Following in the footsteps of two of snooker’s greatest-ever players, Stephen Hendry and John Higgins, is quite a prospect for any teenager to ponder.

But for Liam Graham, who’s been branded within the snooker world as the next big thing to come out of this country, that’s exactly the heights he’s aspiring to.

Graham is in the very earliest days of his career – he’s played less than a handful of professional tournaments so far – but already he’s got his sights set on the very top.

“I want to be world number one,” he says without hesitation. 

“I’m actually much more interested in that than I am in becoming world champion. I think that’ll still be ten, fifteen years down the line before I get to that point, and it is hard to look that far ahead. But who knows, I could find something soon and that timeline could change.”

Graham may be in the fledgling stages of his pro career but this week he’ll take a significant step forward in his development by playing in the British Open, which he qualified for by securing his first-ever pro win last month, defeating world ranked number 40 Cao Yupeng in the qualifying tournament in Leicester.

However, as significant an achievement as it is for Graham to have secured a place in one of the biggest tournaments of the year on the snooker calendar, the teenager from Clarkston in Glasgow’s south side is refusing to get over-excited about his progress.

“It was a big deal because it was my first win but I wasn’t as excited about it as people might have thought. It was just one game – if my aspiration had been to win just one game then I wouldn’t get very far,” he says.

“I went in with a lot of confidence that I’d get through but I’ve still got a long way to go.

“I’m not at the glitz and glamour level of the tour yet – I’m still at the drag of it. It took me seven and a half hours on public transport to get to Leicester for the qualifiers so it wasn’t an easy journey – I’m pretty sure Ronnie (O’Sullivan) isn’t doing that journey. So I’ve not made it yet.”

Graham will face his compatriot, Scott Donaldson in the first round of the British Open, which begins today in Cheltenham and, with Donaldson ranked 51st in the world, represents a favourable draw for the teenager considering the likes of Judd Trump, O’Sullivan, Higgins and Luca Brecel are all in the draw.

But while some youngsters would have relished pitting their wits against one of the game’s greats, Graham is far more interested in a draw such as the one he has which gives him a realistic chance of progressing through the tournament.

“I feel good about my draw – I’ll just go in there, play my own game and hopefully that’ll be good enough,” he says.

“In every tournament, I want the worst player I can play. When I hear these young players saying they want to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins or Judd Trump, they’re deluded because if you’re going there to play these big players rather than going there to make a living, it defeats the whole purpose of you being there.

“I’m not saying I couldn’t beat them, on any given day, I could beat anybody. But they’re just so good.”

Graham has long had a passion for snooker.

His interest was first sparked when his granddad took him to Cathcart Bowling Club, led him to the snooker table in the clubhouse and quickly, the Glaswegian was spending every spare moment with a snooker cue in his hand.

“There was a wee table in the back of the club and they’d leave me in there for hours,” Graham recalls

“My granddad would pick me up from school and we’d go straight down to the club and play all evening, till about 9pm. Every single night.”

It was in the very early days that Graham caught the eye of those in the know.

Having been signed by John Rea, player manager and owner of the famous Lucky Break snooker club in Clydebank, a young Graham caught the eye of former UK Championship winner, Stephen Maguire.

As he’s progressed through his teens, Graham has become a regular practice partner for the likes of Mark Allen and Maguire and while he admits being in such exalted company was somewhat daunting in the early days, he’s now confident that being around the best in the game is exactly where he belongs.

And each and every piece of advice given by these pros who have been there, done it and bought the t-shirt is being lapped up by Graham.

“At the start, it was pretty surreal being around these amazing players and I had a bit of imposter syndrome,” he says

“Now, though, I feel like I belong there. I wouldn’t be winning matches on the tour if I wasn’t good enough to be there. That’s given me reassurance that my self-confidence was justified.

“The best advice the pros have given me is to try and enjoy it, but that’s the most infuriating bit of advice ever. I know that I’d say the same to young players because the enjoyment does fade over time. It goes from being a hobby to becoming a job and so it’s very hard to love going to your job every day. And I do feel the pressure of it being my job creeping in. But it’s definitely the best bit of advice you can get.”