HIGGINS; Match-Fixing Scandal Hurts but Scot Wants Fourth World Title for Cancer-Stricken Father

Article excerpt

Byline: ALAN DOUGLAS

JOHN HIGGINS will return to snooker in November with a renewed appetite for success -- yet all the time fearing the controversy that surrounds him has caused his father's health to deteriorate.

The world No 1 was suspended from the game earlier this month after he was banned for six months and fined [pounds sterling]75,000 for breaching rules around betting. He was cleared of match-fixing allegations following a News of the World expose that rocked the sport and turned Higgins' secure and comfortable domestic life into turmoil.

Yet the overwhelming relief of knowing he still had a future in the game he loved was brought into crashing perspective with the news that his father John Sr was to be released from hospital, his fight against cancer unlikely to respond to further treatment.

'I was on such a high that Thursday night. I woke up the next morning and said to Denise (his wife): "I can't believe that's over",' Higgins said.

'But that's when I called my mum and she told me the news they had just got about dad.

'There was no point him having any more chemotherapy. She broke down on the phone -- and nothing else seemed to matter.

'It has been a horrible time.

Sometimes, when you're lying in bed at night and you can't sleep, you ask yourself: "Is this the reason why my dad is so ill?"

'He has been battling cancer for five years but he went downhill around the time this started. He seemed to lose a little of his determination to fight on -- and I don't know if my situation was the reason for that.

'I've been discussing it with my mum and the strange thing is that my dad maybe feels it's his fault. He used to manage me and he tried to shield me but the last five years he hasn't been able to travel to tournaments. But of course your dad can't shield you from everything and I'm 35 now.'

Higgins relived that day in the Ukraine when he attended a meeting arranged by his now disgraced manager Pat Mooney. Just before Higgins entered the hotel room in Kiev, Mooney told him he might be asked to throw the occasional frame for money. What happened next will no doubt haunt the Wishaw wizard for the rest of his life.

'I was bewildered. I'm not the sort to start shouting and screaming but I couldn't believe he had said this so flippantly,' Higgins revealed in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.

'Once we were inside, a few things were said which did not add up. It was pretty intimidating and I thought: "Let's get out of here as quickly as possible". That's all I was thinking.

'I came back late on the Friday night and there was just time for me to help Denise put the kids to bed. I was still getting my head around everything.

'The next day ... Mooney left messages for me but I didn't want to speak to him. He then left another message saying it was really important so I called back. …