Unsung Heroes – Lionel Smith.

Lionel Smith: Bronze Bully Winner & Stafforshire Legend 

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 (left) with Pat Chaps.

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.)

“He was a far better player than me….”. Duzza Pays Ultimate Compliment, But To Whom?

While chatting away to, three-time World Champion, Glen Durrant for an article in this months Darts World Magazine, Duzza made a somewhat startling revelation! During a discussion of players, who have had more clerical (or white collar type) careers, Duzza stated that one of them was a far better player than him!

The Hitman – Better than Duzza? Pic:PDC

Just who do you think that Glen rated so highly? The clue is in the nature of their career. Darts has its roots in working class communities and in pubs and clubs. Yet there have been those who have flouted this tradition and had somewhat different backgrounds or careers. Mark Hylton was a Airline Cabin Manager with an English degree, Scott Mitchell is a farmer and there are other examples.

As a housing manager Glen himself appreciated the difference between his own career and that of many other top rank darters. He expressed admiration for those, such as Darren Webster, who still put in a full week of physical labour before winning PDC darts matches over the weekend!

Chris Thompson in World Championship action. Pic: PDC

So who did Glen rate so highly? Turns out it was Chris ‘The Hitman’ Thompson! Chris is a former PDC Tour player who pursued a career in the law alongside his darts! Anyone who has played against Chris, or even watched him, will know that he was indeed very talented. Chris reached the Qtrs of The News of The World event as far back as 1997 and the same stage of the UK Open in 2008. The plain-speaking Yorkshire thrower was incredibly passionate, tough to beat and never gave any player an inch!

Now, to be clear, Glen did ad that it was back in his days of playing Leagues and Opens in the north of England that Chris had been “far better than me…..”.

PIC LAWRENCE LUSTIG : GLEN DURRANT IN ACTION

It is still a lovely compliment for Chris and its typical of Glen that he recalled it in a random chat about career choices!


Full interview and feature on Glen Durrant in February Darts World Magazine. Grab your subscritpion here: http://www.dartsworld.com/product/magazine/

Unsung Heroes : “Mile High” Leaves A Vapour Trail.

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.

In February 2010, Mark “Mile High” Hylton embarked on what was to be a brief, but highly significant, escapade into the world of PDC darts. An airline cabin manager for 15 years, Hylton quit at the age of 42 to become a full-time arrowsmith. A majestic take-off was followed by a turbulent spell cruising at altitude, before a steep descent took him away from our view. 

Hylton enjoyed a high flying start to his PDC Career.
PIC;L Lustig/PDC

Born and raised in Staffordshire, Mark Hylton had been a familiar name in amateur darts for quite some time, including a notable television appearance at the the 2007 UK Open, before he decided to turn professional. His first few months on the tour proved a steep learning curve, but he was soon to rise rapidly through the PDC Order of Merit.

In early 2010, Hylton was playing superbly behind the scenes, cleaning up in non-professional events all over the UK. His management and coaching team decided to fund trips to Australia and Canada that summer to see if their hunch was right that he could compete with the best in the game. Hylton responded with a dazzling run to the final of the PDC Australian Open in Sydney, where he was defeated 6-3 by Dennis Priestley. The prize money, £3,000, ensured he would qualify for the 2011 World Championships. 

Hylton’s success continued with a string of very consistent results on the PDC Pro Tour, resulting in qualification for the lucrative Grand Slam of Darts. Despite not progressing from the group stage, the experience of such a huge, televised event was not wasted on Hylton, who was confident of a good showing at the Alexandra Palace.

Hylton and his team prepared meticulously for the 2011 World Championship. He played in all conditions and as often as possible, including on borrowed stages with friends acting as officials. When Hylton drew the legendary Steve Beaton in the first round, practice partners were hand-picked to try and mirror Beaton’s style and pace. Likely second and third round opponents were also calculated.

The venue was scouted, the weather anticipated (which was extreme) and complications allowed for. Despite some early nerves, and the silky skills of his opponent, the vigorous preparation paid off as Hylton ran out a 3-2 winner in a tense final set, where he held his nerve well. Hylton’s reward was a second round date with former PDC world number one, Colin Lloyd.

During the days before the match, Team Hylton again prepared diligently. Their man was less nervous than previously and was given these simple instructions by his coach: 

“you are the best kept secret in world darts, now go and show these people why”

Despite Lloyd edging in to a narrow lead in the fifth set, Hylton reeled off a remarkable 6 legs in a row to win 4-2 at a canter. By the end of the game Lloyd was shaking his head in disbelief as Hylton averaged over 115 in his purple patch and became the event’s leading 180 hitter.  

Sadly, Hylton could not produce a similar level in his last-16 match against welshman Mark Webster who defeated Hylton 4-1 on his way to a run to the semi-finals. Despite this, Hylton had served notice that he was a player to be taken seriously. He was awarded the PDC’s New Player of the Year award, a lucrative dart sponsorship and went on to achieve success in more major events in 2011, reaching the quarter-finals of the UK Open and the Grand Prix, rising to number 32 in the world in the process. He also frightened the life out of Phil Taylor in a thrilling 10-8 defeat at the World Matchplay in Blackpool.

Although he is no longer playing high profile darts Hylton left a trail that inspired others to even greater heights.
Pic – L Lustig/PDC

Although Hylton has slipped from view since those halcyon days, his efforts should not be forgotten. To become a professional at 42 with no top flight experience, and to hit the heights he did, was remarkable. Indeed, the vapour-trail Hylton left guided many. You don’t need to be a big name to win big.

Just ask Rob Cross! 


A version of this article appeared in The Ultimate Guide to the PDC World Championship – https://appsolutely.dev/darts/
JEGL

Betway Premier League - Night 15 Round-Up

On a Roll! When Players Hit That Purple Patch

This weekends German Darts Open produced several superb performances, Nathan Aspinall improved his onstage average personal best by over three and a half points. RVB went back to basics with his darts and recaptured some stage form, whilst Steve Beaton, with as smooth a 9 darter as you will ever see, reminded everyone that his remarkable career is far from over.

Much of the social media and commentary chatter centred around the latest set of unreal statistics from MVG. Official PDC statistician and DartsWorld contributor Christopher Kemph (@ochepedia) summed it up simply:

“23 consecutive wins in Euro Tour last-leg deciders, 24 consecutive wins in Pro Tour finals and 26 consecutive wins in Pro Tour best-of-13 and best-of 15 matches. It just goes on and on…”

In all professional sports, the greatest players seem to hit purple patches. This can be due to their own standards increasing, the opposition becoming intimidated or a little of both. Think Rafa Nadal at the French Open, Ed Moses over the 400m hurdles or Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’. This set us thinking what other tremendous winning streaks have been witnessed in darts?

In PDC ranking events both MVG & Phil Taylor have recorded 8 consecutive tournament wins. In 2016 Micheal claimed The World Matchplay, 3 Euro Tour events and then 4 Pro Tours, hitting two 9 darters along the way! During a phenomenal run in 2009, ‘The Power’ also claimed 8 back-to-back ranking titles. After winning that years’ World Championship Taylor won 6 Pro Tour events in a row, during that run he added the Players Championship Finals. Incredibly this winning streak came in the middle of a run of 20 consecutive appearances in ranking finals!

Richard Ashdown dropped us a reminder of the efforts of John Walton. John’s 2001 run to the BDO World Title included defeats of Merv King in the last 16 and Mark Puso. The final two legs of the former and the first 14 vs Pusa ensured a consecutive run of 16 legs in-a-row, surely difficult to improve on given the formats available.

8 Ranking Titles in a Row. A Record from MVG?

On the floor, or non-televised, the best the DW team can recall is a run of 21 consecutive legs over 4 matches. Mark Hylton came from 0-2 down to defeat Dylan Duo 6-2 before defeating MVG and Ronnie Baxter 6-0. In his fourth match, he took a 3-0 lead vs Dennis Ovens before ‘The Heat’ got his name on the scoreboard. Hylton went on to reach the semi-final.

We are sure that throughout the darting world there must be more great examples of these ‘Purple Patches’ if you can recall an example, and we can find the evidence, drop us a line or tweet us @Darts_World

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