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Snooker: Scotland welcomes top players

Scottish snooker players are not short of role models.

John Higgins and Graeme Dott, two former world champions, and Stephen Maguire, another of the game's elite, are still involved at the top level of the game. But opportunities for their compatriots to develop and gain the experience to follow their careers have been reduced in recent years.

The European Tour No 5 event that begins on Thursday at Ravenscraig is the first ranking tournament to be played in Scotland for two years.

That time out of the spotlight has not diminished the leading players, but younger players have not enjoyed the same level of competition at the outset of their careers, and the format of ET5 allows them to experience playing against the best.

More than 20 amateur players will be included in the draw, with the matches played over seven frames. The format is designed to be quick and exciting, and although it is not one of the higher-profile events, it returns the game to some prominence in Scotland.

"Hopefully it will a stepping stone to something bigger," said Higgins. "I hope the crowds will come out. Scotland deserves to have its own tournament."

Higgins is seeking to recover from a slump in form, while Dott is in the midst of one of his periodic bouts of self-doubt. They will hope that home advantage – Higgins lives in nearby Wishaw – will provide some momentum, but they are also keen for Scotland to make the most of the sport's return.

"It's about time we had a tournament in Scotland," Dott said.

"It's for small ranking points and the money is not as big as other ranking tournaments [the winner receives £10,000], but we hope to get a full-blown ranking tournament back here, so [ET5] is a good place to start."

Even so, for all that the event is open to all the top-ranked players, not all have accepted the invitation. Judd Trump has chosen instead to attend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday, when the tournament's final is being held.

Richard Wilson

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