Ronnie O’Sullivan urged shoemakers to “send your boys down” and spare him Crucible agony after getting through three pairs in a chaotic start to his Betfred World Championship campaign.
The title favourite and five-time former champion was a 10-3 winner against Craig Steadman, a 32-year-old from Manchester who endured a painful Crucible debut.
O’Sullivan was sore physically rather than mentally after earning his last-16 place, having started the match in a new pair of dress shoes which he discarded in favour of briefly playing just in his socks.
When O’Sullivan was told by referee Brendan Moore he was breaching rules surrounding attire, he turned first to the audience to beg for a pair of smart size eight shoes, before accepting tournament director Mike Ganley’s offer of his own footwear.
It is understood O’Sullivan could face a small punishment, in the region of £250, for being in breach of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association’s dress code, which stipulates dress and appearance must be “smart and appropriate for a professional snooker or billiards player”.
O’Sullivan dug out a comfortable but old pair of dress shoes for Wednesday’s play, as he converted a 7-2 overnight lead into victory.
Asked about the pair in which he began the match, O’Sullivan said: “Bad, bad move. When I was buying them I was thinking, ‘these don’t look right’.
“But I’m not a fashion kind of guy.
“If any top shoemakers feel like they want to come and sort me out with a new pair of shoes, send your boys down. I’m not going to say no.
“I’d appreciate a new pair and I need some help.”
O’Sullivan said on BBC Two: “I got a pair of Mike Ganley’s stinky old shoes, and you know what - they felt great.”
But borrowing shoes again from Ganley - son of late snooker referee Len Ganley - is not an option O’Sullivan is considering.
“When I looked at them, I thought, ‘what the hell?’,” O’Sullivan said in a press conference.
“But they were so comfortable it was like heaven.
“Thanks to Mike - I was desperate.”
O’Sullivan had launched the match against Steadman with a break of 104, and added runs of 61, 59, 54 and 75, before doing enough in a scrappy morning session on Wednesday to cross the winning line and set up a shot at Matthew Stevens or Mark Williams in the second round.
However many chances O’Sullivan needed to win his frames, Steadman invariably obliged, with a string of missed blacks on Tuesday proving highly damaging.
Steadman said: “I felt fine, I just missed balls. Today was a bit weird coming back in. I didn’t feel too comfortable and maybe that’s because of being despondent with the scoreline. As nice as it is being at the Crucible, it’s never nice to lose.”
He said of O’Sullivan: “If he takes his shoes and socks off and plays with his feet, I’m not bothered. I’m sure he can do that as well.”