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Bobby's 70s

BOBBY GEORGE is without doubt the most colourful, charismatic and entertaining player in the history of darts. But what makes him so special is that he didn't pick up a dart until he was 30 years of age!

However, he might have been a late starter but it didn't diminish his ability to dazzle all that came before him. Indeed, he literally burst onto the professional darts scene in the late 1970's with a natural flair and ability to enhance his larger-than-life personality.

In 1976 he won the very first singles event he entered ­ the Hainault Super League Singles, and soon became the dominant force in the Eastern Counties by winning the Essex Masters three years in succession.

Never one to do things by half he reached the Quarter- Finals of the Winmau World Masters in 1977, and won his first major title, the North American Open in 1978.

1979 was to be the year that Bobby George announced that he had arrived as a world-class player, with an incredible victory in the famous News Of The World Championship.

There had never been a more impressive victory before or since, as he became the first and only player to win the title without dropping one single leg of darts! His best of 3-leg televised victories from the Quarter-Finals onwards took him just 93 darts in total (an average of 97) to establish him as a true World Champion.

To prove the point, he beat Leighton Rees, the very first Embassy World Champion in 1978, in the final of the 1979 Butlins Grand Masters. A year later, he successfully defended the prestigious title with a win in the final against Bill Lennard.

 

Bobby's 80s

Now the supreme master of the spotlight, Bobby secured his place as the People's Champion in the 1980 Embassy World Championship. Seen by millions on BBC Television, his good looks, cheeky grin and wonderful ability as a darts player immediately established him as an outstanding character. He beat Dave Whitcombe, Leighton Rees and Cliff Lazarenko to produce an epic 1980 final against Eric Bristow.

In what is still regarded as one of the greatest darts matches of all time, Bobby made his first ever entrance with sequinned shirt and candelabra. He became the Liberace of televised darts and was in a winning position until an uncharacteristic loose dart handed the title to Bristow.

Bobby had won the hearts and minds of the darting public, and went on to reach the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final in the following two Embassy's. This included an unbelievable second-round win in 1982, when in the deciding leg against Doug McCarthy, Bobby needed 161 as McCarthy sat on 40. He produced one of the most incredible match winning game shots ever seen in the Embassy ­ t20, t17, Bull ­ and went on to meet John Lowe in another classic Semi-Final.

1981 saw Bobby collapse during the British Professionals in Middlesborough. His spleen burst and he nearly bled to death!! - He spent five weeks at Middlesborough Hospital - but he still managed to get to the 1982 Embassy!

There were two other memorable matches against Eric Bristow. Bobby lost to him in the World Masters Semi-Final in 1979, but was victorious in 1982 when he won the WDF Europe Cup Singles title as an integral part of England's winning team.

Over the years, Bobby has represented England on 26 occasions and remains in the list of all-time Top 10 winning players for England.

In 1985, against all the odds, he beat newly crowned British Professional and World No.3 Mike Gregory in the First Round of the Embassy.

Bobby was a regular in the latter stages of many major tournaments and Internationals, and was once again proudly crowned News Of The World Champion in 1986.

It was at about this time in his career that Bobby faced an important choice ­ to continue tournament darts or to turn his attention to darts exhibitions? In the end, he made his decision to concentrate on exhibitions ­ 'fun darts' as he has always called it - based on his personal circumstances and not his form.

 

Bobby's 90s

Many believe that Bobby would have become one of the greatest tournament players of all time had he carried on, and ironically the decline in televised darts coincided with his absence from the major events. Undoubtedly, the loss of a huge character like him was a significant blow to the popularity of darts.

Typically, when he decided to return to competitive darts in the early 1990's, he did so with considerable style, panache and success! He entered the qualifiers for the 1993 Embassy World Professional and came through the tough International Play-Offs to make it to the famous Lakeside stage with some incredible darts.

He beat No.7 Seed Keith Sullivan 3-1 in the First Round, and then Welshman Martin Phillips 3-0 in the Second Round, before meeting No.2 Seed Mike Gregory in the Quarter-Final.

He beat him 4-2 before going on to play yet another classic against eventual champion John Lowe in the Semi-Final. The score was 5-3 to Lowe, but Bobby missed a couple of crucial doubles that would probably have taken him to the title instead of Old Stoneface.

When the infamous 'split' came in 1994, Bobby carried the extra burden of being the only 'darts legend' to contest that year's Embassy. The others had unceremoniously turned their backs on the Championship that had made their names ­ but Bobby remained fiercely loyal and played brilliant darts despite a serious back injury caused in his match against Kevin Kenny.

His Semi-Final against Sweden's Magnus Caris could only go ahead following urgent manipulation of his damaged spine, and Bobby looked out of it at 4-2 down. But, he had other ideas and won a remarkable 9 legs without reply from the hapless Swede!

Bobby faced his second Embassy World Final wearing a steel corset to hold him upright. In truth, he went against doctor's orders to play Canadian John Part and, on ability, should have won easily.

Bobby outscored Part in practically every game they played, but because of the his considerable pain and lack of mobility, he simply could not hit the doubles. Bobby was miles ahead in most of the legs but could not hold still enough to hit his doubles! Incredibly Bobby went to check-out 49 timesand succeeded in only 5!! Inconsistency had nothing to do with it! as some top pro. said at the time.

Typically, he took defeat with dignity and presented Part with a cake afterwards. He even made a little bit of history! It transpired that 14 years after playing his very first Embassy, Bobby had become the oldest player to reach the final at 48!

A few weeks after that final, it was found that he had literally broken his back and had to have 8 titanium screws inserted into the base of his spine just so that he could stand upright!

Not that it deterred him from returning to the Championship he loves most of all. Indeed, from 1995 onwards, Bobby established himself as the undisputed 'King Of The Qualifiers' by returning to Lakeside in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2002 through the tough International Play-Offs.

 

Bobby's 2000 Plus

It was in 1999 that Bobby took another change in direction by becoming a BBC TV presenter at the Embassy. Such was his success that he has been a much respected studio pundit at every Embassy since then. Today, he co-presents each Embassy with Ray Stubbs (he has also done so with John Inverdale) and is known as the BBC's 'face of darts'.

On the playing front, his performances in the new Millennium have shown that he remains a true class act on the oche. He beat top PDC player Dennis Ovens before taking Ronnie Baxter to the wire in the 2000 Embassy. Then in 2002, he played Dutch superstar Raymond Barneveld in yet another classic Embassy match. It was his 15th Embassy appearance, making him equal 3rd with the legendary Jocky Wilson, in the all-time list of Embassy participants.

In 2002 he was asked to present and appear in the most comprehensive darts video of all-time: 'The Story Of Darts' produced for High Street retail giants W H Smith and sponsored by the Sunday Express.

Part of the video was filmed at George Hall, Bobby's country estate in Essex, and his acting ability has led to two film roles that are to be seen in 2003. He is playing London gangster Tony 'Butcher' Barton in the British film 'Dog', and will play himself in yet another British film 'Poison Arrows'.

The latter has an all-star cast, including Ralf Little from TV's 'The Royle Family', comedian Harry Hill and Starsky & Hutch legend David Soul. Three-quarters of its content will be filmed at Lakeside during the 2003 Embassy.

Away from darts, Bobby is happily married to Marie and lives with their two sons, Robert and Richard in the 18-bedroom George Hall, which he built himself.

George Hall has three fishing lakes which are open to the public and available for corporate entertaining

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