World Snooker Championship: Mark Allen targets Crucible glory

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport at The Crucible
Mark Allen
Mark Allen reached the semi-final of the World Championship in 2009
2015 World Championship
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 18 April-4 May
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, HD, Red Button, Connected TV, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Full details here.

Mark Allen's refreshing honesty has landed him in a little bit of trouble during his career.

Several fines and well publicised spats with snooker supremo Barry Hearn reveal his passion for the game, even if they have lightened his wallet.

But the 29-year-old Northern Irishman clearly retains a child-like enthusiasm for the sport as he prepares for the World Championship.

"I still love it," Allen told BBC Sport. "This isn't going to last forever and you have to make the most of it.

"I love competing in front of the big crowds and in front of the television cameras. I want to win but you also have to enjoy it.

"I'm practising harder than I have done in the last few years and am really looking forward to going back to the Crucible."

A two-time ranking event winner, Allen has been in the world's top 16 for seven successive seasons.

But he feels like he has underachieved in snooker's Triple Crown events of the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters.

Mark Allen facts
Born: 22 February 1986 (Age 29)Turned professional: 2003
Nickname: 'The Pistol'Current ranking: 12 (Highest ranking 6)
Home: Antrim, Northern IrelandRanking event wins: 2 (World Open twice)
Highest break: 146 World Championship best: Semi-final 2009

The world number 12, who faces Welshman Ryan Day in his first-round match on Tuesday morning, did reach the semi-finals in 2009, beating Ronnie O'Sullivan along the way.

"I won't have regrets when I finish playing," Allen said. "But I have a pretty disappointing record in the biggest events and I want to put that right."

Allen started the season impressively, winning the European Tour event in Germany and reaching two ranking event finals, the Shanghai Masters and International Championship.

But despite winning through to the last four at the Masters in January, 'The Pistol' has struggled to find his best form since and has failed to progress into the quarter-finals of any tournament.

"My form has not been that great, but there's no need to panic," Allen added.

"I have had plenty of time to put things right on the practise table and I love the pressure of playing at the World Championship.

"I am not normally one for planning ahead but this tournament is different. It's the one everyone dreams about.

"The last few tournaments have not brought the greatest results but I feel I have been playing better."

Mark Allen
Mark Allen revealed in 2011 that he was suffering from depression

The hectic snooker schedule and endless travelling have become even less appealing since Allen married Kyla in 2013 and became step-father to 10-year-old Robbie - himself a keen snooker player who has represented Northern Ireland.

Allen describes the relationship with his nine-year-old daughter Lauren following the end of his relationship with 10-time women's world champion Reanne Evans as "complicated", meaning he cherishes his time at home.

"I do enjoy my time away from snooker," Allen added. "It actually helps me focus and helps my snooker. I need the break. I miss the normality of being at home when I am away for long spells."

Criticism of the gruelling tour schedule was the main reason for Allen's regular brushes with snooker's lawmakers in recent times.

He said the sport was a "dictatorship", called for World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn to resign and was fined for swearing at a media conference.

These days, Allen does not really seem to feel too differently about things, he just chooses to keep his counsel more.

Maybe a slightly more measured approach will help him finally deliver success in the biggest event of snooker's 'Big Three'.

And, 30 years on from snooker's most famous final - when Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis - perhaps it would be fitting if Allen followed in the footsteps of his fellow Northern Irishman and won snooker's ultimate prize.