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The Little Book of Darts
By Brian Belton
The History PressCopyright © 2013 Brian Belton
All rights reserved.
FOR THE RECORD
In May 1987, Duncan Swift, of the Felixstowe Dock Sports and Social Club (now the the Trimley Sports & Social Club in Suffolk), scored 493,470 to claim the 24-hour solo darts record. Throwing and retrieving the darts himself, Swift got a total of 123 180s and 643 140s. He slung 18,369 darts, clocking a 26.86-point average per dart.
Darts has its heroes and its villains; players who fans love to hate and those they take to their hearts. The categorisation will change from person to person, but there are some professionals who seem to inspire these particular feelings more than others.
At the age of 18 Adrian Lewis won the 2003 British Teenage Open. Two years later, in the UK Open, his 11–0 whitewash of Colin Monk, to make the last 16, was one of the few in the tournament's history. Adrian's continued success since this time makes it difficult not to admire him and he is sowing the seeds of making himself a legend of the game.
This said, he has looked temperamental at times. During his 2006 debut in the World Championship, Lewis left the stage before the end of his quarter-final clash with Peter Manley, alleging Manley had been attempting to upset him while he was throwing.
In the first round of the 2008 European Darts Championship, Adrian encountered Hannes Schnier. He came on stage with three plasters on his non-throwing hand after trying to catch a falling glass backstage which had shattered in his hand. Despite needing hospital treatment for two deep cuts, Lewis got to the final only to be beaten 11–5 by Phil Taylor.
In the 2009 World Grand Prix, Lewis exchanged words with Gary Anderson as the latter felt Lewis went into the exclusion zone while he was throwing. Lewis appeared to be unfazed as he won the match 3–2.
Adrian's first televised final on Sky was the 2010 World Grand Prix. He defeated Phil Taylor for the first time on television in the semi-finals but, with Taylor accusing Lewis of playing up to the crowd to put him off, the move into the final was just a little sour. In the final the next day, the tables were turned somewhat with Lewis claiming that James Wade had put him off his throw by allegedly 'stamping' on the oche.
In 2011 Lewis met Gary Anderson in the PDC World Championship final. During the first set, Lewis became the first player to throw a nine-dart finish in a World Championship final. He won the match 7–5.
Getting off to a winning start in the 2011 Premier League, Lewis annihilated the 2010 champion Phil Taylor 8–2 – Taylor's biggest defeat in the history of the tournament. Adrian went on to meet Gary Anderson in Glasgow. Lewis was booed and coins were thrown at him, but he went on to beat the Flying Scotsman 8–3 after being 3–0 down. Lewis made it to the final but lost 10–4 to Anderson.
Lewis has been known to hit 'blind' shots during matches, most notably during 180 attempts. Recordings show him hitting a 180 without looking against Peter Manley and repeatedly failing to do so against Raymond van Barneveld.
At the time of writing Lewis has won close to £900,000 during his five-year career.
A TO Z OF PLAYER NICKNAMES
The Snake Man
The Limestone Cowboy
Dreamboy or The Flying Scotsman
Irena Armstrong Ice Baby
SUPER, SMASHING, GREAT
Bullseye was a hugely popular, darts-based television quiz show that was first created for the ITV network by ATV in 1981. It was then made by Central from 1982 until 1995, and hosted by club comedian Jim Bowen. Originally aired on Monday nights, from the second series starting in 1982 up to 1993 it went out on Sunday evenings, pulling in an audience of approximately 17 million. Thereafter it took a Saturday afternoon slot.
The programme involved three pairs of contestants (one person in each team would answer questions, the other was designated to throw darts). The teams would be pitted against one another over three rounds with the victorious pair gaining the chance to win a holiday, a car, domestic equipment or even (joy of joys) a speedboat. Losing contestants would go away with of a set of commemorative darts, a tankard (or a silver goblet for the ladies) and a 'Bendy Bully' – which is what they really came for.
From the second series, with Tony Green the darts commentator co-hosting the show, Bullseye began to become something of an institution of the winter months. The 'everyman' approach of former deputy headmaster Bowen (real name Peter Williams) and catchphrases became part of television vernacular. In the show's heyday I was a youth worker in East London and Cockney kids, on being berated for some misdemeanour, would respond in a well-rehearsed mimic of Bowen's Lancashire accent, 'Super, smashing, great'; at which it was hard not to smile. Or after scoring a goal in football, or escape paying subscriptions (yet again) cry out, as if in praise of Tony Green, 'One hundred and eiiiiiightyyyyyy!'
In 2005, Andrew Wood, the creator of Bullseye (it seems comedian Norman Vaughan also had a hand in the development of the show) declared that he had signed a contract with Granada Media for them to produce an hour-long celebrity special Bullseye that Ant and Dec would host as part of the Gameshow Marathon they were undertaking in connection with ITV's 50th anniversary celebrations. The show went out on ITV on 22 October 2005. Vernon Kay and Coronation Street star William Roache were the contestants, attended by Eric Bristow and Andy Fordham. Tony Green returned as co-host.
Subsequently Granada decided that a new series of Bullseye would be produced early the following year by Yorkshire Television at their Leeds studios. On 25 January 2006, it was proclaimed that satellite channel Challenge had won the rights to show the new series. So Bullseye returned to our screens on Challenge at 10.00 p.m. on 17 April 2006. The show maintained the same type of prizes as the original format – none of the cash prizes had increased in value since the first show. In the name of progress, some of the prizes featured on Bully's Prize Board were a bit more up to date than the goodies which used to appear on the ITV show. No more Goblin teasmades and beige toasters ...
YOU CAN'T BEAT A BIT OF BULLY
Dave Spikey and Tony Green appeared on the Colin and Edith show on Radio 1 in 2006 and remembered the original Bullseye as 'The only game show on the television in which the prizes get a round of applause.' But though I jest, the prizes on Bullseye were more than respectable for the show's time. You could win cars and holidays if you were lucky – however, should contestants lose the gamble, they had to see the star prize regardless; the 'look at what you could have won' moment was quite sadistic really.
Contestants were given the option of gambling all the money and prizes they had won on the show against winning the star prize. If they took the gamble they would need to score 101 or more with six darts to win. The non-dart player would throw first, followed by the dart player. Scoring 101 not only got them the star prize, but they also got to keep all of the other prizes and cash they had won earlier. If they failed to score 101 or more, they lost everything, but as Bowen always said, 'yer charity money's safe!'
SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR
The News of the World Championship started in 1927 following discussions with the then ruling body, the National Darts Association (NDA). It is uncertain if the NDA or the News of the World instigated the idea, but the confirmation that the newspaper was going to sponsor an individual darts contest was initially flagged up in August 1927 in the Morning Advertiser. This was followed by corroboration in September of the same year in the News of the World.
This was one of the first organised mass darts competitions and for many years the only major darts contest that the ordinary player might win. For most of the third quarter of the twentieth century, the News of the World Championship became the central dream and hope of darts players. It made darts a truly national pastime and was seminal in the making of the sport we know today.
The News of the World provided a 25 guinea trophy (a reproduction of this would be awarded each year to the winning player). Prizes would also be given to beaten finalists. There were no rules about what association or club one was part of (or not). Entry was free through a local pub and matches were contested within manageable travelling distance of that pub. However, the competition's initial aim was fairly modest – to establish who was the top darts player in the metropolitan police area.
In pubs, works canteens and social clubs, the beginning of the season would see the organisation of 'house' tournaments. The victors of these events would receive certificates proclaiming them News of the World 'House Champion'. Certificates were also provided for 180s and throughout the championship silver dart sets were given as a reward for the best weekly performance in the tournament.
On the completion of the 'house' contests, winners were matched in sub-area and area competitions. Each year, the victors from these groupings, together with the publicans, were invited to attend the Grand Finals in London; for darts, and perhaps all so-called pub games, the 'Greatest Show on Earth'.
The format of the competition was the same (three legs, 501, straight start) from the first round in the pubs and clubs to the Grand Finals on stage. Many 'after-work players' found themselves on a regional stage, throwing in front of a crowd of many hundreds or even thousands. It was not unusual for top players to be eliminated by unknowns in early rounds at the Grand Finals. As such, it was the FA Cup of darts and for many who remember it, the likes of the Embassy, the Desert Classic, World Matchplay or World Trophy have been no match for the excitement and romance of the 'News of the World'.
In its first eight years the competition was restricted to the London area. However, over time it grew into the largest darts tournament in world history and the best players of the time took part. The inaugural tournament attracted 1,010 competitors and the first championship final was held on 2 May 1928 at Holborn Hall, Gray's Inn Road, London. The first champion was a forty-nine-year-old slater, father of nine and veteran of the Boer War, Sammy Stone (a cousin of my own great-grandfather, Jimmy Stone). The Championship quickly became to be known as, 'the championship every dart player wants to win', a reputation it carried for the rest of its history.
News of the World Finals: London Area
Year/Winner Club Score
1927–28 Sammy Stone
New South-West Ham Club 2–0
1928–29 J. Hoare Duke's Head, E. Twickenham 2–0
1929–30 C. Bowley
Shakespeare's Head, Finsbury 2–0
1930–31 Tommy Nye
Tankerville Arms, Kennington 2–0
1931–32 Jack Hood
Hood's Dartboards, Bow 2–0
1932–33 Kenny Enever
The Bull, Mitcham 2–1
1933–34 Fred Metson
Hanbury Arms, Islington 2–0
1934–35 Billy Forecast Duke of York, Bow 2–0
DID YOU KNOW?
From a peak during the 1980s, over the following decade darts saw a huge decline in sponsor interest and it lost most of the television coverage it had previously gained. Many players felt that the BDO was not doing the sport any favours at its highest level. So, in 1993, a group of players broke away from the game's ruling body and formed their own organisation; the World Darts Council, which was later renamed the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) that we are more familiar with today.
This being the case, the 1993 World Championship was the last unified event as the BDO refused to allow the new organisation to set up and run its own tournaments. In response to this the WDC players decided that they would no longer compete in the BDO World Championship and founded the World Darts Championship as an alternative.
Raymond van Barneveld hit his first televised nine-dart finish on 23 March 2006 in the International Darts League.
FOR THE RECORD
On 25 November 1985 Alan Powling and Eddie Davies scored 1,000,001 throwing 48,334 darts at Christ the Servant Church, Digmoor, Skelmersdale.
On 12/13 June 1987 eight players of the Jobby Crossan select team from Derry reached 1,000,0001 in 36,750 darts.
Paul Nicholson is widely known these days as the 'bad boy of darts'. Although British-born, he holds Australian nationality and prior to joining the PDC Pro Tour, Nicholson was one of the top exponents of the game in the Dart Players of Australia (DPA) rankings, having won 15 titles on the Australian circuit in 2008. This earned him a spot in the 2008 Grand Slam of Darts and he caused quite an upset beating Gary Anderson 5–4 in his opening group game. He did this in spite of constant booing from the crowd which had started at his walkon. Following his first three darts, a maximum 180, he put his finger to his mouth, as if telling the crowd to 'hush'; this provoked the persistent chant of 'Who are ya?' and his every dart was met with boos. The victory over Anderson was not enough to take him out of his group, however, and he was eliminated from the competition.
In the 2009 PDC World Darts Championship Nicholson overwhelmed Adrian Gray in the first round, taking all nine legs for a 3–0 sets win. He then upset the odds by hacking down world number six Adrian Lewis (4–3) and another shock followed – from two sets down Paul came back to sweep aside world number eleven Dennis Priestley (4–2). It took world number three at the time, James Wade, to finish Paul's tournament but his performance slotted him into the top 50 in the PDC Order of Merit.
In the UK Open Paul lost 9–7 to pub qualifier Ken Mather in the third round and afterwards Nicholson's relationship with the crowd dropped to a new low, as he claimed Mather's supporters had consistently shouted out as he was throwing. Provoked by the now-familiar chants of 'Who are ya?', Nicholson responded by swearing at the crowd and was later fined for his outburst by the Darts Regulation Authority.
In 2010, Nicholson claimed his first PDC title, the Totesport Players' Championship, playing the quarter-final, the semi-final and the final in the same day. In the quarters Adrian Lewis was vanquished 9–7. Sensationally Paul defeated reigning champion Phil Taylor 10–9, pushing on to claim a 13–11 title win over Mervyn King. During the last part of the tournament the supporters began to get behind Nicholson, appreciating his efforts against better, more experienced and higher-ranked players. Nicholson's subsequent moderation of his 'bad boy' persona caused some commentators to speculate that Paul might abandon his image as the people's favourite villain of the game.
In 2011 Paul Nicholson won the Crawley Players Championship, defeating Adrian Lewis 6–4 in the final, on the back of a tough fight in the semi with Gary Anderson, in which he pulled through 6–5. In the UK Open of that year Paul defeated Gary Anderson, the Premier League champion, 9–8. The same day Phil Taylor was beaten 9–8, but Paul went down 10–7 to James Wade.
A TO Z OF PLAYER NICKNAMES
Champagne or Batesey
Ronnie Baxter the Rocket, Rocket Ronnie
Magnum PI or the Bronzed Adonis
Hans Blijs the Dominator
Andy Boulton the 'X' Factor
André Brantjes the Quiet Man
Eric Bristow the Crafty Cockney
Stacy Bromberg the Wish Granter
Steve Brown (Eng) the Bomber
Steve Brown (USA) Brownie or the Original
Patrick Bulen the Pitbull
Stephen Bunting the Bullet
Prince of Wales
ANYONE FOR A BIT MORE BULLY?
On 14 March 2006 it was announced that the new Bullseye was to be hosted by comedian Dave Spikey, who, incidentally, had also appeared as a contestant on the show in the 1980s.
The Bully character received a make-over of sorts for the new series, although most people might have been pushed to notice the 'old Bully' had been ousted by a 'new Bully'.
The reconstituted Bullseye was, unlike most other game show revivals in the UK, pretty much the same format as the original series. The original theme tune reappeared, a similar set was used, and the new titles were based on the old ones.
The two new series that were aired in 2006 each consisted of fifteen episodes, but the show has not been produced since then – more's the pity.
DID YOU KNOW?
Peter Manley is married to Crissy Manley (née Howat), who is also a darts player. Peter asked Crissy to marry him after winning the Las Vegas Desert Classic in 2003 and they celebrated their marriage in Las Vegas the following year. Many fellow darts players were in attendance at the wedding, and Wayne Mardle did the honours as Manley's best man.
Raymond van Barneveld threw his second televised nine-dart finish on 2 January 2009 in the quarter-finals of the 2009 PDC World Darts Championship The match was against Jelle Klaasen. Barney hit two maximum 180s before nailing treble 20, treble 19 and double 12 to complete his nine-darter in the second leg of the sixth set.
That nine-darter earned Barneveld £20,000 and he became the first player ever to throw a perfect leg in the PDC World Championship.
Excerpted from The Little Book of Darts by Brian Belton. Copyright © 2013 Brian Belton. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Bobby George,
The Little Book of Darts,