Mark Allen made a controversial first round exit at the Crucible last season but heads to Sheffield this year in form and with a claim to be among the contenders for the prize.

Allen retained his World Open title last month. Earlier this season he won a European Tour event in Belgium.

But bare results without context do not tell the whole story. Far from it, in fact.

One factor that has counted against Allen during the campaign has been a series of draws in which he has come up against top players playing really well.

Marco Fu did at the UK Championship. Neil Robertson did at the Masters – Allen’s last shot here was to trap him in a snooker – and Barry Hawkins played out of his skin in Berlin.

Allen did nothing wrong to lose the 4-3 thriller to Ding Junhui in the PTC Grand Finals and ran into a rampant Robertson at the China Open.

So at times he has done little wrong to lose. And his Crucible draw is a stinker. Allen has landed in the same quarter as Ding and Mark Selby.

It is this, rather than any worries about his own ability, which counts against the Northern Irishman, who is bidding to emulate his celebrated compatriots Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor by triumphing at the Crucible.

Even so, the Antrim man isn’t a player many would want to run into. He boasts a fierce competitive spirit and is a very heavy scorer. He plays quickly and can thus both dominate and intimidate opponents.

Allen was a World Championship semi-finalist in 2009 and a quarter-finalist in 2010. He now has ranking titles and a highest ever ranking of sixth to prove that he has the potential to go further.

A cool head is needed, though, in the heat of the Crucible. Allen would need to channel his natural feistiness into a long, stamina sapping 17 days in which plenty can go wrong.

It isn’t just the time spent playing which counts but the time spent between sessions, dwelling on scorelines either favourable or otherwise, keeping your mind as clear as you can for the battles to come.

In this regard, Allen is fortunate to have in his corner two men with perpetually cool heads, his coach Terry Griffiths, himself a Crucible champion in 1979, and manager Paul Mount.

In 1982, Alex Higgins curbed his wayward temperament to win the title for a second time. It wasn’t about his opponents so much as himself. Allen is nowhere near as volatile as the Hurricane. In fact, give or take a few sharp comments, he isn’t volatile at all, but he is an aggressive competitor and must cope with the slings and arrows of outrageous snooker fortune however they fall.

Allen has a really good chance this year. He is playing well and certainly doesn’t fear anyone, neither should he. They should fear him. When he gets on a roll he is something special to watch.

There are many big beasts of the snooker jungle to slay but Allen has the pedigree to make a name for himself once and for all where it really matters: on the table.