A year ago, the prospect of John Higgins becoming the black sheep of the snooker family seemed ludicrous.

He was the best player in the world with a well earned reputation as an amiable guy, unaffected by fame and fortune.

All that changed in the Ukraine earlier this year and the subsequent News of the World sting that left Higgins fighting for his professional survival.

Today he returns at the European Players Tour Championship in Hamm, Germany, his first match since losing 13-11 to Steve Davis in the second round of the World Championship.

In an interview with the Scotland on Sunday, Higgins likened this to a trip to the dentist. He is unsure about how his fellow players and the wider game will welcome him back.

Some have sent messages of support. Some have not. I know one well known player – a good friend of Higgins – who was simply too embarrassed by the whole affair to say anything to him at all.

Higgins has been the recipient of many - mainly anonymous - insults from some fans on the internet and admitted he read many of these comments through natural curiosity.

But public opinion is only that: opinion. The tribunal was headed by an independent lawyer who came to his judgement based on the available facts, not his own prejudice.

I wouldn’t write anything about John that I wouldn’t say to his face.

I believe he was very naive, well, stupid, to put himself in that situation but the idea that, were this a genuine plot, he would have trousered the £260,000 ‘bribe’ is not one I could picture. I’ve known him a while and that isn’t him.

But it is true that top sportspeople can develop a kind of arrogance without even knowing it. They become accustomed to a lifestyle and a sort of untouchability that means they don’t fully think through their actions.

Regardless of whether he was led into a possibly career ending scenario by his manager, Higgins should surely have behaved in a more professional manner.

And he knows that. He will have thought of little else since he was suspended.

Some will forever look at him and see someone they believe was prepared to cheat. Some will be happy to see a successful, contented person brought down a peg or two. Some will support him to the end.

Higgins will never convince everyone of his innocence and as the years go by the myths surrounding the case will grow.

But he’s back and he has every right to continue what was, until last May, a glorious career.


Redandblackblog said...

Very lucky to be on the circuit, I really wonder whether a lower-ranked player perhaps not such a 'Mr Nice Guy', as John was once perceived, would have been given a second chance like Higgins is - I sincerely doubt it. I still think the video evidence is damming but the independent tribunal thought otherwise. He's a very lucky guy.

Anonymous said...

well said dave

i know the player youre talking about who didnt know what to say. i think it was good of you not to name him.

good luck john

jamie brannon said...

I am not sure if you will want to anwser this, but has your opinion of John the man been affected by this sad episode?

In the past, rightly so you have sung the praises of Higgins as a family man and if you like the player's player.

Personally, the sentiments of Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy are the same as mine, we should take the results of the tribunal on face value and treat him as before the scandal.

Wolfgang said...

"I believe he was very naive, well, stupid, to put himself in that situation but the idea that, were this a genuine plot, he would have trousered the £260,000 ‘bribe’ is not one I could picture. I’ve known him a while and that isn’t him."

I didn't believe that too. Well, until he began talking about how to hide the money, spanish estates etc.

But he, like everybody else, has every right to redeem himself. And he can do so quite easily by doing what he is best at: playing brilliant snooker and winning matches.

On the other hand: It will take some time until I stop thinking "ka-ching!" when he misses an easy pot. I know it's unfair but that's how it is …

Anonymous said...

Ronnie showed the gulf in class between himself and Robbo last night. It was the tradesman against the artist.

Anonymous said...

I've followed John Higgins from the start of his pro career.My admiration for his skill and sportsmanship and the pleasure he gave me whenever he played,knows no bounds. But without sounding like a stuck record I can't figure out why he didn't contact Barry Hearn immediately after the infamous "Ukrainegate" offer. Especially after the ongoing controversy with the Maguire / Burnett affair.Then he was given ample opportunity, but noticeably failed to answer the same question, when interviewed for BBC.
John - sorry but naive doesn't do it for me. Of course there is always the opportunity to answer this question and surely that would do more for your rehabilitation than anything else

Anonymous said...



John Higgins- All the best on you're return mate.

Anonymous said...

It looked gruesome when the video first got released and I thought he would be gone for good. But now it is resolved and I choose to just try to forget the whole thing and move forward.

Welcome back John. Good luck mate.

Anonymous said...

David. I think your piece is as accurate as it could possibly be. He is not going to be welcomed back by everyone and has a long uphill struggle. But, there will always be that doubt in the back of many minds that will never go away. The moment he plays that odd shot, or inexplicably misses a sitter, the cogs will start turning again. I lay this totally on the door of the person who was Johns manager. I don't want to remind everyone of his name as I personally didn't like OR trust him but John was led like a lamb to slaughter. I think the hole that the manager dug was too deep for John to climb out from and so had to go along with it. Yes, I saw the incriminating video and it looked bad. Was John Naive? Yes. Incredibly stupid? Again, yes. Unfortunately, I don't think it will ever go away. I really like John, I've known him and Denise personally for many many years and I wish them and their children all the best. He should now get on with his job to the best of his ability and let his cue do the talking.

John McBride said...

I wish the man every success & its great to have him back. Won his first match back too. Good on him!

Anonymous said...

At least 'honest John' has made up some ground on the Ronnster in the arts of negative publicity.

Now we all know what flagbearer stood for.

TazMania said...

if John was innocent he would not talk about how he could hide the money in Spain. In that situation anyone not trying to take the bribe will use the excuse of how to hide the money to get out of this situation. It just shows how in this current world, truth doesn't matter, a good lawyer is required.

jamie brannon said...

I personally wouldn't mind knowing who the player was?

I was pleased to see John win today and Ronnie last night, against the number one, who was actually priced up at 5-2 to Ronnie's 11-10.

Jim said...

Ultimately people will believe what they want and the web has given them the confidence - deluded though it is - to think that their opinion matters.

Higgins was cleared by a leading QC trained to assess all the evidence. End of.

Greg P said...

"if John was innocent he would not talk about how he could hide the money in Spain. In that situation anyone not trying to take the bribe will use the excuse of how to hide the money to get out of this situation."

Yes. The Mafia are well known around the world for taking "no" for an answer. I'm sure if they were real mobsters and he had used that excuse they would have just said "Oh, darn, he doesn't have anywhere to store the money, we'd better go home then. Sorry to waste your time."

James Scott said...

I'd have kicked him out the game and handed him a lifetime ban. Would he or wouldn't he have trousered the cash?

Doesn't really matter. The crux of the argument is that he agreed to accept the bribe. If he'd came forward and notified the authorities then he would have been admonished of all wrong-doing.

He kept quiet, and that tells me he would have taken and laundered the cash.

The sport doesn't need him.

Maza said...

Welcome back john

Anonymous said...

The same hyprocrites who have a go at JH are good liars themselves.

Greg P said...

Look... for those who don't know, or forgot:

The News of the World only posted carefully edited snippets of the video at the time they broke the story. Later they offered to reveal the full unedited tape ONLY if Higgins agreed not to sue them.

If the Higgins was as guilty the NOTW said he was, why on earth would they be worrying about anyone suing them over the full tape? It's so crystal clear, why can't you see?

kimball said...

Greg, they would have been sued well and truly in Sweden.

Betty Logan said...

After the summer recess Steve Davis was asked about John in an interview and Davis bluntly responded he hadn't spoken to him, so I think Steve is probably the player Dave was referring to unless there is another one, and Davis himself hasn't made any secret of it. I think Davis more than most players had the right to be disgruntled because it soured what was a monumental achievement - beating the world champion over three session was perhaps a greater achievement than even making the UK final, a few years ago. It was really the story of the world championship until the match-fixing came along.

Executor said...

Greg P:

Becaus some people are such incredible idiots that they can't realize how big idiots they are.

TazMania said...

I agree Greq P that NOTW may have cut the tape to change it into their favour. This does not however change the fact he accepted the bribe and did not inform anyone. Also the hiding the money issue, all im saying if i dont want to take a bribe why would i look for cunning ways to hide the money. Even if it is the mafia he could have atleast mentioned, 'Where will i hide the cash' and then pretend he couldnt think of a way. In the video the 'mafia guy' even helped him by saying he will not snponser him. If he was scared if the mafia he would have certainly just said yes in everything spoke very less and tried to get out of there. Not think of how to hide doe . And a really good way of hiding it in that sense.( For someone who took a bribe 4 the 'first time')

Anonymous said...

Six and half months later Higgins gets his long awaited win over Gould.

It's no longer a World Championship parallel universe.

When are Bahrain points getting taken off btw ?

Anonymous said...

Snooker in the modern world is not going to splash the front pages with tense 40 minute frames.

Not anymore..sad but true.

Higgins done the game a favour in the long run if only for purposes of the 'soap opera' element.

Knowingly or unknowingly.

Anonymous said...

John Higgins tried his best to be Alex Higgins (for a while)

Decent job.

Now Higgins Jnr has to get back to being the most profficent allround and tactical player ever.

Can't wait for his next match with either Robertson or Steve Davis.

Motivation aplenty from all sides.

dzierzgul said...

Nice to have you back, John, good luck and all the best.

Putter said...

Good to have you back Wiz.

Anonymous said...

At least John had the decency to turn up at the EPTC in Hamm unlike a certain Mr. O'Sullivan who again let the fans and the game down by entering and not showing.

Now Uncle Barry, is HE going to be punished? Monetary punishment won't hurt him. Dock him the equivalent event winners' points from each event he doesn't turn up at or ban him from entering a ranking event where he won't get points.

Prove he hasn't got you wrapped around his little finger.

Anonymous said...

12.26 What an idiotic post. Do you understand the game? Do you realise how important O'Sullivan is and not think that a player of his status and drawing power has the right to pick and choose when he plays?
Hearn knows how important the rocket is. Hes not going to listen to bleating idiots like you.
Get a life

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point 1:40. If O'Sullivan doesn't want to go, he should not enter. Fans turn up at the events in order to see him. He doesn't turn up and lets everyone down. It's pretty obvious that there was no notice of withdrawal otherwise the draw sheet would have shown it. Instead it shows a no show. I support the view expressed by anon 12:26 and suggest the bleating idiot is you.

Anonymous said...

nobody is bigger than the game
ron will leave one day, you idiot

Pokershades said...

Rons got eight PL titles in Hearns own signature event.

That buys the Ronnster some favours

12.26,Ron got no points for those
Shanghai 'surprises' BTW.

demoncar said...

Credit where credits due cause John and Ron have put the JR back into Barry's version of Dallas.

There's a method in the madness.

Betty Logan said...

If he doesn't want to compete then he should at least have the decency to withdraw rather than just not show up. It's only a phone call, it's just ignorant to enter something and then not let people know you're coming. I wouldn't hand out bans or dock points for this sort of thing, but fine him 5k for each no show and he'll soon get the message.

Anonymous said...

Come on Betty. 5k to RO is NOTHING.He is a millionaire in his own right. He's got to be docked points. He will eventually be out of the 16 which will hurt more!

TazMania said...

That's true Ronnie might bring audiences now but what will happen when he retires. Snooker will still continue. And any way he isnt drawing any ausiences this year, attending 3/12 events means that people are now aware that he likley not to turn up. He is a rubbish role model

Creativehandshake said...

Taz,most sports have their fulltime role models and also their partime panto villains if you like.

Ron will always be reliable for the TV majors and some invitationals.

Plus juicy quotes.

Anonymous said...

idiotic quotes and bl*w job requests you mean, 1234?

guys an idiot
great at snooker tho, but an idiot

Dave H said...

I think we've probably established now that some people like Ronnie O'Sullivan and some don't

Betty Logan said...

Now that's what you call a comeback!

Anonymous said...

maybe you do betsy, but for a guy with a girls name sucking up to david makes you a bit light on your feet