RONNIE O’Sullivan said he would “rather go and play in Crawley” after beating Ding Junhui 13-10 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

His comments come despite the fact the snooker star has a well-publicised loathing of the Sussex town.

Speaking to the press following his impressive victory against Ding Junhui on Sunday, which saw him reach the World Championship quarter-finals, O’Sullivan said the absence of fans in the auditorium could have an effect on players used to playing to a crowd.

But he said that, without people coming to watch, his journey in and out of venues had become much easier.

Fans are currently not allowed to attend fixtures due to coronavirus restrictions.

He said: “It’s better with the fans, of course it is. It’s like playing in a morgue out there.

“I’ve got one friend sitting in the balcony, you know?

“Obviously it would be great if you could have the fans at a tournament like this and also be able to get in and out of the venue.

“It (matches with no crowds) feels like a bit of a village feel at the moment, which is great.

“All the players are much more relaxed, and I suppose if you’re one of the players who is not all that well known then it doesn’t really make that much difference.

“But for the top players it can be a nightmare, it really can... this tournament.

“It puts you off, actually, wanting to come here.

“I’d rather go and play in Crawley, that’s how bad it is.”

O’Sullivan let out as wry chuckle as he made the final comment, and it is no wonder given his history with the Sussex town’s K2 venue.

Speaking last October, the five-time world champion said Crawley’s only redeeming feature was “the M23 out of here”.

With a day off from the English Open lying ahead of him he said he was looking forward to leaving the town for a while, adding “Every day in Crawley is a day lost in my life”.

The 44-year-old’s visit followed improvement works at The K2, but he said that “it “hasn’t changed as far as I’m concerned”.

He continued: “You’d have to do a lot to change this place, wouldn’t you?

“You’d have to do an overall refurb on this place, but I’m not surprised, it is what I expected it to be.

“I’ve just gone from the match table to a squash court to a toilet, where the player’s office is, to outside the building, in the rain, to get round here to do interviews, so I’ll probably end up with a bit of pneumonia on top of the cold which I’ve already got.

“It’s not ideal.”

Fast forward to Sunday evening and it is clear that O’Sullivan’s interview style remains as candid as ever.

His Crawley comments were not the only ones to catch viewers’ attention.

The experienced player slammed the standard of competitors further down the sports ranking system, declaring he would have to “lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50”.

Speaking after the match, he said: “I was just glad I found a way to compete with my mind out there.

“For a while now I have just, sort of, been going out there and slapping balls about, having a bit of fun, not caring really if I won or lost.”

O’Sullivan will face fellow veteran Mark Williams, 45, in the quarter-final of the World Championship.

He was asked if he thought the pair, who boast more than five decades competing in the sport between them, would still be facing each other at such a high level at this stage of their careers.

O’Sullivan said: “When you look at the standard of play then I’d say yeah. When you look at me and John (Higgins) and Mark then you look at the younger players coming through, they’re not that good really.

“Most of them would probably do well as half-decent amateurs, do you know what I’m saying?

“Well, not even amateurs, you think, ‘I’ve got to lose an arm and a leg to fall outside the top 50’.”