From cleaning toilets with his Mum to narrowly missing out on a place in his first ranking final last week at the BetVictor Shoot Out, Daniel Wells has been on quite the journey over the past two years. It’s a stark reminder of how quickly a career can change.
Having reached his maiden ranking semi-final at the Scottish Open in 2018, Wells dropped off the tour two seasons later.
A 6-5 loss to Andrew Higginson in his opening match of the 2020 World Championship didn’t exactly put him in the best of moods heading into the summer break. And to make matters worse his cue broke.
As the 2020/21 season dawned, Wells made history – not in the way he would have liked – becoming the joint-first player, alongside Gary Wilson, to test positive for Covid. The Welshman took out a loan after missing the opening two tournaments of the campaign, setting him back somewhat in his fight to remain on tour. Unfortunately, Wells finished the season 82nd and following a Q School which he described as “terrible”, he was no longer a professional snooker player.
“To be plunged into the abyss was really tough,” said the two-time ranking semi-finalist. “I was pursuing my dream and then during COVID, I had it taken away from me. Financially it was difficult and I was stressed.
“I felt kind of hard done by. I was worried about falling off the tour and what that meant. That period was probably the worst of my life. And so, when the worst thing did happen and I didn’t get through Q School, I was in bits. But a week later I thought, ‘I’m still alive, I’m still breathing, so I’ve got to get a job.’ Thankfully, I had a job with my mother’s cleaning business and I left the cue alone for a bit. Automatically the weight just lifted off my shoulders.
“I probably needed the break because I felt like a different person. But then you watch certain people winning matches and I’m cleaning toilets thinking, that could be me! That period gave me a different perspective. Nobody really thinks any less of you for not being a professional snooker player. It was quite refreshing. And I’ve taken that forward. I know I can survive without being a professional, as nice as it is to be one. I’m just going to enjoy all the moments and try and provide a nice life for my family.”
Wells’ story should act as inspiration. By his own admission, the landscape of his career looks and feels so different with there being a strong possibility he will now regain his place on tour next season.
The Welshman, as a top-up, beat John Higgins and Dechawat Poomjaeng to qualify for the BetVictor German Masters and Welsh Open respectively. And following his deep run in Leicester last week, Wells is in pole position to be awarded a two-year card as one of the four highest players on the one-year list not already qualified for next season’s tour. A strong showing in this season’s Q Tour saw him secure a playoff spot after finishing third in the rankings, providing him with a handy backup should he require it.
“The one-year list is probably at the forefront of my mind,” admitted Wells. “Even going into the last Q Tour event, I knew I was first. So yeah, that was big in my mind. As a jump up, it’s quite difficult to make any massive inroads, so to take 8,000 ranking points from the Shoot Out and push further clear of the field was a real positive. I’ve never played snooker with so much adrenaline, because of the shock clock, the crowd and everything. There’s so much going on, it’s a mixture of emotions. But it’s a really enjoyable event.
“The fact that I’ve now got a bit of breathing space over the field on the one-year list has taken a bit of pressure off, but I can’t rest on my laurels. I’ve been off the tour for a long period, and just to be back, in certain events and competing, is what I was really hoping for when I was working as a cleaner for my mother.”
The final part of this season is like the beginning of a new chapter for Wells. Doused with a fresh perspective having flushed out the stress and anxiety of years gone by. And if the 34-year-old can secure one of those precious tour cards come May, it would feel as if his career were starting afresh, worthy of a second novel.
Of course, Wells still has to do the business on the table. But he’s hoping to utilise the “positive experiences” gained at the BetVictor Shoot Out in the weeks to come. A trip to Berlin precedes a homecoming in Wales… sort of.
“It’s not gonna feel like a home event, driving three and a half hours to Llandudno!” joked the Glamorgan-born potter. “I’d like to think the Welsh crowd will be cheering me on, though. I always enjoy playing the Welsh Open. But I do feel my game suits the conditions on tour, the Star tables. This is where I want to be playing my snooker.
“Beating John to qualify for Germany gave me a massive amount of confidence. He was a hero of mine growing up. I know it was in a qualifier, but if I can beat someone as good as John then I don’t see why I can’t beat everybody else. I feel I’m a better player now than I ever have been.”
CLICK HERE to follow Wells in action at the BetVictor German Masters. The tournament, including Jack Lisowski, Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson, runs until Sunday February 5 at the Tempodrom in Berlin.