O'Sullivan: We should have done more for Higgins
Published 26/07/2010 | 15:22
Three-time former world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan believes snooker should have done more to look after Alex Higgins after his career finished.
Higgins, known as the 'Hurricane' by his legion of fans, died of throat cancer in his home city of Belfast aged 61 on Saturday after fighting the disease for more than a decade.
Asked by talkSPORT if snooker should have done more for Higgins, O'Sullivan replied: "A million percent. Alex should have been looked after from the minute he couldn't earn a living playing snooker.
"I believe all snooker players that are doing well out of snooker since the 1970s and 1980s, it's all down to Alex Higgins and people like Steve Davis.
"It should have been for the players to dip into their prize money for the great players that put snooker on the map.
"I definitely think snooker could have done a lot more for him. If Alex Higgins was a golfer I think he'd have probably been a multi-millionaire in his ending days because I do think they look after their top sportsmen a bit better.
"Hopefully snooker can learn from that now and hopefully for the future, great players do good for the game and there can be something in place to make sure they're not in the situation Alex found himself in towards the last few years of his life because it was sad to see.
"It was a sad, sad day - sad news. I knew Alex reasonably well and I was really gutted."
Higgins is credited with dragging snooker into the public eye in the 1970s and '80s with his flamboyant style of play and extravagant lifestyle which saw him become a regular on the party scene and strike up a friendship with fellow Ulsterman George Best.
"He had such a charisma and a presence about him," O'Sullivan reflected. "I remember him coming to Blackpool when I first turned professional. He'd walk in a room and the atmosphere would just change immediately because of the presence of the man.
"He was a fantastic character and player and he knew how to work a crowd. He was a professional and a genius - George Best if you like... unbelievable."
Higgins' reputation as one of sport's most colourful characters may have preceded him, but O'Sullivan never found the Northern Irishman to be anything other than a gentleman.
"I was lucky enough to play him and be up close to him. Even though I could see he was struggling, you could see he'd be a match for anybody - even Steve Davis.
"I believe tactically he knew his way around the snooker table more than anyone that's ever played the game.
"He just never scored as heavily. If he was to score as heavy as someone like myself he'd have probably never got beaten.
"I loved the man, I really really did. I was probably one of the only people that actually got on well with him. We had such a mutual respect. A lot of people used to say 'be careful of Alex', this and that, but he was a gentleman with me.
"I got to see the real good side of him and when he did have his tantrums that was part of what made him great. I loved it."