Some snooker players become household names, big stars outside of the sport. In the 1980s you didn’t even have to win anything to achieve this status in the UK.

Some players achieve notoriety for what they say or their activities off the table, even if they aren’t big tournament winners.

And others, the majority in fact, are the foot-soldiers of the professional circuit. They knuckle down, play, try their best and don’t make a fuss.

Many people assume they must be boring, presumably because they haven’t chinned anyone in a nightclub or sworn at someone on Twitter. But they’re not. Everyone is interesting if you look hard enough.

PTC12 this weekend offers the chance for a few of these bit part players to emerge from the wings and take their place in the spotlight

There are only three members of the top 16 in the 16-man draw, although there are also five other players who have at one time or another been part of this elite group.

But it’s an opportunity for a title for those not usually in that position.

One such is Andrew Higginson, in my experience one of the most decent and hard working players around.

Andrew of course won a PTC earlier this season but is still best known for his extraordinary run to the Welsh Open final five years ago.

For once the word ‘extraordinary’ is apt here. Higginson started out in the first qualifying round having pulled up very few trees in a decade on the main tour up to this point.

I remember interviewing him years and years ago at some anonymous qualifier or another. This was before blogs, before streaming, when these events passed off without anyone outside of those playing giving much of a damn about them.

He told me he had recently stopped practising at a snooker club in St. Helens. When I asked him why he replied, deadpan, “because it’s just burned down.” I’ve liked him ever since.

All those years of striving to do well and not really getting anywhere must have sapped his confidence but, for whatever reason, having qualified for Newport in 2007 he found the form of his life.

It was always in there and, that week, it exploded like a bottle of champagne shaken up by an F1 driver.

Higginson beat Marco Fu. He beat John Higgins. He beat Michael Judge. He was in the quarter-finals.

Most observers, no doubt myself among them, patronisingly assumed he had had a good tournament but that Ali Carter would prove a match too far.

Higginson beat him 5-1 and made a maximum in the process. He then defeated Stephen Maguire to reach the final.

What had seemed improbable was now a fairytale demanding only the perfect finish, and it almost came. Andrew fought back from 6-2 down at halfway to lead Neil Robertson 8-6 before the Aussie won the last three frames to win 9-8.

The Snooker Writers Association gave Higginson our Achievement of the Year award for all this and he survived a particularly boozy night in London at our annual dinner (another player ran up a large bill wrongly thinking it was a free bar, but that’s another story).

Since then Higginson has qualified for the Crucible, appeared on TV here and there and worked his way up to 19th in the latest world rankings.

This has not been as dramatic as his Welsh Open adventure but he is now firmly embedded in the top 32 and closing in on the top 16.

Good for him. He’s worked for it. And it rather proves what I’ve long suspected: most players are capable of great things, they just need a mixture of self belief, luck and inspiration to make it happen.

Higginson plays Kurt Maflin in the last 16 of the PTC in Furstenfeldbruck on Friday and whatever happens will be in group 1 of the Championship League next Monday. Later that week he has World Open qualifiers with the Shootout in Blackpool at the end of the month.

A busy time, then, which is how he likes it. Higginson is typical of most of snooker’s foot-soldiers: he loves the game, he wants to play it, he wants to win but losing isn’t everything.

Just as long as there is always another match, another tournament.


Anonymous said...

A better player than his achievements to date suggest.

Was thinking of having a e/w bet on him for PTC 12, but now that you've written this he'll probably lose in the first round!

Anonymous said...

Higginson doesn't produce when playing on TV (that Welsh Open apart). He's got a good all round game but he is nowhere near top 16 standard.

kildare cueman said...

Like all journeymen, his best is awesome but his form fluctuates too much.

To be a top player, day in day out consistency is needed.