Mark Gray has qualified for what he says will be ‘the biggest and best Mosconi Cup in history’.
The 43 year-old from Bourne was 17th at the Kuwait Open and with Jayson Shaw winning the event, Gray was able to secure his place in the Europe team that takes on the United States next month.
The four-day tournament gets underway at the Alexandra Palace on Tuesday, December 6 in front of the Sky Sports cameras – and Gray predicts a Mosconi Cup to remember.
He added: “When I heard at the start of the year that the Mosconi Cup would be at Alexandra Palace in front of crowds of around 3,000 I made it my goal to qualify. I don’t usually set goals, but this year, I did.
“This will be the biggest and best Mosconi Cup in history and I really wanted to be there.
“Alexandra Palace is only 40 minutes on the train from Peterborough and it feels like it’s on my doorstep.
“I should have a lot of family and friends there from Bourne, Spalding and Peterborough.
“I have earned my place in the team. This year has probably been my most consistent year. I haven’t finished outside the top 17 in any tournament and I’ve done well on the Great Britain nine-ball tour.”
Gray is joined in the Europe team by Shaw, Niels Feijen and wild cards Albin Ouschan and Darren Appleton.
“Albin and Jayson are making their Mosconi Cup debuts but this will be my third time,” added Gray, who was part of winning Europe teams in 2008 and 2014.
“My stats in the Mosconi Cup aren’t great,” said Gray, “but I’ve played well. Sometimes in double matches, you can play well and still lose.”
Europe have won the last six Mosconi Cups and though Gray predicts a close contest this year, he believes home advantage could be crucial.
“This is probably the best US team there’s been for six or seven years. We have given them a few good bashings in recent years, but this looks closer.
“But Americans usually bottle it on the television.
“They are used to playing in small pool halls where nobody’s watching, while we are used to playing on television.
“When the cameras are in your face and the crowd is close to you, you can fold, but playing on TV gives me a buzz.
“I come from a snooker background and I’m used to playing big matches on TV.
“I played Jimmy White live on Sky Sports in 1998 when everyone wanted him to win, but I still beat him 5-4.
“For me, the bigger the crowd, the better.
“If I was playing an American in a small hall in the States, I would be the underdog, but I’m the favourite in front of a big crowd and the cameras.”
Gray has also been picked to represent England in next year’s World Cup of Pool and also hopes he will be among the 16 players handed a place in the World Pool Masters that goes ahead in Gibraltar in February.
He said: “If I can play in two of the three big tournaments Matchroom have every year, I’m happy with that.
““The target is always the big tournaments and I’m over the moon to be going to the Mosconi Cup.”