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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 11:32 GMT
Where are they now?
Alex Higgins
Alex "Hurricane" Higgins - a shadow of the man he was
Snooker players come and go, and some are better remembered than others. BBC Sport Online's Saj Chowdhury investigates what happened to the stars of yesteryear.

Canadian Kirk Stevens, compatriot Bill Werbeniuk, Silvino Francisco, Alex Higgins - what do they all have in common?

Apart from being very good snooker players, they have also disappeared from the game.

So, what ever happened to these heroes?


Kirk Stevens

Kirk Stevens had that look of Dirk Diggler from the film Boogie Nights.

An all-American tan (he was Canadian), bright white teeth, a bright white suit and shoes to match - Stevens was also good at snooker.

In 1980, he became the youngest player to reach the semi-finals of the Embassy World Championship where he lost 13-16 to Alex "Hurricane" Higgins.

He rose to fourth in the world after having made a number of appearances in quarter and semi-finals.

Then things went slightly pear-shaped for the Canadian.

Following the final of the 1985 British Open, which he lost 12-9 to Silvino Francisco, the South African winner accused Stevens of having taken stimulants.

The star admitted that he had a cocaine problem and went back to Canada for treatment.

His form began to drop rapidly. After freefalling out of the top 50, he lost his place on the tour.

He won his place back for the 1998-1999 season but failed to hang on to it for the following season.

Stevens tried again in the 2000-2001 campaign but lost out to North American qualifier Bob Chaperon.

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Bill Werbeniuk

Bill Werbeniuk
Werbeniuk was left in a Catch 22 situation

Canada was at the forefront of snooker in the 1980s and although world champion Cliff Thorburn and Kirk Stevens led the way, perhaps"Big" Bill Werbeniuk was the most fondly remembered.

And yes, he was big.

He was renowned for drinking copious amounts of alcohol and also being the first snooker player to split his trousers during a live television broadcast.

It was alleged that he used to drink 10 pints before a game just to steady his nerves.

Werbeniuk occupied the world's top 16 for seven out of eight seasons.

The highlight of his career came in 1984 when he reached the final of the Lada Classic - he lost 9-5.

Werbeniuk began to take the drug Inderal on the advice of his doctors to help his alcohol intake.

Unfortunately, the contents of the drug were on the snooker governing body's (WPBSA) banned substances list.

Despite his love for the game Werbeniuk continued to take the drug and after receiving a number of fines he quit the game and entered the world of pool.

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Silvino Francisco

Silvino Francisco
Francisco hit the heights then the lows
South African Francisco came from a snooker family.

His father owned two snooker tables and his brother, Mannie, came runner-up in both the World Amateur Billiards and Snooker championships.

Silvino turned professional in 1978 and came to England in 1982 where he reached the quarter-finals of the Embassy World Championship.

His form continued to improve and the climax of his career came in 1985 when he beat Kirk Stevens to land the British Open.

He accused Stevens of taking drugs and was fined 6,000 by the governing body for the sport but the fine was later quashed after Stevens admitted to taking cocaine.

Francisco's career also started to venture on a downward spiral.

When his world ranking plummeted to 166, the South African took up a job in a fish and chip shop to make ends meet.

And in 1997 he was arrested after after admitting smuggling cannabis with a street value of 155,000 through Dover.

Francisco is out of prison after having served three years.

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Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins
Higgins may be hustling in Manchester

Perhaps the saddest tale of all belongs to this former world champion from Belfast.

"Hurricane" Higgins is widely regarded as one of the most exciting players to have ever graced the green baize.

At the age of 14, Higgins arrived in England to become a jockey - but he put on too much weight and instead decided to take up snooker.

In 1971 he moved to Manchester and turned professional.

He entered the world championship in 1972 and won the title the first time of asking, beating John Spencer 37-32.

He did not win the crown again until 1982 when he defeated Ray Reardon.

And 1983 saw arguably his greatest tournament win, when from 0-7 down to Steve Davis he came back to clinch the UK Championship 16-15.

But Higgins suffered from a major drinking problem and also found himself in trouble with the authorities on more than one occasion.

Bans from the game followed, forcing him to qualify for the big tournaments after slipping down the rankings.

Higgins also smoked a lot and was diagnosed with throat cancer, leaving him a shadow of the man he was.

He has even been spotted hustling for a few pounds around Manchester's snooker clubs.

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