Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Stephen Hendry: More snooker stars should have been at Alex Higgins' funeral

Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins
A young Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins
A young Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins
The nearly man: Alex Higgins consoles Ivan Little (centre) after losing the frame as his Belfast Telegraph colleagues, Laurence White and snooker correspondent, Ronnie Harper, look on
The nearly man: Alex Higgins consoles Ivan Little (centre) after losing the frame as his Belfast Telegraph colleagues, Laurence White and snooker correspondent, Ronnie Harper, look on

Stephen Hendry has revealed details about the "strange relationship" that he had with snooker legend Alex Higgins.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, seven-time world champion Hendry talked about the ups and downs he encountered with the controversial sporting hero from Belfast.

In an open and honest interview, Hendry added that he was disappointed at other snooker players for not showing up and paying their respects at the funeral of Higgins three years ago.

The Hurricane's colourful career, which included two world titles, several other ranking tournament victories, breathtaking breaks and a host of run-ins with snooker officialdom, was coming to a turbulent end when a new sensation in the shape of Scottish genius Hendry blew into town.

Higgins looked after Hendry the kid in the 80s. The Scot went as far to say that the Ulsterman was like a mentor to him during his early days on the circuit, but then things began to change when the boy became a man.

"I had a strange relationship with Alex," admitted Hendry.

"When I first turned professional at 16, he was fantastic to me. He was like a mentor to me back then.

"In the first two or three seasons he was always looking to practise with me at the different venues and he was always telling me little things here and there to help me with my game. It was great.

"But then, when I started to become really successful and climb up the rankings, he began to distance himself away from me and I started to hear about little comments he had made about me behind my back."

Their friendship may have broken down but Hendry, a student of the game, never lost respect for what Higgins had given to snooker in terms of profile, popularity and earning power for top players.

Hendry, who retired from the sport last year, felt sad at the Hurricane's funeral that some of the modern day players did not feel the same way.

"Everyone knows that Alex was a Jekyll and Hyde character but there is no doubt about it whatsoever, snooker would not be where it is without him," said Hendry.

"And that was one of the reasons I came to Belfast for the funeral. I think it was only right for me as a snooker player to be there and pay my respects to Alex, one of the legends of the game.

"I realised what Alex had done for our game and I felt it was important to be there. I was actually disappointed with the low turnout of top snooker players at the funeral. I think a lot of them don't appreciate how good he was and what he did for our sport.

"Obviously I spent time with him and didn't get on well with him at all times, like everyone else. Even Jimmy White has said that Alex got on his nerves some of the time but it was important that day to recognise how much he did for snooker."

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