Anxious John Higgins set for comeback in Germany
John Higgins was last in competitive action at the Crucible in May
John Higgins admits he is nervous about the reaction he will face on his return to snooker after a six-month ban.
The three-time world champion will play in a European Tour Championship event in Hamm, Germany starting on Thursday.
Higgins, fined and suspended in May for not reporting an illegal approach over match-fixing, told Scotland on Sunday: “It’s like going to the dentist.
“I’m a bit nervous about how the players are going to take to me. It’s just something I’ll have to deal with.”
The 35-year-old Scot was cleared of match-fixing in September but fined £75,000 after admitting breaching rules around betting following an investigation into allegations of frame-throwing made by the News of the World newspaper.
With the suspension backdated to May, Higgins is now building himself up to compete in Hamm where he faces Joe Jogia on Friday at midday.
Higgins wants to ‘move on’ after scandal
“When the result came through, I was like, ‘Right I’m going over to Germany and I’ll show them all’, but now as the day gets closer, it’s like going to the dentist,” he added.
“You make the appointment and as it gets nearer you think, ‘oh no’.
“It’s cost me a great deal and it’s a stigma I’ll probably never, ever get rid of.
“I hope I will, but I’m not sure. I just want to get back playing and maybe people will see me for what I am.”
Higgins admitted in September he should have immediately contacted the game’s governing body – World Snooker – to report the discussions at a meeting in Kiev with men he believed to be businessmen, but who were in fact undercover reporters.
It remains to be be seen what sort of reception he will receive in Germany and then at the UK Championship from 4-12 December, which will be Higgins’ first ranking tournament on his return to the baize.
Reigning world champion Neil Robertson is delighted to see Higgins back, despite the emotions of hearing the news of the Kiev meeting on the first day of the World Championship final.
The 28-year-old Australian, who beat Graeme Dott to lift the world trophy for the first time, said in October: “Some players probably feel the suspension should have been for longer, some players feel it was probably right.
“But it was out of our hands. It was an independent tribunal. If any players want to have anything negative to say, then it should be towards them and not John Higgins.
“I think everyone’s looking forward to having John back in the game. He’s a fantastic player. We’re all human beings and make mistakes. John will be welcomed back by me for sure.
“Having the likes of John and Ronnie [O’Sullivan] at their peak and still in the game is fantastic and when John comes back it will be another world-class player to beat, and that makes me even more inspired to practise harder.”
Six-time world champion Steve Davis, who stunned Higgins with a 13-11 win at the World Championships in May, believes the Scot faces a long battle to regain respect from players.
“There’s going to be a cloud over him for a while,” Davis told the BBC in September. “But, over time, everything changes and it will be forgotten eventually.
“The best policy, as I’m sure he’s already said, is to keep his head down and to play the game he loves.”
The three-day event in Germany features many of the world’s top 16 players including Neil Robertson, Graeme Dott, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan, with all matches the best of seven frames.