Robbie Green appears to be moving darts supplier again. ‘Kong’, as Green is known, has had a difficult last few years whilst under the Winmau banner. Knee surgery and extensive rehabilitation have seen him struggle to maintain his previous level.
Originally with A180 King’s darts have had several incarnations over the years. The basic shape and dimensions have proven popular, even collectable, regardless of the manufacturer. Both Target and Winmau gave produced multiple editions.
The Liverpudlian hinted that there is more news to come. He took to social media to thank Winmau for their support.
Some big things coming this month as I say goodbye to sponsors for the last 4 years winmau who’s been brilliant with me,
big thanks to all the team at winmau 🙌👍 But exciting things ahead as I look to keep improving
It would be no surprise to see Kong return to the limelight. He is very talented and, if fit, seems have have periods of outstanding form.
Winmau meanwhile seem to be restructuring, their playing staff, after the arrival of MVG. I strongly suspect that a major ‘Ferguson-esque’ squad rebuilding is underway.
Our columnist, and contributor, JR Lott added this tiny piece to a World Championship e-guide produced before the Ally Pally event this year. He seems he had an inkling of what was to come!
For the 2019 World Championship, the PDC innovated once more. A direct route for female players to play in the championships was introduced for the first time. Lisa Ashton and Anastasia were the qualifiers, from very high-quality field, and both played strongly in the main event. This year the route has been extended to include a UK and a Rest of the World style qualifying event.
Mikuru Suzuki,37, will debut at Ally Pally after capturing the Lakeside title in 2019. She is familiar with the PDC set up, and atmosphere, after being selected by the BDO for this year’s Grand Slam of Darts. The Japanese star made things deciding decidedly uncomfortable for Gerwyn Price in her opening match. Despite not qualifying for the knockout stage she will have gained valuable experience, and having little to lose, and could be very dangerous indeed.
Fallon Sherrock has been somewhat overshadowed in recent years. The former World Championship finalist, and twice major title winner, has been outmatched by Lisa Ashton and now Suzuki. The twenty-five-year-old hairdresser has, however, had a superb 2019, winning several titles all around Europe. She then played superbly in the ladies’ qualifying event averaging close to 100.
Her debut at Alexandra Palace will introduce her to a whole new audience and may prove another boost to her career.
The form and ability of the female representatives keeps getting stronger and stronger. It may not be long until darts becomes a fully integrated sport.
Eric Bristow would have been 63 this year. One of the modern darts’ founding fathers, and easily the game’s most intriguing character, Eric is remembered for many different things, by differing generations. But it should never be forgotten that he was truly exceptional and created the package by which we measure those who follow.
Along the wall in my ‘darts space’ are a few framed photos on prominent display. Each features a player who has made a contribution to the game or offers an interesting subject for the those who visit.
We were recently visited by a very senior figure in the darts business. As the conversation flowed our guest, glancing at the ‘Hall of Fame’, asked why each player was there. We soon arrived at the largest photo; a signed early 1980’s shot, of The Crafty Cockney. The picture signifies the invention, and perfection, of modern darts.
To my great surprise, the reply came “Yes, but was he really that good? I gave the short version of Eric’s ability but was absolutely amazed that the question was asked. Obviously, as time passes, new generations have come to the game in the era of The Power, Fordham, Hankey and MVG. Their view of those who built the platform, for today’s icons, is similar to how we might look back at black and white footage of golfers, tennis stars or footballers.
But it will not stand that such titans, and Eric especially, should simply merge in with a group of dimly remembered figures. By almost every measure Eric ranks as one of the top three players to have played the professional game, and there is a very strong case for him to be the most important:
No More Worlds Left to Conquer
The Crafty Cockney, starting when only 23 years old, won five world championships, in seven years, including two back-to-backs and a hattrick. It is often forgotten that he also reached another five finals. Every win was over a top-five player and every loss was to a darting titan. During this entire period there was only one World Championship, and it featured every top professional of the time. The format was also very short in the early rounds.
There is no one, other than Phil Taylor, who gets close to Eric’s effort. After Barney joined the PDC in 2007 you could make a case for the field being similarly strong to those from pre-1994. ‘The Power’ claimed only three World titles over the next decade.
Filling the Cabinet
The second greatest event during this era was the World Masters. It was incredibly difficult to win, being unseeded and played from floor to stage. Eric won his first Masters at the age of 20 and claimed a total of five between 1977 and 1984. No player, from any era, has gotten close to this. Bob Anderson’s three in a row was outstanding and, perhaps, the closest there will ever be. Eric also claimed back-to-back News of the World events, one of only three to do so, and the World Cup singles crown four times on the bounce. Neither Phil nor MVG managed to add the World Cup Singles to their lists.
In addition, Eric won multiple versions of the Matchplay (British and World), The Grand Masters, Golden Arrows, and every other major/TV event available to him. Even after his glory years, he picked up a World Pairs title (PDC) to go with his earlier WDF version. All-in-all Eric collected a total of over thirty ‘major’ events, in a day when there were far fewer, and with a united field of the highest quality.
With the modern obsession with averages the fact that current players hit 100+ averages at a stroll is often used to belittle those who have gone before. This, however, is both false and unfair. Eric hit what he needed to hit to subdue his opponent and win the match. His 103+ to defeat Jocky Wilson in the 1983 World Cup final and his 101 to defeat Kieth Deller in the 1983 Masters (final again!) were remarkable at the time and would stand up in many finals today. The Crafty Cockney recorded a 105+ vs Alan Glazier earlier in 1983; this remained unbeaten until Phil Taylor claimed a 107+ eight year later.
Two matches that demonstrate Eric’s ability are the final of the World Masters in 1984 and the World Championship Final of 1985. They display his sheer talent and his matchplay and psychology skills in perfect harmony. Deller was defeated as much by psychology as by scoring, whereas Lowe was battered into submission with a blizzard of 180’s in the early stages. (Check them out on You Tube!)
As a final point it should be remembered that as well as the natural advance of any skill over time, the equipment and technology improvements that have been made since 1983 have been dramatic. Darts, stems and flights but especially boards and professionalism, have developed massively. The scoring areas of modern boards (especially in the PDC) are considerably larger and no longer surrounded by rounded wires, staples and other such obstacles. Combined with the conditions, security of income and volume of opportunities to play top-level darts, the modern player has a big advantage.
If we grant Eric even 10 percent, for these handicaps, his performance level would move up to around 115+. This would put him straight into the top three of all time! (Add in his usual determination to be the best and who knows?)
Creating the Template:
In addition to Eric’s remarkable ability, and phenomenal winning record, it should not be forgotten that true ‘oche legends’ are not only remembered for their scoring, or finishing, alone. They are remembered for a mix of their sporting prowess, on-stage image, off-stage personality and what they bring to, and leave for, their sport. Bristow brought us an unmatched package of skill, unrivalled competitiveness, pomp, aggression, flair and humour.
Eric Bristow created the template for the professional dart player. He also went out and sold it to the world. It is very hard to think of any other player, past or present, who can compete on those terms.
From originally being the ‘Boy Wonder’ to bestriding the darts world, as The Crafty Cockney, Eric Bristow left a legendary legacy that deserves to be preserved, protected, and promoted in equal measure.
Originally published in Darts World magazine (Issue 569) during the Covid-19 Lockdown of 2020.
(JR adapted an article he had recently published at dartsplanet.tv in order to remind fans of our sports happiest times, many of which Eric had played a major role in.)
Popular darts information and stats website, dartsdatabase.com has been attracting a lot more attention in recent weeks. New investment, and an original social media presence, has kick-started what the site’s co-owners hope will be a successful ‘second phase’.
The new activity resulted in an invitation to join the Weekly Darts cast team, for a chat. During the episode Chris White spoke about how he became involved in darts and why dartsdatabase.com caught his eye.
Chris told the show’s host, Alex Moss, how it was initially chance that saw him get involved in the sport:
” I started sponsoring a local player, someone I grew up with, and went to the Pro-Tour and loved it.
So I started looking for a way to get more involved”
Chris also revealed that not every use of the dartsdatabase.com is as positive as may appear. Fan’s curiosity, seeking information before placing a bet or settling a pub debate, maybe the most likely reason for using the site. But, management teams, potential sponsors, and even angry spouses have made use of the vast store of information.
“One ex-wife produced a Darts Database print out in the middle of a divorce/maintenance argument”
Judging by their increased social media output, and improved branding, ‘Darts Database’ seems to be enjoying a fresh impetus. The modern trend for more and more information seems to fit with the site’s simple ‘ask and you shall receive’ functionality.
The reaction, so far, has been overwhelmingly positive. We look forward to seeing more of their informative stats and the entertaining way they have begun to present them.
You can follow our colleagues at dartsdatabase here. Or @DartsDatabase
Lionel Smith was a legendary Staffordshire (UK) darts player who is fondly remembered by many who played, and followed the game, in its first glorious era. Lionel was still playing county darts for Staffordshire (A) at the grand old age of seventy-five.
Lionel, born in July of 1928, lived to the ripe old age of 91, was an influence on generations of Staffordshire players latterly including the two Marks, Frost and Hylton.
Although his success at the elite level was limited to a couple of last 32 defeats, in the World Masters & British Professional Championships, though he claimed the British Internationals title in 1981.
His defeats, at the above events, were at the hands of ‘Big Cliff’ Lazerenko and Dave Whitcombe who could both be said to be at the peak of their powers the time.
Perhaps his most famed achievement was in winning the Bronze Bully in on the darts TV show Bullseye. This involved a professional (or highly regarded) player attempting to score more than 301 in nine darts. If they managed this the money was doubled and given to charity. Lionel scored 365 in his nine darts during the 1986-7 run of the show. He was also (comically) introduced as Eric Bristow’s Grandad!
Smith’s high standards of play, and conduct, over so many years endeared him to many. In 2012 Hylton paid tribute to his former mentor:
“Despite passing away in 2001 Lionel has often been in my thoughts since I joined the PDC. It was he who really encouraged me to take darts seriously and apply myself. Lionel represented England and twice reached the last 32 of the English Professional Darts Championships during the 1980’s golden era, he was defeated by Dave Whitcomb & Cliff Lazarenko respectively.”
“I played with Lionel for The Thorn Club in the early 1990’s, he was a gentleman and a darting great.”
For a number of years, after Lionel’s death, the Staffordshire Open was known as The Lionel Smith Open in tribute. Hylton continued:
“It gave me great pleasure to win the Staffordshire Open on many occasions and it would be lovely to think that it could once again carry the name of my friend Lionel Smith.”
Further evidence of Smith’s influence can be seen when even Martin Adams cites Lionel as an inspiration, this time because Lionel was still representing Staffordshire County A in 2001 at the age of 75!
I’ll leave it to three-time World Champion, fifty-eight at the time, to sum up Lionel Smith. Adams was quoted as saying:
“I’ll keep playing as long as possible. I look at a guy called Lionel Smith, who played top county darts for Staffordshire at the age of 75. If Lionel can do it, I can do it……”
Unsung Heroes aims to give credit to those who missed darts great golden era’s or who have been undervalued or slipped under the radar, with the passing of the years. We add a new hero every month and hop to build an outstanding archive of those who have contributed to our game.
(Lionel Smith’s edition first appeared in issue number 560 of Darts World magazine.)
Darts World’s regular look at those players whose career or contribution to the sport of darts may have been overlooked, under-credited or faded with time.
During a recent interview with Darts World magazine, three-time World Champion Glen Durrant raised an eyebrow or two when he stated that a certain player was in fact “a far better player than me”.
Although Durrant added that it was some time ago that he had battled with Chris Thompson, it was still a very generous compliment. So, who is ‘The Hitman’?
The story starts at the 1985 Yorkshire Boys Club Championships in Hunslet. Thompson, then aged just 13, was persuaded to enter and emerged as the champion, without dropping a leg!
A very talented young player, at the age of 16 and already standing over 6 feet tall, Thompson ventured into the pub leagues in York. He soon claimed the York individual title, beating a host of top local players including Barry Noble and Stuart Holden, earning himself an invitation to the Yorkshire Super League in the process.
After a couple of successful seasons, Mick Nixon, captain of Humberside, recruited Thompson to his county squad. This proved excellent experience for Thompson as he had the opportunity to play alongside high quality players such as Vijay Kumar and John Pickering. After a further season in the Yorkshire Super League, Thompson was then invited to join the full Yorkshire squad and he lent on his fellow player and friend, Stuart Holden, for advice:
“By this time Stuart Holden had become a close friend and advisor. He thought that it was too early for me to join Yorkshire and encouraged me to remain with Humberside. I took this advice and ended up playing over 50 games for Humberside. After a few more invites from Yorkshire, Stuart eventually advised me that the time was right for me to join the “big boys” at Yorkshire”.
Following six consecutive wins in the Yorkshire B Team, Thompson was promoted to the Yorkshire A-Team, a huge landmark in his career. He eventually went on to play over a hundred matches for Yorkshire and was made captain of a team that included the likes of John ‘Boy‘ Walton, Scott Waites, Martin Atkins and Garry Thompson, under the famed management of Peter Senior.
Thompson’s next career milestone was qualifying for the News of the World Grand Finals, beating Lancashire’s Paul Williams in the final qualifier, thus making his television debut.
In 2000 Thompson claimed the Yorkshire Classic beating John Walton in the final, whilst he also struck up a very successful pairs partnership with Martin Atkins, with whom he remains close, both as a player and a friend.
Whilst progressing in the BDO, Thompson had kept a close eye on the PDC circuit and in 2007 he ultimately decided that the prize money available was too enticing to ignore:
“I decided to leave the BDO circuit and concentrate on the PDC, this was the best move I ever made”.
In his second season in the PDC, Thompson reached the quarter-finals of the UK Open, losing out 10-5 to Vincent Van Der Voort. This proved a springboard to further success as he went on to reach eight pro-tour semi-finals, including “the most memorable day” of his darting career in Las Vegas. On that day he defeated Gary Mawson, Kirk Shepherd, Mark Walsh, Terry Jenkins, and Andy Hamilton.
In the quarter final the invincible Phil Taylor awaited. Thompson states that he “played the game of my life” in beating the ‘The Power’ 6-5, with an average of over 114 before losing to Simon Whitlock in the semi-final. The next day Taylor took his revenge beating Thompson 6-0, costing him a place at the World Matchplay.
Later that year ‘The Hitman’ reached the World Championships for the first time. His first-round opponent at the Alexandra Palace was Darts World columnist Colin Osborne who showed his experience in defeating the York man 3-1.
Subsequently, Thompson’s form dipped and he struggled, eventually losing his tour card. Sadly, efforts to try and win a new tour card were unsuccessful and he took the difficult decision to quit his career within the PDC.
‘The Hitman’ still plays locally once a week at his local pub The Green Tree in York and says:
“I really enjoy the social aspect of the local league again.
However, my will to win has never deserted me, and my opponent, whoever they are, will always get 100% from me, I have always played to win no matter what the circumstances.
People always ask me if I miss the darts and my response is always “a bit, but I miss the friends I have made, and the crack we had, a lot more”.
JR Lott with Chris Thompson
Originally published in Darts World Magazine (569) April 2020
The BDO’s commercial arm British Darts Organisation Enterprises Ltd files Notice of Intention to Appoint Liquidator.
The commercial arm of the British Darts Organisation – British Darts Organisation Enterprises Ltd – is set to file a Notice of Intention to appoint a liquidator in a move that will secure the future of grassroots membership darts in the UK. British Darts Organisation Enterprises Limited was founded on 30 May 1980 and has its registered office in Tonypandy, Wales. It has been the commercial arm of the sportsmembership body the BDO, since its formation. The Directors of the BDO have taken the difficult decision to liquidate the commercial arm as a result of the COVID crisis. British Darts Organisation Enterprises Ltd has faced increased cashflow pressure following the cancellation of a major event in Spain on the very day the country went into lockdown and due to social distancing, for the foreseeable future we are not able to run any of our other events.
Given this the company faced a cashflow crisis which it could not trade out of. A BDO Director, stated:
“The British Darts Organisation has a long and proud record of standing by and for its members. Today’s announcement does not change that in the least. Our focus is ensuring the longevity of the organisation and despite this setback and some tough decision making, we are committed to making the BDO a successfor its members. British darts is safe.” “We are and will remain totally focused on our members and the Notice of Intention to appoint a liquidator does not change this.”
A Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL) is a formal insolvency procedure which involves the directors of an insolvent company voluntarily choosing to bring their business to an end.
The Directors will work closely with the Administrator to ensure creditor claims are addressed.
However, our message to the membership is that our organisation is financiallysecure and that our commitment to British darts as a sport for everyone remains now and in the future,” concluded a BDO Director.
After yesterday’s marathon meeting, remote obviously, the BDO seem to have opted for a “Back to the Future” approach. Des Jacklin has been reelected to the board, after resigning earlier this year, and several other directors have been chosen.
Despite the immense difficulties that seem to exist, in terms of establishing the viability of the constituent companies, it is reported that there was a strong collective will to resolve many of the outstanding issues, with particular regard to the BICC and ensuring its long term future.
Reaction on social media was much as could be expected with current and former players expressing their incredulity at Des’s return. Dave Whitcombe, with tongue planted firmly in cheek tweeted:
Fantastic news that Des is back.
The players must be overjoyed at this and looking to a great future within the BDO.
I’ll get me coat.
Dave Whitcombe via social media.
It may be that the BDO have managed, yet again, to snatch a defeat from the jaws of ‘victory’ with the decision for Des to return. Although credit must be given to Des’s passion, and ability to inspire loyalty, the vote was far from universally supported.
It is to be hoped that the work of many who have tried to salvage something from the current wreckage, including the excellent work done by Frank Branscombe, in trying to put a workable solution in place, and safeguard various areas for the future, are not to be in vain.
DW Editorial Team: Once again we wish all those involved every success in restoring the BDO to once again be able to promote our game and support those who love it.
Newly announced sponsors Unibet are offering the chance to add a to the home viewing experience of the PDC’s Home Tour.
World Champion Peter Wright will be the favourite to win the opening group, with Jamie Lewis, Peter Jacques and Niels Zonnenveld also making their debut in the new event.
In the first game Jacques will hope to catch the World champion cold. Peter is a steady consistent player and who knows 4/1 might be tempting for a small stake. Perhaps the best possible bet for an upset is Jamie Lewis, also at 4/1 to defeat Snakebite.
Other odds seem to reflect the difficulty of separating the lower ranked players until they have shown what they can do from their own homes!
Opening night odds and fixtures:
Unibet Odds Group One Winner 2/5 Peter Wright 6/1 Jamie Lewis 6/1 Niels Zonneveld 6/1 Peter Jacques
Match Odds 1/6 Peter Wright v 4/1 Peter Jacques 4/5 Jamie Lewis v 19/20 Niels Zonneveld 17/20 Peter Jacques v 17/20 Niels Zonneveld 1/7 Peter Wright v 4/1 Jamie Lewis 4/5 Jamie Lewis v 19/20 Peter Jacques 18/5 Niels Zonneveld v 1/6 Peter Wright
Unibet Home Tour Group One – Friday April 17 (1930 BST) Peter Wright v Peter Jacques Jamie Lewis v Niels Zonneveld Peter Jacques v Niels Zonneveld Peter Wright v Jamie Lewis Jamie Lewis v Peter Jacques Niels Zonneveld v Peter Wright
It’s been noticeable over the last few years that Winmau have stepped up the independent marketing of their premium board products.
After withdrawing from the supply/sponsorship of the BDO they have moved to a more direct model. This, in combination with the signing of MVG, has seen them seriously raise their game.
The brand’s latest promotional piece traces the evolution/history of the Blade over the years:
It’s hard to argue with much of that, (OK,OK, so the language is a bit flowery, but hey it’s their baby). With Unicorn having taken a bit of a PR beating, and other brands yet to really gain traction in the UK, it seems certain that these efforts will keep Winmau in the lead, with regard to ‘the darts space’, for a while yet.
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