STUART BINGHAM says he would like to see his old foe Mark Allen go on to win the world title this year after five former champions were knocked out in the opening round.
The reigning world champion, still bitterly disappointed after his opening day defeat to Ali Carter on Saturday, still feels Ronnie O’Sullivan is the man to beat despite looking “a bit vulnerable” in his first-round win over David Gilbert.
But Ball Run, who called Allen (pictured) “an idiot” in 2011 after his rival accused him of having “no bottle”, now wants The Pistol to shoot himself to Crucible glory after he eased through with a 10-3 win against Mitchell Mann on Wednesday.
Bingham said: “I would like to see Mark Allen win it. I know we have had our differences in the past but that is all over now and we are friends, and I really think it could be his time.
“He just has that self-belief, a bit like Ali showed against me. He also did well to win the Players Championship in Manchester recently, so his game is in the right place.
“I still think Ronnie is the man to beat, though. He did look a bit vulnerable in his first match but if he gets his head right then I don’t see who can stop him.
“That said, I think the draw means he might have to play Mark Selby in the semi-finals, and that won’t be easy.
“But top players from each quarter of the draw have been knocked out already so I guess it has opened up a bit.
“And the truth is there are no real ‘shocks’ at the moment because the qualifiers have played three matches to get there and they are very sharp, just like Ali was against me.
“People are saying Neil Robertson going out last night was a shock but when you look at how he has been playing since Christmas, it is not really.
“So it will be interesting to watch how it all unfolds but, to be honest, I’m still gutted I am not there playing.”
Former world champion Robertson’s exit means he joins Bingham and previous winners Shaun Murphy, Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon in falling at the first hurdle.
Bingham lost 10-9 in a thriller with Essex rival Carter and joked he still felt “suicidal” about it on Wednesday morning.
He added: “I said it was a tough draw and I think it probably turned out to be the toughest.
“And it all just about sums up my season really because I did not play well but still had a good chance of winning.
“But if someone had sat me down last year and said you will win the world title but go out in the first round next year I would have taken that.
“And it meant I had a lot more media work this year – a lot of it very enjoyable like being on Question of Sport – but next year I won’t have that so I will be able to just focus on my snooker.”
Bingham also revealed he has now parted company with his coach Steve Feeney and feels he can return to title-winning form next season with a clean slate.
He said: “I’ve already had a coach offering me his services at at the Crucible but I think I just need a break from coaching at the moment to focus on myself and find my own game again.
“And I am very positive about next season. This year was a bit like the season after I won my first event in Australia. I don’t think I got past the quarter-finals the following year.
“But with fewer distractions and some hard work I want to be back in the mix for titles again on a regular basis.”
Bingham will next be in action at an exhibition with Nigel Bond in Sheffield on Friday, April 29. After that he is in competition with three tournament qualifiers in Preston at the end of May.