GALLERY: Fen Potter Perry takes on reporter Rob in World Championship warm-up

RELAXING in a converted snooker room at the back of his parents’ home, it’s easy to forget that Joe Perry is the 26th best player in the world.

The 37-year-old is a normal, mild-mannered father-of-two. He lives with his wife and daughters in Chatteris and he still plays for the town’s Conservative Club.

But the Fen Potter is also one of very few people who have remained at the top of their sport for more than a decade.

He has been a professional for 20 years, playing countless frames across the world against the game’s legends.

Victory in his qualifier on Sunday will see him make a return to his favourite tournament, the World Championship at the Crucible, in Sheffield.

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“It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to play there,” he said. “It can be the best place in the world and it can be the worst place in the world.

“I’ve played there when I’ve felt like there’s nobody in the crowd because I’ve been so focused.

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“Other times, you can sit there and think everyone is looking and laughing at you. Obviously they aren’t, but that’s the power of your mind in that situation.

“I have different expectations and aspirations when I go there now, but I still get the same buzz. When you hear the announcer call your name it’s impossible not to get that buzz.

“I know if I’m bang on my game I can go a long way. I’ve beat everyone in it and I’ve lost to them all as well, so I know what I can do.”

Joe’s first appearance at the Crucible came as a fan alongside his father, who has played a big part in his success.

When the family moved from London to Chatteris, Peter Perry sacrificed half of his new garden in order to build a snooker room for his 14-year-old son.

Joe said: “When I came to Chatteris I think there was about one bus a week and only two tables at the Conservative Club, which I wasn’t really allowed on.

“So dad put the table up for me - I think he wanted me to be a pro as much as I did.”

In a corner of the practice room stands a dusty trophy. The plaque is too worn to read, but Joe says it is the first award he ever won. He beat a host of senior players at a club in Kilburn, London. He was 11 at the time.

Joe said: “I’ve watched snooker develop from Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths to Stephen Hendry and now Judd Trump.

“I’ve had a great time, and while I would like to have won more tournaments, there’s not many people I’d swap lives with.”

I dared to ask if there were any thoughts of retirement.

“I can’t imagine not playing snooker,” he replied.

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