John Higgins says he fears for the future of Scottish snooker, writes Will Jennings.
The Wizard of Wishaw rolled back the years at the Northern Ireland Open as he beat Daniel Wells 4-0 but addressed his concerns about the game’s young talent in the Eurosport studio.
The four-time world champion appeared alongside veteran and 1994 Masters winner Alan McManus, who played a key role in Higgins’ progression as he was making his way as professional.
The world No.7 hailed McManus’ influence on his career but lamented the decline of the club scene in Scotland as players adopt new ways of practicing in the modern era.
“When I was coming in in Glasgow, playing all the top amateurs, he [McManus] was by far the best,” said Higgins, 45.
“He was just turning professional – every day when you were practicing you were always trying to give him the eye ‘can I give you a few frames?’
“He would do it the odd time, and he would give you a few frames sometimes.
“A lot of the young boys, we can see up in Scotland, have certainly missed out on it – we all play at home or in a unit, so the young boys are missing out on coming into a club asking us for a few frames as well.
“When you get to professional level you’re not really going to get much better but when you’re 15, 16 and younger you’re like a sponge.
“You want to take in all the information, and the guys maybe aren’t doing it.”
Higgins, who revelled in watching Steve Clarke’s Scotland book their place at EURO 2020 last week with a historic win on penalties in Serbia, struck masterful breaks of 144, 54 and 51 at the aptly-named Marshall Arena to blow Wells away.
The 30-time ranking event winner is still chasing his maiden major title since the Welsh Open in 2018, however, after enduring a barren run – in terms of silverware – on the globetrotting snooker circuit.
Higgins will now face either Patrick Wallace or Farakh Ajaib in the last 64 while elsewhere on Tuesday, McManus went down 4-2 against Barry
Hawkins and 2006 world champion Graeme Dott lost by the same score against Igor Figueirdo.
McManus, 49, made a steady break of 73 but was unable to get past the 2013 world champion while Dott, currently ranked world No.22, was floored by a rock-solid performance from the talented Brazilian.
World No.9 Stephen Maguire made it through to the second round on Monday while Fraser Patrick, the world No.95, went down 4-1 against surprise 2020 World Championship quarter-finalist Kurt Maflin.
Glasgow’s Anthony McGill, who beat Maflin in the last eight at the Crucible before going down 17-16 in a semi-final thriller against Kyren Wilson, received a bye in his first round match after opponent Riley Parsons was forced to withdraw from the event after testing positive for coronavirus.