John was a great guy to talk to. He was very relaxed and gave some great, detailed answers to my questions. This interview took place during the Pink Ribbon tournament at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester. John Higgins after he lost to eventual champion Mark Joyce decided to donate his prize money to the event total, which was over £10,000 this year and all of it went in aid of breast cancer charities.
Over to you John!
So John why did you decide to enter this year’s Pink Ribbon tournament?
I think Janie (Watkins) asked me at the world championships if I wanted to come down and play and obviously it is for a good cause and of course I have never been to this facility before. And you know Paul (Mount) is trying his best for everybody concerned in snooker so I was more than happy to come down and play.
What were your initial impressions of the South West Snooker Academy?
First class, the best facility I think I have ever been to. Obviously it’s privately run by Paul but it’s a facility that world snooker should be using in the future as it’s a lot better than the Sheffield academy. And here’s hoping that Paul can speak to someone like Barry Hearn and the people involved in World Snooker and try to use this facility more. I know there’s a couple more events coming here so hopefully in the years to come there will be more because it’s definitely set up for top class qualifying.
Whatwas your first ever memory of Snooker?
I think it was roughly about 1982 when (Alex) Higgins won his World title and probably 1983 when Higgins played (Steve) Davis in the UK Championship finals, I think it was a close one. Those were my earliest memories.
How do you think the snooker scene in Scotland is progressing recently?
It’s been slow recently. I think it’s been widely known in Scotland that when I was junior it was probably the top junior setup we had and I think Terry Griffiths came up in the 80s to do a scouting mission and to see how the junior tournaments were working and he implemented that down in Wales and I think that Wales is still going very strong with upcoming junior players. But up in Scotland it’s not been very great in the last few years but I know there are a few young boys around 11 and 12 who are good young players who can follow up from someone like Anthony McGill. He was like the last one to break through.
Tell us a bit more about Anthony McGill. How do you think he will get on in the next few years?
Well he definitely works hard at his game and he’s a great talent. Lovely down to earth boy as well and I don’t think doing so well last year and getting in to the top 64 will go to his head, he will keep his head down and keep working. It’s down to him now; it’s obviously going to be really tough because its tough nowadays to make the breakthrough and someone like Anthony has got all the tools and I can definitely see him having a future in the game.
What do you think is the best way to get more young people involved in the game?
That is a hard one. Obviously I think someone like Judd Trump doing so well in the world championship this year can’t do it any harm because obviously he is young and hopefully he will bring the young crowd back to the sport. I think in the UK it is always going to be tough to recreate the days it had in the 80s and 90s. It’s obviously overseas where I think Snooker is going to get more and more popular and there is going to be more and more people getting involved with it. But in the UK I think it is tough for any sport to get the youngsters nowadays, because of all the computer games we got and all the other things that people are wanting to do instead of taking up a sport so I just don’t think it is snooker’s problem but it’s just sport in general that have trouble attracting the juniors.
Hopefully we will see the game’s popularity increase in the next few years with all the changes.
Hopefully yeah and this facility can only help that..
Apart from playing the game, are you involved in any other projects in snooker?
Nope! No, just in the next few years I will keep my head down and try to win as many tournaments as I can. Obviously I’m near the end of my career not near the start of it so I know this is basically this is my last my last chance to win tournaments so that’s what I’m concentrating on doing.
Barry Hearn has changed so much about the tour and snookers image in just a year. In the ideal world, where would you like to see the game in a few years?
Obviously better than what it has been in the last few years. I don’t think we should run before we can walk again and think we have made it. But he is making the right changes and he’s giving the players more chances to earn money. I know a lot of the players are complaining that more and more tournaments are going to give them more and more expenses but at the end of the day they shouldn’t be thinking how much it is costing them they should be thinking about how much they could win. That’s what they should be aiming for. He’s definitely giving them the chances so he can only be applauded for that.
If you could give one tip to an aspiring young snooker player, what would it be?
Just play someone that is better than you, every day. That’s how I progressed. I started playing with the top amateurs in Scotland when I was 14 or 15 regulary. Marcus Campbell, Alan McManus players like that. My game came on so much in six months playing those sort of players. So that’s my piece of advice; practice and always play people that are better than you.
Speaking of it, on average how many hours a day do you practice?
I would probably say about four to five hours on average.
Do you change your practice routine on the run up to a big event?
Not really. Maybe I might play a couple days on my own and then I will have days where I will play with some fellow players in Scotland. I have kept the same sort of practice routine throughout my career so I have never thought of changing it.
Finally where is your world championship trophy displayed in your home?
It’s sitting on a small table. It should be on the trophy cabinet thing but it’s been taken out lots of times to have people take pictures with it so it’s just been sitting on a small table since the last picture was taken with it so it needs to be moved back on to the cabinet!
Big thanks to John Higgins for taking time out to be interviewed. All the best for the rest of the season and hopefully he can defend at least one of his many titles!