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Earl Strickland was selected for Team USA as the final wild card pick, but will the men in blue silence ‘The Pearl’ and make it a hat-trick of titles in Las Vegas?; you can watch the Mosconi Cup live on Sky Sports from November 30 to December 3
Last Updated: 08/11/22 8:08pm
‘The Terminator’ Niels Feijen expects veteran pool legend Earl Strickland to light up Las Vegas as ‘The Pearl’ steps back into competition mode for Team USA at the 2022 Mosconi Cup.
Strickland, 61, didn’t think he would be picked again having missed out on last year’s tournament at Alexandra Palace after being forced to withdraw due to a positive Covid-19 contact trace on his flight to London.
It was heartbreak for Strickland who has won the joint-most amount of Mosconi Cup titles with nine and will go on the hunt for a historic 10th as USA look to regain the crown for the first time since 2019.
Strickland is a pool icon having battled some of the biggest names from snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan in 1996 to claiming MVP in 2005 as the USA beat Europe 11-6.
Dutchman Feijen, an eight-time winner of the event, told Sky Sports: “What happened last year to Strickland was heart-breaking. He got pulled out of the tournament and he had to stay in his hotel for 10 days.
“That was horrible for him, so for him to get back into the team is great and it’s great for the event. It’s also great for the Vegas crowd who desperately need to get behind the home side.
“I remember one of my last times I played in the States and it was pretty rowdy so if you’re not feeling great it can get to you. I hope for the event that they really get on it and let’s hope Team USA can make it a tight contest.
“The crowd will be ready, pumped, and on a mission to be there from the first ball on the first day rather than when they’re ahead because that can make all the difference.”
Captain Jeremy Jones opted for Strickland to join his side of Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward, Oscar Dominguez, and Tyler Styer with ‘The Pearl’ out for payback.
“Of course this is redemption for Earl because he was ready last year. He was playing a lot of pool with Van Boening but I think he desperate to put on a show – even at his age,” said Feijen.
“The balls don’t know how old you are because you’re committed and motivated so I think he wants to prove a point. He’s still able to compete at that high level and score some important points for the team.”
Earl’s incredible work ethic…
European ace Shaw recently revealed to ‘The Golden Break’ podcast what life was like with Strickland when they shared an apartment, divulging some of his famous motivational talks.
Feijen explained Strickland’s dedication stands out most with stories that the American would run six miles, then do 1,000 sit-ups and push-ups and then go and practice before going for another run.
He said: “If you’re talking work ethic, then I think that really rubbed off on Jayson. He had a much better period of his life after sharing an apartment with Earl. No matter what happens if you see a guy that committed and working that hard then it’s going to rub off on you.”
Strickland could well be a tactical curveball for Team Europe but Feijen firmly believes the veteran can still mix it with the best in world pool.
“If you’re still fit, if your eyes are good, if your nerves are good, it’s all about commitment and being hungry,” the former world 9-ball champion said. “Look at the snooker players Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins – these guys are inspirational.”
Should organisers bring back women players?
The first Mosconi Cup took place at the Rollerbowl in Romford, in 1994, with a team of eight format, comprised of six men and two women.
Feijen admits ‘level-wise’ he wouldn’t have anything against it in 2022, but admits: “Being a male player, if you’re fighting for a spot in the ranking and you’re investing £30,000 a year to travel to a lot of tournaments – that makes their chances slimmer. But there are pros and cons to both sides.
“The women play well enough to score points off the men so I have nothing against that.”
Who will win the Mosconi Cup?
“Europe are heavy favourites,” said Feijen. “As a sports fan and a pool fan I hope it’s going to close after two days and then things might get interesting.”
You can watch the 2022 Mosconi Cup from November 30 to December 3 at Bally’s Las Vegas where Jeremy Jones’ USA side will be looking to prevent Alex Lely’s European side making it a hat-trick of titles – live on Sky Sports.
Team Europe lead the annual transatlantic 9-ball pool event 14-13 ahead of this year’s event.