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17 October 2014

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Snooker

John Higgins wins snooker world championship 1998

John Higgins

© SNSpix

The profusion of snooker stars in Scotland can be attributed to two things: the popularity that television brought to the sport in the seventies and eigthies and the success of Stephen Hendry.
Before Hendry, Scotland hadn't had a snooker champion for almost half a century since Walter Donaldson in 1950.

Hendry's manager Ian Doyle has said that when he got involved in the sport in Scotland the prize money was ridiculous, with players earning £20 for winning championships. Doyle said: "Scotland is undoubtedly a fertile breeding ground now, and long may it continue, but changes had to be made to encourage players."

Now Hendry has been followed by fellow Scots Alan McManus and John Higgins to the top of the profession. Higgins is behind only Hendry and Steve Davis in titles won in the sport, equal with Ronnie O'sullivan and Mark Williams.

Of course that Scots are flourishing in an indoor sport associated with dark and smokey bars is purely coincidental.

Now there are fears within the sport that snooker will not recapture its heady days when it was the television sporting phenomenon, peaking with 18.5 million people who were glued to their screens watching the world final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis in 1985.

Television has made the green blaze sport lucrative, with John Higgins earning just under £3m in his 13-year career. But as viewing figures fall, the Wishaw-born star has said he would prefer his son to become a golfer rather than snooker player as there is more money to be made on the greens.

John Higgins

© SNSpix

Higgins' career has been anything but straightforward. He burst onto the scene in 1992 as a precocious 17 year old. Although he managed to reach the last 16 of the Grand Prix in his first season, his other results were only modest and he could only achieve a ranking of 122. Slightly better results in 1993/94 took him up to 51st but there were little signs of what was to about to happen.

In only the second event of the new season, the Grand Prix, he beat Dave Harold to take his first title. Not content with that he beat Steve Davis to win the International Open and followed that with victory over Ronnie O'sullivan to take the British Open as well. Three ranking titles in a season are rare enough but for someone ranked only 51st it was incredible, especially when you add runner-up in the Regal Welsh and the Benson & Hedges Masters, as well as a first visit to the Crucible.

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