Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Alex Higgins: The hellraiser

Alex Higgins considering his next shot during the 1983 World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.

As handy with his fists as he was with a snooker cue, Alex Higgins was never far from the front and back pages.

He was snooker's first television superstar, a brilliant player who became world champion at his first attempt.

The scenes of celebration — weeping in triumph, one arm around then wife Lynn and the other cradling his baby daughter — became an iconic image of the sport.

Already his flawed genius was apparent, and his violent temper, drunkenness, and drug-taking alienated him from fellow professionals.

By 1982 Higgins was the best player in the world, but he did not finish with the No1 ranking, as a result of points being deducted for disciplinary offences.

He was up before the officials of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association almost 50 times during his career — as many as every other player put together.

Higgins’ rapid fall from grace continued when he head-butted an official in 1986. He was fined £12,000 and banned for the next five major tournaments.

In 1990 he threatened to have rival Dennis Taylor shot during the world team cup, and then he reacted to a first-round defeat at the World Championships by punching an official in the stomach. That led to a 12-month playing ban.

Higgins slipped down the rankings and eventually dropped out of the top 100 in 1997. His closing years on the pro-circuit were spent competing in interminable qualifying rounds for major tournaments with little success.

By the end, despite several attempts at a comeback, Higgins had been reduced to playing strangers for beer money.

Alex: Higgins: The burnout

Alex Higgins: The genius

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