Neil Goulding’s Crucible Column: Murphy sets sights on emulating ‘Hurricane’ Higgins

Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj at the Crucible

Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj at the Crucible

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There have only been eight multiple winners of the Betfred World Snooker Championship in the modern era - and hotshot Shaun Murphy is seeking to join the illustrious roster by emulating the legendary Alex Higgins.

Enigmatic Northern Irishman Higgins is the only man to have won a second world title ten years after his first.

And it has now been a decade since the fresh-faced 22-year-old Murphy upset the odds to claim his maiden Crucible crown - and he was living in Whiston near Rotherham at the time.

The Magician wants to conjure up a magical spell at this year’s tournament and replicate the ‘Hurricane’s’ impressive achievements.

“There was a certain Mr Higgins who won it ten years after his first in 1982 so it’s been done before - it’s quite special,” said Murphy, the 2005 Crucible champion.

Murphy has dazzled on the big stage so far, playing some scintillating snooker and sporting some snazzy suits.

But before completing snooker’s famous ‘Triple Crown’ in January - adding the prestigious Masters tournament to his world title and the 2008 UK Championship – Murphy endured some dark days.

And the 32-year-old admitted he was close to stepping away from the sport and doing some ‘soul-searching’ in order to rediscover his best form.

“After the Masters last year, as was well documented, I was seriously thinking about going away from snooker, and never would have thought I would win it 12 months later,” he admitted.

“I didn’t think I had it in me any more to win titles of that significance, I thought I was a bottler. I had been through lots of semi-final defeats.

“And in trying to understand why I kept losing quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals I had to look myself in the mirror and ask ‘Are you now a bottler?’ There was a lot of soul-searching.”

On the table, Murphy powered into a commanding 6-2 lead in the special single table set-up at snooker’s spiritual home.

He pocketed breaks of 92, 105, 138 and 79 to hit fellow Englishman Barry Hawkins for six – with the left-hander looking visibly weary following his late night quarter-final success over Neil Robertson.

It’s an all-English line-up in the final four, which will further strengthen Barry Hearn’s resolution to keep the iconic event at its spiritual home of Sheffield amid growing interest from China.

The famous faces continue to flock to South Yorkshire to get a taste of the action, and the latest stars to check in at the Crucible were footballers Adnan Januzaj and Billy Sharp.

Manchester United and Belgium winger Januzaj was experiencing the snooker for the first time, whilst former Sheffield United star Sharp is a regular here.

Now we’re down to the final four I’m sure there will be plenty more celebrity spotting over the final few days.