Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Billy on the Box: Nobody expects the Scottish inquisition

Scotland's John Higgins at the table during the final at the Betfred.com World Snooker Championships at the Crucible, Sheffield

Picture the scene. Vilified by many for your supposed past crimes, you’ve been hidden away for what seems an eternity, cooped up inside an obscure building with minimal contact with the outside world, making brief, infrequent TV appearances, always in the same clothes, only to have your world shattered in the most shuddering of ways at the end.

No, not Osama, John Higgins, who in the midst of the joy at landing a fourth world snooker crown was subjected to that most daunting of all interrogatory techniques — the Scottish inquisition.

Nobody expects that, as Sheffield native Michael Palin would once have said, but after five minutes with Hazel Irvine, Higgins must have wished that the US Navy Seals had stormed the building.

For those of you living in a cave for the past 10 years, and it turns out there aren’t as many as you would think, Higgins hasn’t had a great time of late, accused of being a match-fixer, then exonerated but banned, and then his beloved father passed away.

Despite all that he has been in sensational form since his return, but maybe the Beeb were a bit miffed that he’d ruined what was supposed to the big story, the fairytale win for the new sensation, Judd Trump.

The results of an experiment carried out with an old Blue Peter presenter and some fun cards we all used to play as a kid, wee Judd is the future of snooker and suddenly everything is happy again in the world of baize.

You just wish someone had told Hazel. On she came at the end of a thrilling final, the almost perfect denouement to a fabulous tournament, and so it began.

“After everything that’s happened, sum it up,” she asked. A slight lip tremble but John fended it off quite well.

“What got you through the last two weeks?”, she countered, clearly prompted by someone in the directors box clearly wanting him greetin’ like a Christmas card. A slight sniff but still no tears. Damn.

Not to be deterred, old chalk and awe Hazel moved in again.

“What has the family support meant to you?,” she enquired, knowingly. She was getting closer, as we panned to the Higgins family and John gulped and let out an exasperated sigh for help but just held onto his composure again.

With time running out, there was no time for messing about anymore.

“One fella who’s not here, John, and he passed away in February and he’s looking down just now and raising a glass of whisky”, her words tailing off as the blubbing started.

Cut to the directors box and whooping and hollering like it’s Time Square, high fives and Buds all round, and the cut-out of Mr Higgins Snr and Hazel’s scythe being carried away from the auditorium.

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