John Spencer (pictured second left), who died in July 2006, was one of the game’s all-time greats.
The Lancashire born professional won three world titles and and battled for supremacy throughout the 1970s with rivals Ray Reardon and Alex Higgins.
One of five children, Spencer began playing at his local billiard hall, the Grott, in Radcliffe. When the River Irwell flooded often the Grott did as well.
He was soon knocking in century breaks and made his breakthrough by winning the 1966 English amateur championship.
In 1969 and now a professional, Spencer won the first of his three world crowns defeating Gary Owen.
He couldn’t defend it but two years later was on top of the world once more. In 1972 he made the final again but lost to an up and coming Irishman by the name of Alex Higgins.
The Hurricane had to wait 10 years before lifting the trophy again; Spencer was champion for a third time in 1977.
It was the first year the tournament had been held at the Crucible. Other firsts falling to ‘Spenny’ included the inaugural Benson & Hedges Masters and the first competitive 147 though the break- at the 1979 Holsten tournament in Slough-was never seen on TV as technicians had gone on their break.
He was also one of the first to use a two-piece cue after his old one got smashed in a car accident.
For all their rivalry, he and Reardon never met in a world final though they crossed cues on many occasions.
In 1985, Spencer’s career took a turn for the worse when it was discovered he was suffering from the eye disease Myasthenia Gravis.
The steroids needed to combat the problem caused bouts of depression.
So, it was a notable feat at the age of 51 when he reached the British Open quarter-finals only to lose to Jimmy White.
Away from the table he was a respected member of the BBC TV commentary team, rarely calling a wrong shot. In 1990 he also became chairman of the WPBSA, a post he held for six years.
In 2003 he was diagnosed with lung and stomach cancer that eventually claimed his life.
In 2005 he published his autobiography, ‘Out of the Blue Into The Black’ and also undertook a parachute jump in aid of the Myasthenia Gravis Association.