Wednesday, 13 December 2017

1980s World Darts Championships

This week I am taking a look back at the World Darts Championships in the 1980s. A decade dominated by Eric Bristow, cigarettes and alcohol, and a ten year period that saw the sport rise and fall. There were a few dodgy number ones along the way too.

1980: Eric Bristow

In a tweet: Eric Bristow wins his first World Championship, beating the shy and retiring Bobby George in a classic final.

Significant other: Cliff Lazarenko. Big Cliff knocked out World Number One and defending champion John Lowe in the last 16, on the way to his first World Championship semi-final.

Minute-by-minute: What has Bobby George done here? Requiring double 9 to take us into a deciding set, George drops into single nine, but then inexplicably hits 20 when going for the one that would give him a shot double 4. George walks back with a look of resignation, and pops his darts into his top pocket. Sadly, that visit to the oche could be his last of the tournament if Bristow can take out double 10.

What they said: "As I went over to shake Bobby's hand I said to him, 'Where's your fucking poem now, pal?'" Bristow describes how George had approached him in the practice room before the final to inform him that he had written an ode about how he would beat him. At the conclusion of the match, Bristow was quick to remind George about this incident.

Misc: 24 players contested the event at the Jollees Cabaret Club in Stoke. The top eight in the world received a bye to the second round. This would be the last World Championship final to be played in February.

No1: Another Brick In The Wall, Pink Floyd

1981: Eric Bristow

In a tweet: After losing the first seven legs of the final against John Lowe, Eric Bristow fights back to successfully defend his crown.

Significant other: The British Darts Team. A musical combo featuring singer Vince Williams, Bobby George, and a BDO Choir consisting of Jocky Wilson, Angus Ross, Tony Sontag, Kevin White, Gordon Allpress, BDO Secretary Olly Croft, caller Freddie Williams and his wife. They produced a single called 180, that was promoted throughout the tournament. "If it takes off, it will be one of the most unlikely hits of all time," Derek Brown wrote in the Daily Mirror. From my research, I don't think it even charted.

Minute-by-minute: With shades of Bobby George last year, Lowe misses three darts at double 10 to take us into a deciding set. Bristow composes himself, steps forward, and takes out double 4 to become the first player to defend the world title in the short history of this event. He may not be universally popular, but no one can dispute that he is not a worthy champion.

What they said: "It is very realistic to think of him making a million by the time he is 30 — if American television takes up darts nationwide." Dick Allix, Eric Bristow's manager, sees the pound signs flashing in front of him.

Misc: For the first time, 32 players contested the World Championship.

No1: Imagine, John Lennon

1982: Jocky Wilson

In a tweet: Jocky Wilson becomes the first Scot to win the World Championship, as John Lowe loses his second consecutive final.

Significant other: Steve Brennan. Shocked the darts world by knocking out two-time winner Eric Bristow in the first round. Went on to lose to Sweden's Stefan Lord in the quarter final.

Minute-by-minute: After delivering a pat of encouragement to his thigh, Wilson inches towards the oche and claims the world crown by taking out double 16 with his first attempt. His toothless grin that we have all come to love is on show, as Jocky shakes everyone on stage by the hand. "They'll be singing, they'll be Highland flinging, all over Scotland for this lad," Sid Waddell proclaims. There could be a party to remember (or forget) in the Wilson camp tonight.

What they said: "Do that again and I'll break your jaw." Alan Evans accuses Jocky Wilson of clicking his darts together in an act of gamesmanship, during their confrontational second round match.

Misc: American David Miller stepped in at the last minute, as snow meant Ceri Morgan, and first reserve Tony Skuse, were stranded in South Wales and could not get to Stoke. Miller made the most of his lucky break, progressing to the quarter final before losing to Jocky Wilson.

No1: Land Of Make Believe, Bucks Fizz

1983: Keith Deller

In a tweet: Qualifier, debutant, and outsider Keith Deller defeats the top three players in the world to seal a fairytale victory. Eric Bristow is left to rue his decision not to go for the bull, as Deller takes out 138.

Significant other: George Bristow. Eric's dad asked Deller how he felt before his first round match against Nicky Virachkul. When Deller informed him that he was going to win the tournament, George Bristow decided to back him in every round, returning a tidy profit during his four match run to the final. Blood is thicker than water, though. Bristow senior couldn't bring himself to back Deller in the final.

Minute-by-minute: Oh my! We were just millimetres away from sporting history, and Jocky Wilson almost pocketed £30,000 in the process. Hitting his seventh treble 20 of the leg, Wilson dropped down for treble 15, leaving him a shot at double 18 for the unprecedented televised nine-dart finish. Wilson is THIS close with his attempt, and immediately puts his hands on top of his head. Agony for the Scot, and disappointment for the crowd who, like me, thought we were about to witness a unique achievement in the sport of darts. (Jocky Wilson v Keith Deller semi-final).

What they said: "Living dangerous, Bristow - he's banking on Deller not doing this. But the shot's on for the title. Double 12 for the title. I am telling ya, I'm telling ya, I've seen nothing like it in my life. Keith Deller of Ipswich, 23 years old, he had to qualify to get here. Bristow did a percentage shot, Deller did the business. He's now the World Champion!" Sid Waddell describes the dramatic conclusion to the 1983 final.

Misc: Jocky Wilson beat Tony Brown 2-0 in the last third-place play-off match at the BDO World Championships.

No1: Save Your Love, Renee & Renato

1984: Eric Bristow

In a tweet: Bristow regains the title after a two year absence, as defending champion Keith Deller exits early.

Significant other: Nicky Virachkul. The American knocked out defending champion Keith Deller in the first round. After 1983, Deller would only ever win three matches at the BDO Championships.

Minute-by-minute: Well, you won't be surprised to read this - Eric Bristow is the 1984 World Darts Champion. Needing 16, Bristow drifts into the 8, before taking out double 4, to clinch the 7-1 win over a powerless Whitcombe. Bristow's third title, and in this kind of form it's a struggle to see anyone stopping him making it four next year.

What they said: "Vodka has been Jocky's downfall. He's been with me for a year now. I've taught him to eat, 'cos he never used to bother." Jocky Wilson's manager Mel Coombes may have thought he had calmed his charge down, but at the end of a gruelling semi-final defeat against Dave Whitcombe, Wilson drunkenly fell off the stage.

Misc: Bristow only dropped one set in the tournament - against Dave Whitcombe in the final - to claim the winner's cheque of £9,000.

No1: Only You, The Flying Pickets

1985: Eric Bristow

In a tweet: After surviving a first round scare, Bristow powers on to his fourth title, as John Lowe is a bridesmaid once more.

Significant other: Ken Summers. The qualifier almost blew the whole championship wide open, narrowly missing a dart at double 16 for a first round triumph against 15/8 tournament favourite Bristow.

Minute-by-minute: That's all, folks. Fittingly, Bristow ends the championship on his favourite double, taking his fourth title with a comfortable 6-2 win. John Lowe has now lost three finals in this decade, and must be sick of the sight of Bristow. Is there any stopping the Crafty Cockney?

What they said: "We have no God given right to hold a world championship. If we're not careful, in three years we'll have been left behind." Runner-up John Lowe expresses concern at the lack of prize money provided by sponsors Embassy, and questioned the future of the tournament.

Misc: This was the last World Championship to be played at the Jollees Cabaret Club in Stoke.

No1: Do They Know It's Christmas?, Band Aid

1986: Eric Bristow

In a tweet: Whitcombe is whitewashed in the final, as Bristow makes it three in a row. Incredibly, this would be his fifth and final World Championship win.

Significant other: Dave Whitcombe. Reached his second final, but along the way stirred up some controversy. After defeating Jocky Wilson 4-2 in the last eight, Whitcombe revealed that many of the top officials had backed Wilson to win the match. "I heard them shouting for him. Even at the introductions they were yelling 'Stuff him, Jocky'. I don't care if they've put their house on him but they shouldn't say anything - they should be neutral."

Minute-by-minute: An unusually nervy finish from Bristow, but he has once again delivered the goods. His eighth championship dart finds double 2, and it's title number five for the greatest player the world has ever seen. Whitcombe playfully throws a towel at the victor; I might have done that a bit earlier if I'd been in his shoes.

What they said: "Other British sportsmen can learn from me. I don't want to put up a jolly good show - I want to stuff the other guy." Eric Bristow blows his own trumpet after his 6-0 demolition of Whitcombe.

Misc: This was the first World Championships to be played at the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green, Surrey.

No1: West End Girls, Pet Shop Boys

1987: John Lowe

In a tweet
: Lowe finally gets one over Bristow in the World Championships, winning his second title, eight years after his first triumph.

Significant other: Eric Bristow's brain. The champion's dartitis may have fully unravelled during the 1987 Swedish Open, but the telltale signs were evident at the 1987 World Championships that Bristow's throw was slowing down. It is a mark of the man that he was still able to reach world finals even after the demon of the yips entered his game.

Minute-by-minute: Is this the crucial moment of the 1987 final? Bristow misses three darts at double 16 to take a 5-4 lead in sets, allowing Lowe to move in front for the first time. If Bristow loses this final, he'll look back at this moment as the turning point.

What they said: "Winning this has been like trying to climb Mount Everest, but what a joy to make the summit." John Lowe is understandably delighted after winning his second World Championship.

Misc: Bristow did not play a seeded player on his way to the final.

No1: Reet Petite, Jackie Wilson

1988: Bob Anderson

In a tweet: World Number One Bob Anderson lives up to the tag of favourite, defeating defending champion John Lowe to win his only World Championship.

Significant other: Eric Bristow. His relative drop in form continued, as he failed to reach his first World Championship final since 1982.

Minute-by-minute: Just 44 points stand between Bob Anderson adding the World Championship to his CV. Can he hold his nerve? Yes, is the emphatic answer. A single 12 is followed up by a narrow missing on the double 16. But Anderson makes no mistake second time round, before he lets out a yell of delight skywards. A richly deserved title win, and surely the first of many world titles for this very likeable man.

What they said: "John is a scrapper and a brilliant player. It's the fourth time we have been in a big final this season, so there's not much doubt who are the two most consistent players in the world. Eric Bristow is talking nonsense when he says John lacks bottle. Eric should let his darts to the talking - he's good enough - and cut out all this rabbit." Anderson sets the record straight after his final win. Bristow had been critical of John Lowe before their semi-final clash, but Lowe would have the final word, beating the Crafty Cockney 5-2.

Misc: This tournament would see the first final played on a Sunday. John Markovic, Anderson's manager, placed £100 on Anderson beating Lowe 6-4 in the final at the start of the tournament, at odds of 25/1.

No1: Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Belinda Carlisle

1989: Jocky Wilson

In a tweet: Jocky Wilson wins his second title, beating Bristow in a final of two halves; Wilson led 5-0 at the break, but sneaked over the line 6-4.

Significant other: Alan Warriner. Missed eight match darts to put Jocky Wilson out of the tournament in the second round. "I'm lucky to be still in the tournament," Wilson admitted. "But I'm not finished. You watch me go now."

Minute-by-minute: "Oh no. Jocky Wilson has just had a mental arithmetic block here. Needing 104 to become champion again, Wilson hit treble 18 and single 14 but miscounts and ends up firing a dart at tops, instead of double 18. Bristow takes the leg, leaving a dumbfounded Wilson shaking his head in the background."

What they said: "The adverse publicity this award has sparked off seems certain to backfire on the game. I don't begrudge Eric his award but it has become an excuse for all and sundry to pour scorn on darts." After it is announced that Eric Bristow is to be awarded an MBE, John Lowe raises concerns about the criticism surrounding darts.

Misc: This would be the first World Championships where players could not drink alcohol on stage. In his second round match against Wayne Weening, Bob Anderson missed a dart at double 12 which cost him the chance of claiming the £52,000 nine-dart checkout prize.

No1: Especially For You, Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan

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