semi-final still fresh, the match slipped away from Spencer 17–19. At the time Reardon and Spencer stated boldly that it was the greatest match yet played.
The following year, the 1976 World Championship saw an even narrower defeat for Spencer at the same stage. Having defeated David Taylor 15–5, and claiming the highest break prize in the process,he lost to Alex Higgins in the quarter-final 14–15, having trailed 12–14. The quality of the match was a pale shadow of their 1972 encounter.
A minor consolation came when Spencer won the 1976 Canadian Open that year, defeating John Virgo 9–4 in the semi-final and Alex Higgins 17–9 in the final to claim the $5,000 prize.
Spencer returned to win his third world title in 1977. The first championship to be held at the Crucible Theatre where it has remained ever since. Seeded 8, Spencer defeated John Virgo 13–9 (having trailed 1–4), Ray Reardon 13–6, a resurgent John Pulman 18–16 and finally Cliff Thorburn 25–21 (having trailed 11–15) in the final. Spencer would win £6,000. He followed this up by winning the Pontins Professional title a week later, defeating John Pulman 7–5 in the final to win another £1,500.Spencer's World Championship victory in 1977 would be the last time that he seriously challenged for the World Title; he never again reached even the quarter-finals of any future World Championship.
Spencer reached the final of the Canadian Open again in 1977, where he lost to Higgins 14–17.This event was played in a circus tent, with a traditional circus situated next to the event. Conditions were so hot that Spencer's chalk snapped in half upon using it due to accumulated dampness in his pocket.
In the spring of 1978 Spencer won the very first Irish Masters by beating Doug Mountjoy 5–3 in the final at Goffs Sales Room. Spencer took £1,000, but the event was so successful it brought in around £3,300 in gate receipts.Prior to this, Spencer had won a precursor to this event in Ireland, held at the National Boxing Stadium. In 1975, he beat Alex Higgins in a one off match and then beat Higgins again in the final of a four-man event held in 1976. Spencer's good form continued when he beat Tony Knowles 7–4 in the final of the 1978 Warners Open. Despite conceding 21 points per frame, Spencer did not even drop a frame until the final. Spencer would be undefeated in the group stages of the Pontins Professional tournament that year, winning all his five matches, but he lost 2–7 to Ray Reardon in the final.
Spencer warmed up for the 1978 World Championship by winning the Castle Professional event, defeating Alex higgins 5–3 in the final.However, he lost his opening match in the World Championship to Perrie Mans by 8–13, a result which had looked unlikely when a break of 118 had given him a 3–1 lead. Spencer began the final session with a 138 break, which would prove to be the highest of the championship, but did not win another frame. The break at least doubled his prize money to £1,000.
In January 1979 at the Holsten Lager International, Spencer compiled the first ever 147 maximum break in tournament play. He was playing Cliff Thorburn in the quarter-final and won the first three frames of their encounter 106–1, 147–0 and 119–0. Spencer could not resist giving the excited spectators a shock by lunging forward and hitting over the cue ball in his initial address, before potting the final black. Thames Television were resting their TV crew at the time following the previous match between Alex Higgins and David Taylor and so missed the historic moment. This did not count as an official maximum break as the event used non templated tables, so it remains an unofficial maximum break. Spencer went on to win the tournament, beating Rex Williams 6–2 in the semi-final and Graham Miles 11–7 in the final. The sponsors awarded Spencer an extra £500 for the break in addition to his £3,500 first prize.Three years later on 11 January 1982, Spencer was Steve Davis's opponent when Davis made the first televised 147 at the Lada Classic tournament at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham. This occurred in the fifth frame of their quarter-final match when the scores had been poised at two frames each.
Two months after Spencer's 147 he won the biggest tournament that India had yet staged when he won the Garware Paints Invitational event in Bombay. Spencer beat India's Arvind Savur 6–1, Patsy Fagan 6–4, Graham Miles 6–5 and Cliff Thorburn 6–3 to take the £2,000 first prize and another £200 for the highest break (108) and also claimed the 'Man of the Series' award.In the same event the following year, Spencer remained undefeated in his group games, before his semi-final loss to John Virgo. These matches included a 6–4 victory over Steve Davis (who would win the UK title that year). Although Spencer would run Davis close in future years, it would be Spencer's only victory over Davis in a recognised event.
Spencer would reach the semi-final of the Irish Masters in 1979, losing just 2–3 to Ray Reardon, having made the highest break of the tournament (121) at the group stage. Spencer would also be runner-up to Reardon in the 1979 Forward Chemicals event, the final of this extended event (which duplicated the old Park Drive 2000 format) was played in front of 680 people at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Spencer lost 6–9, and took £2,300.Later that year, Spencer lost 1–4 to Steve Davis in the semi-final of the Pontins Open event.
In January 1980 Spencer won £3,000 (a record for a two-day event) at the Wilson's Classic. 100 Broadcast by Granada TV, the final contained another notorious push-shot incident adjudged against Spencer's opponent Alex Higgins. Higgins reaction to Jim Thorpe's controversial decision would cost him a £200 fine. Spencer would also win the Winfield Australian Masters in 1980, beating Dennis Taylor in the final. :80–81 For Spencer (who was runner-up in the 1981 event) this would be his last professional solo tournament victory.:
In February 1981 in the John Courage English Professional Championship, after a 9–1 first round victory over Pat Houlihan, Spencer led Steve Davis 7–6 in the quarter-final, having notched in a break of 112. However, Spencer lost three tight frames to lose the match 7–9. Davis lost just five frames in his other 3 matches combined.
Later in that same year, Spencer joined Steve Davis and David Taylor to become the first English team to win the World Team Classic. Spencer crucially defeated Terry Griffiths with the aid of a hard-fought 103 break (he was unable to pot the black during the entire break) in the final, Griffiths having not lost a match in the tournament up to that stage. Davis then secured victory against Ray Reardon in the tie-break to secure the title and £12,000.
Such a victory only partially made up for Spencer's great disappointment at the 1981 Masters event. Having dispatched Dennis Taylor 5–2 and Ray Reardon 5–1. Spencer led Terry Griffiths 5–2 and had Griffiths needing two snookers in the next frame. Despite this, Griffiths would end up the victor by 6–5 after almost six hours of play. Spencer thus missed out on a major final with old rival Alex Higgins.
Remarkably, Spencer's 10–9 first round victory over Ray Edmonds at the 1981 World Championship was his first victory in the Championship since his title victory in 1977. Hopes that Spencer would progress further were dashed by an even older adversary, Ray Reardon, who recovered from 0–3 and 5–7 behind to win the match 13–11.It would be the last time the two would meet in the World Championship.
Prior to the 1982 World Championship Spencer beat Alex Higgins (who would win the world title a few weeks later) 6–0 in the semi-final of the 1982 Highland Masters in Inverness. Spencer lost 4–11 to Ray Reardon in the final, despite taking the highest break prize with an effort of 119. The 1982 World Championship itself produced a great many upsets and the loss of the top three seeds in round one. Despite this, and a strong performance in beating John Dunning 10–4 in round one, Spencer could not take advantage of the more open draw and his form fell away badly after holding Willie Thorne to 3–3 in round two. He would lose the match 5–13.
At the end of 1982 Spencer finally won a match in the UK Championship, having lost his first match in every event since the inaugural tournament in 1977. This looked unlikely when his opponent, veteran Scot Eddie Sinclair opened up the deciding frame with a 54 break, but Spencer grabbed a lifeline and saw out the match with a 50 break to win 9–8. Spencer then followed this up by eliminating one of the favourites, Tony Knowles 9–6, before losing to Alex Higgins 5–9 in the quarter-finals.
1983 also began very promisingly when Spencer defeated Ray Reardon 5–3 and David Taylor 5–2 in the Lada Classic. This guaranteed a cheque for £6,000 (the same as he won for winning the 1977 World Championship). In the semi-final, Spencer led Steve Davis 3–1, then 4–2, and 45–29 in the deciding frame, before Davis finally squeezed home, denying Spencer what would have been his highest ever payday.
The 1983 World Championship would also end disappointingly. After seeing off the challenge of 24-year-old Mike Hallett in round one by 10–7, Spencer faced old foe Eddie Charlton in round two. Spencer moved into a 4–0 lead, but lost his intensity and despite a break of 106 allowed Charlton to move 12–7 ahead. Spencer fought back, but went in-off on the verge of levelling at 12–12 and lost the match 11–13.
Immediately after this Spencer lost narrowly again when he was defeated by Tony Meo, 5–4, in the semi-final of the Pontin's event at Brean Sands. An even narrower loss came when Spencer and partner John Virgo lost the doubles event on the final black to Meo and Jimmy White.
Spencer's later career was blighted by the ocular version of myasthenia gravis (with symptoms including double vision). He first noticed something was amiss when he felt unwell at the Pontin's professional tournament in 1984. 158When the news broke in the press of Spencer's condition, he noted that only two players directly sent messages to him. One was Cliff Thorburn, the other was Alex Higgins, who turned up at his house, complete with bottle of Bacardi which Higgins drank as Spencer was not allowed alcohol at this point. :
While the illness affected Spencer late in his career, it robbed him of the modest upturn that had seen him rise to 13th in the 1984/85 rankings.He had also only narrowly failed to capture the Pontin's Professional title that summer when he lost 7–9 to Willie Thorne in the final. During the 1984 World Championship he had defeated Graham Miles 10–3 in the first round and held top seed Steve Davis to 4–6 in round two, before Davis pulled away to win 13–5. The Miles match was Spencer's last victory at the Crucible.
Although Spencer was able to compete in the 1984/85 season, it was clear that the illness was affecting his form. He won only one ranking match during the season when he defeated Canadian Frank Jonik 6–0 in the Dulux British Open. 71There was some cheer when Spencer partnered Tony Knowles to the semi-finals of the World Doubles in December 1984 which gave them a cheque for £11,250. Spencer also marked his final appearance in the Masters with a 5–3 win over Eddie Charlton. Although he lost 2–5 to Jimmy White in the quarter-finals, he would pick up one of his highest pay cheques of £8,250. Spencer would also be part of the England 'B' team in the World Cup (with Jimmy White and Willie Thorne) which reached the semi-finals. Such outings allowed Spencer to finish within the top 15 money earners for the season. Another small consolation came when he narrowly lost in the 1984 final of Pot Black to Terry Griffiths. :
A major side effect of Spencer's condition was that his eyes would become very strained under TV lighting. When he competed in the 1985 Pontins Professional event under ordinary shaded lighting he once again reached the final, losing only 7–9 to Terry Griffiths, who Spencer would never defeat in a major singles event.It would also prove to be his last ever tournament final.
Spencer journeyed to Scotland ahead of the 1986 World Championship to get in concentrated practice. This paid off when he qualified for the Crucible to play old foe Alex Higgins in what was to prove their last World Championship meeting. Higgins led 8–2, but was eventually relieved to win 10–7.It was to be Spencer's last playing visit to the Crucible. Gordon Burn relates that part of Spencer's Scottish practice was against a young Stephen Hendry. Spencer, after two money-match defeats, suggested to Hendry that they play next time in casual clothes. This occurred, with the result that Spencer won their third encounter 6–4.
After falling to a career low 34th in the rankings for the 1986/87 season, Spencer continued to work hard on his game. In the 1986 BCE International Championship, he recorded breaks of 104 and 134 against Ian Williamson.This later break would be the highest break of that year's entire event. Spencer also made a break of 129 in defeating Terry Whitthread 5–2 in the Dulux British Open a month later. In the final stages of this event, Spencer defeated then World Champion Joe Johnson 5–3 en route to the quarter-final. This last-eight match against old friend Jimmy White saw Spencer compile a century and capture the sixth frame after needing six snookers (in a frame which took just 18 minutes to play). Spencer would lose the match 3–5 but gained his highest ever snooker payday with a cheque for £9,000. Another late career highlight came when Spencer defeated old friend Fred Davis 5–0 in the 1988 British Open and followed this with a 5–0 televised win over Dennis Taylor on 27 February. Spencer would lose just 4–5 in the fifth round to Rex Williams, who thus recorded his first ever tournament victory over Spencer.
Spencer fought hard to keep playing and keep his symptoms at bay. His final hurrah came in the 1990 World Championship qualifying, where he beat Ken Owers 10–8 before providing a surprisingly tough test for rising star James Wattana. Wattana won the final two frames on the final black and pink respectively to notch a 10–8 victory in the fourth qualifying round.Spencer's victory over Owers was his last ever victory in a recognised ranking competition. In the 1991 World Championship Spencer lost his first match to Ray Edmonds 4–10, finally giving Edmonds a victory over Spencer in a rivalry that stretched back to Spencer's victory over him in the 1965 English Amateur Championships. At the time Spencer indicated a strong desire to carry on playing and stated he would play in all the events the following season. This decision seemed especially poignant given that his old rival Ray Reardon had announced his retirement following his defeat in the 1991 World Championship Qualifying.
Despite his best hopes, Spencer was simply too ill to play in six of the ten events the following season due to a flare up of his condition in June. So many steroids were now required that they caused Spencer's hands to shake.Spencer kept his playing hopes alive by joining the management group of Six Colours Promotions in February 1992. He hoped this would provide a much needed 'morale boost' and the stable included then World Champion John Parrott, whom Spencer had advised ahead of his 1991 World Championship win. But when Spencer did play in the four remaining events he was only able to win a single frame (in the Pearl Assurance British Open against Euan Henderson). Spencer's final World Championship appearance could hardly have been sadder: he scored just 207 points against Norwegian Bjorn L'Orange and lost this second round qualifying match 0–10.
Spencer did continue to do some exhibitions and was grateful to Stephen Hendry's manager Ian Doyle for arranging some exhibitions after he stepped down as chairman of the WPBSA. Spencer was also pleased to have the assistance at these events of Len Ganley. Soon after this, Spencer began having trouble with veins in his legs, making mobility an issue. 183:
His last TV appearance as a player came in 1997 when he took part in Seniors Pot Black. Spencer later admitted that he was suffering from severe depression caused by his illness when he played this match. 72 Despite this he still generated applause with some shots during his frame with Dennis Taylor which he lost 74 points to 47. Despite matches only being a single frame, Spencer did not play in the Senior Masters Competition in June 2000, leaving a field of 15. This event would be won by Willie Thorne.:
Poor health led to Spencer's departure from the role of commentator in 1998. In his memoirs, he wrote movingly of struggling through his role before retiring back to his hotel room. He was deeply moved by the kindness of fellow commentators Ted Lowe and Ray Edmonds. 172:
On 28 January 2003 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer 184 but he later refused treatment for it in order to enjoy the rest of his life free from the effects of chemotherapy. Spencer emotionally paid a last visit to the Crucible for the 2005 Champions Parade. He had for many years been a dedicated charity fundraiser and, despite his illness, he took part in a sponsored parachute jump in August 2005. His biography was published that same year, entitled Out of the Blue and into the Black. On 11 July 2006 he died in a hospice in Bolton at the age of 70.:
Spencer was the first major professional snooker player to use a two-piece cue, which he used to win the 1977 title. Spencer was given the cue by Al Selinger of the Dufferin Cue Company during Spencer's victorious run in the 1976 Canadian Open. He did not use the cue straight away but switched to it a few weeks before the 1977 World Championship. 11:
His cue action included an unusually long backswing which gave him immense cue power, and allowed him to develop shots using deep-screw from long-distance and maximum side spin which aided the progression to modern break-building.
He was the owner of Spencer's Snooker Club in Bolton in the 1980s, when snooker was at its peak popularity. Following his defeat by Perrie Mans in the 1978 World Championship Spencer was invited by producer Nick Hunter to try his hand at commentating on snooker for BBC television, a task he enjoyed for the next 19 years. 79 He was also chairman of the WPBSA for six years from 1990, despite periods of extreme ill-health. When he resigned from his position in November 1996, he had been a member of the governing board for 25 years.:
|Ranking||No ranking system||8||2||4||4||15||14||12||16||13||20||34||28||27||38||55||85|
|Dubai Classic||Tournament Not Held||NR||2R||LQ||WD|
|Grand Prix||Tournament Not Held||3R||2R||1R||1R||1R||1R||2R||LQ||LQ||WD|
|UK Championship||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking Event||1R||2R||3R||1R||1R||1R||LQ||LQ|
|Classic||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking Event||2R||1R||1R||2R||2R||1R||LQ||LQ||WD|
|Asian Open||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking Event||Not Held||1R||LQ||WD|
|British Open||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking Event||2R||1R||QF||3R||1R||1R||LQ||LQ|
|European Open||Tournament Not Held||WD||1R||LQ||LQ|
|Pot Black||F||W||W||LQ||RR||F||RR||W||RR||RR||RR||RR||A||A||A||F||1R||A||Tournament Not Held||A|
|World Seniors Championship||Tournament Not Held||1R|
|The Masters||Tournament Not Held||W||SF||QF||SF||QF||SF||SF||1R||A||QF||QF||A||A||A||A||A||LQ||A|
|Irish Masters||Tournament Not Held||W||W||SF||W||SF||RR||1R||1R||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A|
|Matchroom League||Tournament Not Held||RR||Not Held||A||A||A||A||A||A|
|Former ranking tournaments|
|Canadian Masters||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking||1R||Not Held|
|Hong Kong Open||Tournament Not Held||Non-Ranking Event||NH||1R||Not Held|
|International Open||Tournament Not Held||NR||2R||QF||1R||2R||1R||2R||3R||LQ||Not Held|
|Former non-ranking tournaments|
|Canadian Masters||Tournament Not Held||A||QF||W||F||A||A||2R||Tournament Not Held||A||A||A||R||Not Held|
|International Open||Tournament Not Held||2R||Ranking Event||Not Held|
|Classic||Tournament Not Held||W||QF||QF||SF||Ranking Event|
|Australian Masters||Tournament Not Held||A||W||F||RR||1R||A||A||A||A||NH||R||Not Held|
|UK Championship||Tournament Not Held||2R||2R||2R||1R||1R||QF||2R||Ranking Event|
|British Open||Tournament Not Held||RR||LQ||LQ||RR||LQ||Ranking Event|
|English Professional Championship||Tournament Not Held||QF||Not Held||1R||2R||1R||1R||1R||Not Held|
|Performance Table Legend|
|LQ||lost in the qualifying draw||#R||lost in the early rounds of the tournament|
(WR = Wildcard round, RR = Round robin)
|QF||lost in the quarter-finals|
|SF||lost in the semi-finals||F||lost in the final||W||won the tournament|
|DNQ||did not qualify for the tournament||A||did not participate in the tournament||WD||withdrew from the tournament|
|NH / Not Held||means an event was not held.|
|NR / Non-Ranking Event||means an event is/was no longer a ranking event.|
|R / Ranking Event||means an event is/was a ranking event.|
|World Championship (1–0)|
|Outcome||No.||Year||Championship||Opponent in the final||Score|
|Winner||1.||1977||World Snooker Championship (3)||25–21|
Pro-am finals: 2 (2 runner-ups)
Team finals: 2 (1 title, 1 runner-up)
Amateur finals: 4 (1 title, 3 runner-ups)
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