Here we are at the beginning of yet another New Year full of fresh hopes and aspirations (a posh word for dreams), but more importantly, the 34th Lakeside World Professional – which will probably be happening when you read this.
As I have done every year since 1999 (my first Lakeside alongside Ray Stubbs) I am having to write this Blog in December to meet the print deadlines and beat the lack of time.
There is always so much to do when heading towards Lakeside, and once again I can’t wait to walk through those doors and see the Lakeside stage......it’s the best aphrodisiac in the world and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up (nothing else unfortunately!) just thinking about another great 9 days of darts on the BBC.
Ray has now moved on of course, so for the second year running I will be presenting the darts with Colin Murray, probably the biggest darts fan in the whole world (well, definitely Ireland!) and I’m pleased to say that Rob Walker (the lanky one in the suit) is back to do some of the reports and features.
We have a new face (or should that be voice?) in the commentary box as Vassos Alexander joins Tony Green and David Croft for the first time.
Not many people will know Vassos, but he’s been working for Radio 5 for years and used to do his live commentary from the backstage press office at Lakeside, and now and again I would help him. He’s a lovely bloke (well, still a young man actually) and he’s got the perfect voice for darts.
He loves the game. He loves Lakeside and I reckon the public will love him. Remember, you heard it here first!
Told you I was a good jumper (or was that Marie?) so take a look at my photo with the famous Grand National trophy! What a beauty (the trophy not me!) to get my hands on. The opportunity came when I visited the Aintree race-course in Liverpool, home of the Grand National – sponsored by John Smith’s.
I was up there for John Smith’s People’s Darts which has enjoyed another successful year. You will be able to see all the finalists at Lakeside.
I was interviewed recently prior to Lakeside and among many other things was asked to give my tips for the 2011 Championships.
I am now going to reveal them here, and remember I am writing this before a dart has been thrown: My outsider is Dean Winstanley and my ‘insider’ is Scotty Waites.
Dean is making his debut, but has had such a great season that he’s seeded No.3, and Scott Waites, seeded No.6, is the man in form at the moment and has already won 100 Grand in the recent Grand Slam of Darts with that memorable 16-12 victory over James Wade.
He’s now after another 100 Grand, and if he can overcome Ted Hankey in the 1st Round (what a shame they have been drawn together) I reckon he could go all the way just as he did in the Grand Slam.
The GSOD is supposed to be the annual ‘battle’ between the PDC and BDO players but in my view, it is ‘nt. Its all about good darts. Some of the performances were outstanding and the averages were pretty close between the top boys.
Only one player went through the entire tournament without being beaten – and that was the eventual Champion, Scott Waites – so he thoroughly deserved his victory (especially after going 8-0 down in the final!).
Whatever happened to James Wade? He looked like a defeated man the minute Scott levelled and then went ahead. His eyes were open but the lights were out and the way he looked (shell-shocked) was only bettered by Mervyn King, who looked and acted more scary than Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’ (‘where’s Johnny!’)
If looks could kill, John Henderson was a goner for daring to put a toe-nail over the oche line! Gentle Giant John looked bewildered as Merv gave him the evil eye.
And what about the poor girl who tried to interview him afterwards? Merv’s eyes were out on stalks as he dared her to question his actions! Scary? Yes. Funny? No. Darts doesn’t need that sort of behaviour towards a fellow player. He would never have survived the hustle and bustle of darts in the days of years ago!
Contrast him to a real Pro like Martin Phillips, a quiet unassuming Welshman who had some of the best averages at the World Masters and GSOD. Alan Warriner mentioned that I had nicknamed him 5 Star, because he looked like Napoleon (5 Star brandy, get it?).
Well I think it suits Martin, because it rolls off the tongue. From now on he should be 5 Star Phillips! He certainly plays 5 Star darts.
Another ‘veteran’ who impressed me was Steve Beaton, who hasn’t really done a lot since winning the Embassy in 1996. He showed that he still has it with that great and unexpected win over Phil Taylor.
It was good to see darts free-to-view on ITV-4, but I have some strong memories of the crowds and the rowdy noise. Merv was a victim, so was Ted Hankey (both of them court it really) but I did feel sorry for a gentle player like Mark Webster and was gobsmacked when Phil Taylor gave it both barrels!
Not that long ago Phil was saying that the big, noisy crowds were the way forward in professional darts, but now he actually said it was ‘ruining’ the sport and he was glad he was retiring from it. He mentioned similar problems in Ireland before the GSOD, and he didn’t have the best of times wearing glasses on stage for the first time .
He has probably realised that the big arenas and big crowds lead to bad behaviour and a really bad image for darts. Trouble is, he has helped to create a monster that is getting more and more difficult to control.
In Wolverhampton the majority of the audience were there to see themselves on TV rather than see the darts specially by the end of the week. Sad, but true!
Thank goodness, Lakeside continues to be the ‘theatre of dreams’ for players, fans and BBC viewers alike.
After the GSOD, if you want a good laugh.......and I mean laugh-out-loud....click onto the following link on You Tube and you won’t be able to stop!
Peter Stringfellow was on my table at the Club Mirror Awards (see photo) and what a nice bloke he turned out to be. Funny how you imagine people might be and then they turn out to be the exact opposite! He’s one of the boys who also happens to enjoy the company of gorgeous ladies.
I would say good luck to him, but he doesn’t need it!
The snow has come early this year and I found myself in plenty of it when I went to do an exhibition in Edinburgh with Eric Bristow and John Lowe.
The lovely, gravel-voice Russ Bray did the calling and we had a great night until the snow came down. I had another exhibition in Manchester and Eric gave me a lift, but Russ had booked a flight from Edinburgh to Luton. What a mistake!
Me and Eric were home within 24 hours, but poor old Russ took 48 hours and it probably cost him 501 quid!
When he got to the airport it was closed so he had to go back to the hotel. Then when he decided to catch the overnight train back to London, that was closed because of the snow.
He reckons he could have walked home quicker!
I said to him: There are two things I hate in life – snow and kids! The difference is that the snow goes away eventually!
Only joking. I love everyone really and send big thanks to Eric for the lift. Weren’t we lucky that we didn’t depend on planes and trains!
As I always say ‘same price Perc’!
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!