AS John Higgins continues to change his cue with alarming regularity, former world champion Joe Johnson has warned the Scot to stop making excuses and accept the reality of his advancing years.

Now 38-years-old and a four-time Crucible champion, Higgins' world ranking has slipped down to No.11, a worrying trend for a man who has not been outside tthe top 10 since the 1996-97 season.

Three seasons ago Higgins returned from a six-month ban from the sport to claim the UK Championship and World Championship crowns and cement his place amongst the game's greats.

But in the last couple of campaigns Higgins was beaten in the first round at the Crucible this year and the second round at the UK Championship.

In this fallow period Higgins began changing his cue in an attempt to rediscover the magic of old but the start of this season has been no different, despite reaching the final of the Wuxi Classic.

With a new cue at the Shanghai Masters Higgins went out in the second round before insisting he will be changing his weapon again in time for the UK Championship, which starts today in York.

But Johnson, who won his solitary world title in 1986, insists Higgins must stop blaming his tools and take a long hard look in the mirror.

"I think John has changed his cue twice now and for me that is an indication that you are searching for something that is not there," said Johnson.

"It's not the cue, it obviously cannot be that because the cue that he had stood him in such good stead all the way through his career, he's just looking for someone or something to blame.

"You can never say that John is finished, he is such a battler and such a great all-round player but each year that goes by makes it harder and harder for him."

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