Ronnie O'Sullivan has been talking up the chances of the field in the UK Snooker Championship. Ralph Ellis wonders if his words might come back to haunt him...
"If there is anybody who fits the description of a player coming into form, it is Milkins. He is a man on the comeback trail, and seems to be getting better with every tournament."
We've all at one time or another backed teams, or people, in the belief they couldn't lose - and then they did. Manchester City couldn't possibly get beaten at Cardiff, not after going a goal up. No way could Rafael Nadal lose a first round Wimbledon match against Steve Darcis. And so on, and so on.
So the reaction to hearing Ronnie O'Sullivan say that anybody could win snooker's UK Championship ought to be to say: "Yeah, you're dead right." And yet somehow you ignore the evidence of experience and think he's merely saying the right thing to show some respect to the other players.
Ronnie was giving his views after he, Neil Robertson 6.411/2 and Ding Junhui 8.415/2 had all swept easily into the fourth round at York. The Rocket made back-to-back century breaks as he polished off Marcus Campbell 6-2. Ding, meanwhile, collected his 22nd consecutive tournament win. Defending champion Mark Selby 6.25/1 whitewashed poor Stuart Carrington 6-0.
"I expect others in the top 16 to start having a good two to three months now," said O'Sullivan. "The winner could come from someone who is coming in to form. Nobody can keep winning all the time."
You wonder how much Ronnie himself really believes that. He is picking and choosing his tournaments these days, and proved last year at The Crucible that he can pretty much turn up wherever he wants and win. Right handed, left handed, doesn't really matter. He's so far ahead of everybody else. That's why he's as short as 1.171/6 to beat Robert Milkins tonight. And it's why 3.1511/5 for him to add the UK prize to his World title, and the Champion of Champions trophy he collected last month, looks like a big price.
But he could have a point. And he might even get it proved right by Milkins because if there is anybody who fits the description of a player coming into form, it is the 37-year-old from Gloucester.
His history of personal problems that almost wrecked his career is well documented. But Milkins is a man on the comeback trail, and seems to be getting better with every tournament. Coached by 1979 World champion Terry Griffiths, his third round win over Matthew Stevens guarantees him a place in the Masters in the New Year.
He's reached two semi-finals this season, although he lost both before he barely started. He lost all four frames of the first session against Neil Robertson in the Wuxi Classic, before drawing the second session 2-2. And in the Australian Open he was 4-1 behind, and although he fought back to 4-4 the damage was already done.
Playing Ronnie at York will be just as big an occasion for him. But his play has been so composed so far it suggests he may have learned some lessons from those two semi-finals. If that's right, and he starts well instead of nervously, he could indeed be capable of springing a shock. Milkins, even as a back to lay, is in the sort of form to be great value at 6.411/2. And let's face it, Ronnie himself has told you so.