SNOOKER SCENE BLOG: ALEX HIGGINS LAID TO REST
Lindsey, 27, read a touching poem written in tribute to Paul, who died at a Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Ken Doherty, John. Jimmy White's recent revelations have caused a stir but the sport has Championship, he demolished reigning champion Steve Davis Now the BBC is to screen a feature film dramatising the s rivalry between Steve Davis and Alex “Hurricane” Higgins – amid warnings that.
It gifted snooker players the type of profiles enjoyed by Premier League footballers. Two men led snooker into a brave new world with Higgins manning the ship with a cue in one hand, and a packet of woodbine and a large vodka in the other. With the advent of colour TVs seemingly built to broadcast snooker in the s, there were other jobbing performers, but none more riveting than the main protagonists. Both true artisans in styles as different as the black and white balls.
Davis, studious, concise and measured in moving gingerly assembling his opus; Higgins, shifting as fast as he sniffed with a waif-like boyish charm; both should be recognised as unlikely founding fathers of the modern game that we witness most visibly on a yearly basis in the day bow-tied torture chamber of the World Championship. It was like you were in Eastenders. Higgins provided noise, frisson and large dollops of outlandish pots for free.
For me, Alex Higgins made the game of snooker. I think most professionals like defending world champion Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan would agree with that. The sports have gone their separate ways financially. Ironically, snooker has never been performed at a higher level than over the past two decades, but attention spans have dwindled. Yet it was once a very serious affair for the Great British public. A matter of life or death? More than that for some.
Davis was infamously booed into arenas up and down the land after spending more time at the table than Louis XIV of France. He was an immaculate teetotal snooker addict who became the first professional hell-bent on practice, winning and maximising his talent in the pursuit of perfection.
The younger Davis never complained about the dubious pleasures of practice. Higgins by cutting contrast was emotional and mixed up; a geezer whose brilliance on the table was outdone by the torrents that raged in his private life where gambling, drugs, booze and random explosions of violent behaviour saw him become a figure of fascination the public could relate to.
Higgins consisted of as many personalities as the shots he could pull off. It made him an almost mythical force of nature, but the dark side of 'The Hurricane' was never far from spiralling out of control. He infamously assaulted match officials at will, headbutting the tournament director at the UK Championship after refusing a drugs test. Then came the World Championship where he punched an official in the stomach. His win over a young future world champion Stephen Hendry at the Irish Masters was his last nod to the entire purpose of playing the game before his sense of self-harm finally began to eviscerate a once burgeoning career.
Higgins, a Protestant from the Sandy Row area of Belfast, was banned for a season after threatening to have fellow player Dennis Taylor, a Catholic from the other side of the community, shot during a team event representing Ireland in A vexed Higgins signed the death warrant on his career at the highest level after the Taylor incident as he faded into relative obscurity at the outset of the 90s, still railing against officialdom during his last match at the Crucible, a loss to Ken Doherty in Time out was not time well spent as he could not find the elixir in the bottom of a pint glass to catapult himself back into the reckoning.
If snooker was a relic of the Raj, Higgins was a relic of the rage. Yet the public loved Alex simply for being Alex. There is a memorable scene at the World Championship after the year-old Davis dismantles Doug Mountjoy for the first of his six world titles. Hearn bounds down to almost ragdoll Davis with as much glee as a punter with a few bob on Bob Champion and Aldaniti to win the Grand National in the same year.
Steve was very uncomfortable around him. The matchroom was outside the main billiards hall. We put in a Riley Oak Imperial table, the best in my opinion, and benches to seat about people. There were no windows, or fire exits. There was one tiny door to get in, and one tiny door to get out. It would fail every type of planning application these days. There was no air conditioning so everybody smoked, and you could hardly see across the room. It was like a Bangkok kick boxing venue. It was mayhem, but the people were daft about snooker.
Davis became almost unbeatable in the matchroom. I used to gamble a lot when I was younger. Alex would walk in, and the first question he'd ask would be: It started by Alex giving Davis 14 points of a start because he had never heard of Steve Davis. After two or three games of Alex losing his money, it became an even match and eventually you could get decent odds on Alex.
Until this day, those lucky enough to be there will tell you they have never seen snooker like it. The table was quite tight which made it even more impressive. Davis would hit aAlex would come back with The crowd had been giving him stick, and Alex was on a short fuse.
He turned and said: We went downstairs where Alex was having a drink. It ended up with me and him having a row, and I had him up against a wall. It was chaos because Alex would have a fight with anyone. Taking away his ability to entertain the crowd was the worst thing you could have done to him.
He would go for flash shots because he was a crowd pleaser. Davis respected him for that, but realised in longer matches he was very beatable. The victories were always sweeter when they were against each other. Of course, it was uncomfortable to be in their presence together, but it sold tickets: One of the biggest crowds ever to watch snooker because it was Davis v Higgins, it was the ultimate game of snooker.
It remains the ultimate game of snooker. In the semi-finals against White, he trailed and when he came to the table. On the cusp of defeat, he produced a series of unbelievable pots despite appearing to have as much control of the white ball as a drunk.
Sex, drugs andmore drugs: 7 players who prove snooker is a bad-ass sport
Which he could have been. The clearance of 69 on his way to a win over White is widely regarded as one of the finest, a totem of the times, at the Crucible before he usurped Reardon in the final. There is a pot on the blue to a baulk bag when he has made only 13 which is particularly fearsome. In days of heavier balls and slower clothes, Higgins shaped the table against the odds with more bottle than a glassblower. There were about four shots he played that were amazing. His name was on the trophy that year.
Did it cost me the World Championship?
At that time I didn't care if I won or lost because I was having such fun. In andI went to Australia to play in the amateur World Championship which cost me two years of experience at the Crucible. Maybe it was meant to be because I'm still playing now. We toured the Middle East together, and I loved him as a guy. He could be quite eccentric: But that is the enigma of Alex Higgins.
I loved him, and I thought his snooker was unbelievable.
What does such a term mean? From what we can detect, it means you are popular because you are more interested in entertaining than winning. You are a man of the people because you give the people what they want. Higgins and White, who won the world doubles title together inwere have-a-go heroes, and crowd pleasers who loved a slice of life away from the machinations of the sport, but White is best remembered for losing six world finals, one to Steve Davis inone to John Parrott in and another four to Stephen Hendry in, and Alex Higgins remains a national hero in Northern Ireland.
Not only is he popular with the public because of his voracious instinct to attack, but he is an out-and-out winner to encourage the theory that he is the greatest player to lift a cue. He made snooker what it was, and turned snooker players into rock stars. Looking back at it, if there was one player responsible for making snooker big in the s, it was definitely Alex Higgins.
I think people gravitated towards Alex Higgins, he was a showman, he had something about him: The audience would feed off that. It was sad in a way because he shouldn't have gone through that. Alex was master of his own downfall in many ways, but in many ways that's why you loved him because there no compromise. He was anti-establishment, living life by Alex's rules. I admire that in a human. I spent time with him when I was only 16 in Blackpool. I practised with him at the time, and I used to run out to get him a Guinness.
I loved it at the time. It gave me a buzz. Everybody wanted to get him a Guinness, but he chose me. I remember watching him. He would say to the referee Len Ganley in those little cubicles in Blackpool when he was trying to play: He terrorised people, but thrived on it.
He got a buzz out of it. I kind of copied his technique a little bit. He was a bit like the Ding Junhui on the shot, very compact, solid technique. He had a few bad habits where he moved on the shot, but he tended to move after the shot. He was a very good ball striker. If you had the option of going on a bender with Higgins or Davis, there would only be one winner. Davis was deemed to own the title deeds to boredom, his willingness to play safe representative of his perceived character deficiencies.
I wasn't going past 12 o'clock at night and the glass of hot milk before I went to bed was considered to be my drink of choice. Prone to moments of brilliance and bedlam, Higgins was feted by the public because of his seemingly carefree attitude to life. Especially at the Masters in London. But it didn't make him likeable. Higgins was viewed as the moral winner, and a genuine force of nature amid the saturated coverage.
It is a phenomenon that the erudite cue sports commentator and writer Phil Yates, who began covering snooker incontributing heavily to The Times, continues to find baffling. Just a normal working class bloke who by the majority of the people watching was demonised and victimised as being the baddie. On the other hand, you had someone who had every fault in the book, and every character flaw going, who was lionised and loved by the public.
Would that happen anywhere else? What was coming into play was the underdog factor because everybody respected Davis and realised how good he was. Why was the good guy not perceived as the good guy? Apart from pure snooker, I always wonder why was that the case? It doesn't feature in the book, but its lyrics drifted through my head many times throughout the odd pages. Francis's new publication leaves you shocked, saddened, breathless and, at times, exhilarated -- a bit like Alexander Gordon Higgins himself.
It's not a typical biography; Francis has already written the definitive one, Alex Through The Looking Glass, from This is the story of the man, told by those who knew him best; friends, family, colleagues.
Blood On The Carpet: How Higgins and Davis made modern snooker
The picture it paints is rarely pretty; there is no ultimate, uplifting redemption. Higgins was, to many, a loathsome individual, a cruel, vile, selfish, narcissistic, unreliable, abusive, deranged, vindictive monster. He was also charismatic, cute, charming, disarming, witty, fascinating, relentlessly entertaining, funny, intelligent, occasionally kind, generous and charitable.
He was certainly a morass of contradictions and dichotomies; a people's champion with no time for people; misogynistic, yet a relentless womaniser; a man who would borrow money off anyone yet scorn the offer of vital medical care; a hypochondriac who pounded his wiry body with nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
He hated eating and was always thin -- except, ironically, the one time he needed to be, as a budding teenage jockey. One of many ex-minders, Damien Kelly, described him in the book as "the most fearless man I ever met. He was afraid of nothing or no one". This contrasted sharply with others who say he was a coward who was terrified of the dark. The late snooker referee Len Ganley recalled an incident in which a young boy made the mistake of asking Higgy to sign his programme in the toilets of a Lurgan club.
Most of the time.
This was the man who touched medical staff by bursting into uncontrollable tears at the sight of an accident victim who had lost several limbs. Yet the same Alex Higgins once, inexplicably and unforgiveably, told a wheelchair-bound, elderly lady that he "didn't sign autographs for paraplegics".
She hadn't asked for one in the first place. Past tense -- but you get the impression most of those titles would have been similar had Higgy still been around. Francis, a skilled interviewer, drew intimate details from the likes of Alex's sisters Isobel, Ann and Jean, ex-wife Lynn who, it's revealed, had no love for her sisters-in-law and vice versaillegitimate secret son Chris Delahunty who ultimately befriended his half- siblings Lauren and Jordan and those who tried and failed to keep this erratic, obsessive, heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, failed gambling addict on the proverbial straight and narrow.
You get the feeling that some were left as empty husks after The Hurricane had torn through them. Neither love nor hate. They disappeared years ago. I work with multi-million pound stars, not sick people at the end of their careers. But lest we forget, these people loved and admired the man at some stage of their lives. Best friend and fellow snooker hellraiser Jimmy White told Francis: Yet the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association still offered to buy their failing black sheep a house he could live in, rent-free, for the rest of his life.
It contained the f-word. He said he didn't want the house, 'Just give me the money'. Many instances of Jekyll and Hyde-type behaviour, when the Ulsterman went from exhilarating to exasperating, are detailed.
A nasty, violent streak clearly ran through him, as snooker officials, former pals and ex-lovers know only too well. A significant non-contributor, however, is Siobhan Kidd, whom Higgins met after his marriage to second wife Lynn had disintegrated in the mid-'80s.