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Alex Higgins: The People's Champion

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Carl Doran | 13:11 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Following on from our recent programme about Brian Clough, BBC Sport's documentary team have made another poignant film which charts the life and times of the remarkable Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins.

Alex Higgins: The People's Champion is the first major documentary to be shown on television since his death a few weeks ago.

We've received full support from Alex's close family and we'll hear from his daughter Lauren and his two sisters in Belfast, Jean and Anne. It must have been very difficult for the family to take part at a time when they are still grieving, but they were very keen to ensure that we gave an honest and fair account of his life.

I have personally been heavily involved with Lauren's exclusive interview and she has given us a very personal and emotional account of life with Alex. I've seen first hand how much her Dad means to her and how proud she is of his many achievements. No snooker fan can forget the pictures of Alex celebrating his second World title in 1982 by beckoning his then wife Lynn and baby Lauren onto the floor of the Crucible for celebratory photographs.

Alex Higgins in action in 1983
Higgins was often seen with a cigarette in one hand and cue in the other

However, Lauren also recognises he was absolutely no angel and we'll certainly see that during the programme which looks back at his many scrapes with authority including the head butting of an official and threatening to have Ulster rival Dennis Taylor shot, plus his very colourful personal life.

Alex was - like so many geniuses - flawed. He may have been the sport's most popular star and hugely responsible for its golden era in the 1980s, but he struggled to cope with the demons of alcohol and gambling in particular. At the height of the sport's tobacco sponsorship, Alex could often be seen with a cigarette in one hand, a cue in the other and a pint of beer by his side.

For the first time we also look back properly at the sad final years of his life fighting cancer, losing his teeth, most of his money and even the ability to eat properly at times.

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Jimmy White join the many stars featured in a 60-minute journey through the life of snooker's rock-and-roll star which includes some incredible archive and a story which at times is sad and desperate, but often inspirational and uplifting.

O'Sullivan says that Simon Cowell would have loved to get his hands on Alex Higgins if he was around at his peak today. I remember when I was growing up we all used to play snooker at my friend Gary's house most afternoons after school. Everyone wanted to be Alex even though it was a Steve Davis snooker table.

Steve is someone I hold in the highest personal regard, but I'm sure even he'll admit that that is why Alex will be forever known as the People's Champion.

Watch Alex Higgins: The People's Champion next Wednesday at 2100 BST on BBC2, and afterwards on iPlayer.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Like most who saw Alex play on TV in the 70's and 80's, I would agree that the sport (if snooker should be known as a sport) has never seen such a talent. His unique style, which was a relief from the techno-cueists of the 80's and 90's was predominantly about feel and skill. A skill that perhaps only Jimmy White can lay claim to have. Even the wonderful Ronnie O'Sullivan doesn't compare in terms of excitement. There's no question that snooker would not be anywhere near as exciting without the Reardon's, Higgins' White's and O'Sullivan's for these were the players that paved the way for the more expressive types (in playing terms, rather than personalities) that followed. His legacy has left us far richer in various styles of play than the 'mechanical' Steve Davis' influence can lay claim to.
    That said, it is also a shame that he was probably one of the most disliked personalities on the circuit, whatever anyone claims. If there is any honesty in the BBC documentary (on Wed), then it will state this fact. He was cocky and fully-armed with self importance. His sycophantic celebrations during his 2nd World Title victory are evidence of that. He often played and interviewed whilst being drunk and it was never mentioned back then, (by any of the bemused commentators). He dominated an archaic institution which didn't know how to deal with him.

    Yes, snooker is a bigger game today, with a plethora of players that would murder the likes of Higgins and White. It has also changed (like Cricket) in the fact that the commentators are rarely quiet (something that I miss) and are only consistent with their dreadful command of the English language. Bizarre that, is it not? Those mealy-mouthed commentators who would fail an English exam today are the very ones who hide behind their ill-fitting conservatism, hypocrites who say kind words today on a genius who's presence they are unworthy of.

  • Comment number 2.

    Alex was a people's champion. It did not give a damn for PC drivel of today. He did what he wanted. And cared for no one. As I feel.
    I respect him he was a made man. Any man would.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh dear. User fmpj makes a basic grammatical error in the very same sentence that suggests commentators "would fail an English exam today".

  • Comment number 5.

    Carl,

    Higgins was indeed a genius second to none - having grown up watching him I still find it hard to believe he is gone.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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