Stuart Bingham: Snooker world champion revels in winning feeling
Stuart Bingham is still coming to terms with the wonderful, inescapable feeling of becoming world champion.
Twenty-five years of hard graft and a refusal to accept a journeyman's career have paid off.
It's the title that matters, of course - confirmed by the gargantuan grin with which he recalls his victory at the Crucible in May.
But the self-confessed snooker geek's new-found fame and relative fortune also means he is finally on the verge of upsizing his modest Basildon home and getting the "man cave" he says he has always craved.
The world number two's beaten opponent in Sheffield, Shaun Murphy, was hoping his own house-hunting would help him forget their thrilling final, which ended with the Essex man winning 18-15.
Bingham told BBC Sport: "Shaun has just moved to Nottinghamshire and told me he ended up driving through a place called Bingham.
"He said there was no way he could buy a house there, no matter how much he liked it. Too many bad memories."
Basildon "born-and-bred" Bingham, 39, will not be relocating far from his roots - and certainly not as far afield as the Nottinghamshire market town Murphy was keen to avoid.
"Oh my God, that's worth a few quid"
The main priority for Bingham's new pad is to find space to house his memorabilia and the table on which he won the 2015 title.
Taking pride of place - if his soon-to-be four-year-old son Shea lets him - it will serve to be a neat reminder of his Sheffield success.
"World Snooker got me a replica trophy about three-quarters of the size of the real thing and when it came I said to Shea it was your trophy and now it literally is," said Bingham senior chuckling at the thought.
"He takes it outside and loves it, but I am thinking, 'Oh my God, that's worth a few quid'.
"He plays on his little table, clears the balls, raises the trophy above his head and says 'champion'. He loves it."
So does daddy, even though the period since his thrilling victory in snooker's showpiece event has been exhausting and a little bit surreal.
"Oh yeah, I'm world champion"
"I think it is slowly sinking in but I don't think it has fully yet," said Bingham, nicknamed Ball-Run.
"I was out with Nigel Bond with his missus and he said something about the world champion and I thought 'oh yeah, that's me'.
"I am getting recognised more and being recognised for something you love doing is great."
Bingham has happily embraced everything about his success. But being world champion, with the relentless attention, interviews and appearances it brought, has had an impact on the table.
Less preparation certainly contributed to his lack of sharpness in early-season events in Australia, Latvia and the World Cup in China.
But Bingham expects to be fully refreshed and ready to go again after a family holiday in Turkey.
"I do feel a little bit jaded. It took me two weeks to recover from the World Championship and I still feel a bit knackered," he said.
"Back in the day you had about three months off after the World Championship and you could enjoy it and chill out.
"It's been non-stop but I am getting back to normality. I need a break and after that I will have two weeks before a tournament in Germany, and then I am off to Thailand and China."
"I look at it as a numbers game"
As well as being one of the most popular players among his peers, Bingham has earned a reputation for being the snooker tour's most consistent and regular performers - entering as many events as he possibly can. And he has no intention of letting up this season.
"I look at it as a numbers game," he explained. "If you enter 25 tournaments then surely your number has to come up once or twice? The opportunity is there to earn big money.
"I have five or 10 years left in the game and I have to do what is right for my family. There is an Asian tour event I may not enter but apart from that I will pretty much be in them all."
He still has plenty of goals - mainly being the world number one. But he would dearly love to win one of the other two tournaments in snooker's Big Three, although his initial target for the Masters starts a little lower.
"I have not won a game at the Masters so that would be a start," he said. "At the UK Championship I have been to the semi-finals so I want a final.
"But my goal is always the same, to win one tournament; it is so competitive so winning one tournament means you have had a good season.
"I still love the sport as much as I ever did. That's not changed."
"If he can win it, so can I"
Last season was a success even before his Crucible triumph. He won his second ranking title, beating Mark Allen in the Shanghai Masters, as well as two other trophies.
Bingham's consistency and persistence also saw him reach the semi-finals of the UK Championship and three other semi-finals before walking away with the £300,000 winner's cheque in Sheffield.
He was a 50-1 outsider to win the World Championship and had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals.
|Ball-Run Bingham's World Championship|
|First round: Bingham 10-7 Robbie Williams (Eng)|
|Second round: Bingham 13-5 Graeme Dott (Sco)|
|Quarter-final: Bingham 13-9 Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng)|
|Semi-final: Bingham 17-16 Judd Trump (Eng)|
|Final: Bingham 18-15 Shaun Murphy (Eng)|
|"I beat three world champions on the way in Dott, Ronnie and Shaun, and Judd as well. I had to do it the hard way."|
"With me winning that it has inspired everyone on tour," said Bingham. "I have been a pro for 20 years and it is only in the last four or five years I have started winning.
"All the people around the tour are looking me at me thinking, 'surely if he can win it then so can I?'"
Does he take offence at that?
"No, not all," he said. "I don't feel special. I just put the time in and came out on top. It clicked for a couple of weeks and I won a tournament. Luckily it was the World Championship."
"I did get some free fish and chips"
His elevation to the game's elite has brought added responsibility - and a few unexpected bonuses.
"It does feel a bit different - there are different pressures," he explained. "I feel like I need to perform to be a world champion. I have always been professional and tried to do what is right for the sport and me but it's even more important now."
As for becoming a celebrity? He's already appeared on the Clare Balding Show, and there's A Question of Sport to come as well.
"I am really, really looking forward to that," he said. "It's still all a bit weird. Seeing that trophy and looking at pictures of me and Michelle [his wife], Tiegan [step daughter] and my son next to the trophy is brilliant.
"Shea still just tells people, 'my daddy's a world champion'. They probably just think 'yeah, yeah'."
Some of the benefits are easier to measure.
"I did get some free fish and chips not long after I won when I got recognised."
The perks of the job are endless.