Darts has been good to me

Bristow and George alongside Andy Dowie of the Stornoway Sea Angling Club and Don Macleod.
Bristow and George alongside Andy Dowie of the Stornoway Sea Angling Club and Don Macleod.

Arrows legends Eric Bristow and Bobby George helped hit the bullseye on a night to remember for darts fans in Stornoway this week.

The Stornoway Sea Angling Club rolled out the red carpet for Bristow ‘The Crafty Cockney’, a five-time darts world champion, and George ‘The King of Bling’ who each fielded questions from the floor in a hilarious and insightful question and answer session while they also put their star-studded reputations on the line in a series of challenge matches against a number of local players.

Arranged by Andy Dowie, the night with the two Darts legends saw the Sea Angling Club packed out with darts fans eager for a glimpse, a chat and even the chance to throw a few arrows against two of the game’s biggest stars from the golden era of darts – when the game burst from the pubs and clubs of the country and onto prime time TV nation-wide.

For Bristow, who landed five World Titles between 1980 and 1986, his journey to the top of the game began in his own bedroom as a youngster with no idea where his love of the game – and his love of maths – would take him.

“My dad was a good darts player and I remember he put a board up in the house for my 11th birthday,” recalled Bristow with a warm grin as he sat down with the Stornoway Gazette.

“It was on my bedroom wall and I was delighted with it.

“I just liked playing and I was very good at maths at school so I used to like it for that reason as well. By the time I was 14 I was really good.”

Taking to the game very quickly the teenage Eric soon had to spread his arrows beyond his bedroom wall where his Dad took him down to the local pub to test his skills against the players there.

He explained: “That all started after I turned 14 when my Dad just said to me ‘you’re ready now.’ Then I was down the pub on Sunday mornings playing against people for sixpence a game. I was 14 and going home every night with a pocket full of change. I then played for the pub team when I turned 15.

“I entered every tournament I could at that point. I was only a young teenager with no commitments or kids so I entered and played as much as I could, travelling everywhere. As I got better, darts became more popular. In the 1970’s it started being shown on television and the popularity just grew and grew.”

During his pomp in the 80’s Bristow helped draw around 15 million sets of eyes onto television screens around the country as darts exploded into the mainstream. Nowadays darts remains hugely popular with Sky TV investing heavily in the sport.

This investment has seen the prize money in the game rocket with the world champion now pocketing sums north of £400,000. The top players can rake in huge sums from a prize pot of more than £12m. This is a massive leap from the 1990’s when the first PDC winner Dennis Priestley won £16,000.

But does Bristow wish he was at the oche and in the mix for a slice of the ever-growing Darts pie in the modern day?

“No,” he insists. “It’s the same for footballers who might look at the modern wages compared to 20-years ago. But I did well out of darts and that’s all I ever wanted to do. I never had another job so darts doesn’t owe me anything. I had a great time.

“Sky have done a lot for the popularity of the game but now all the other TV companies are jumping in for a piece of it.”

The 60-year-old Bristow may have long since hung up his arrows in a professional capacity but he remains an avid watcher and follower of the game which has been a staple of his life for a half century and he admits he enjoys the chance to have a game against so many of the locals around the country such as in Stornoway.

“I watch all the darts I can. The boys are in Belgium at the moment and if I can’t watch it my missus records it for me and I watch it later when I get home,” he said.

“ I like a lot of current darts players. Some of them are brilliant. Right now I like natural players like Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis are prolific 180’ers. They put the darts in the treble 20’s and you expect them to follow it up with the other two. It is great to watch. Another young lad coming through is Rob Cross and I’d advise people to watch him over the coming years. He’s dedicated and a very good player.”

“I love these kind of nights. They are great fun and all the local players want to be beat me.

“They still would want to beat me if I was 95 years old but these nights are for the local guys. It makes me laugh and the guys we play often offer us treble whiskies before our game and we have a great bit of fun on these nights but we won’t lose on purpose that’s for sure,” he adds with a smile.