Snooker's new breed are "po-faced kids" who have forgotten how to entertain, according to the man who brought the World Championship to Sheffield.

On the eve of the 40th Crucible baize marathon, the criticism came from Mike Watterson, the promoter whose move to give the tournament a permanent home in 1977 was a crucial step towards snooker reaching prime-time television audiences in its 1980s boom years.

Watterson managed the likes of Kirk Stevens and Cliff Thorburn, and played in professional tournaments himself. He was also chairman of Derby County Football Club in the early 1980s.

But to generations of cue fans his greatest contribution was in taking the nomadic World Championship off the road, after it had been staged in Bolton, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne and London in the decade before it reached Sheffield.

Now aged 73, Watterson believes snooker's top players are denying crowds the entertainment they crave, and which he feels they could count on during the early Crucible years.

"I don't think its more professional at all. The old pros like John Pulman, Fred Davis and John Spencer, they were playing in working men's clubs for £40 a night, they were entertainers. If they weren't making big breaks, they'd be doing trick shots," Watterson told Press Association Sport.

"These days they're just po-faced kids. It all goes back to Steve Davis, he started the rot. We used to call him the Romford Robot. He's a very nice guy and he was so professional in a playing point of view.

"The other lads would show a bit of character and personality.

"Then of course you got Stephen Hendry. He was very shy and he was a follow-on from Steve Davis."

It was on the advice of wife Carole that Watterson settled on the Crucible. And despite a Chinese determination to take the tournament to the Far East, he is adamant it should stay in South Yorkshire.

"She said she'd been to see a play and that the Crucible would be perfect," Watterson said of his late wife's suggestion.

After measuring it up, Watterson judged the venue was the perfect size.

Yet snooker's modern theatre of dreams was far from an immaculate venue in the late 1970s, according to Watterson.

"Back then it was a dropout's hangout, an embarrassment to the city. You'd go in and find dropouts lounging in there - beatniks we used to call them. In those days it was always getting slated by the city and the people."

Whatever his initial impressions, Watterson had a hunch that paid off.

"You never can tell if something's going to work," he said.

"I don't think I imagined at all the tournament would be in Sheffield for so long.

"But if it ain't broke now, don't mend it."