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The Power and the glory: is Phil Taylor the greatest?

By Jonathan McCambridge

Darts king Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor has laid an unlikely but legitimate claim to being recognised as the world’s greatest ever sporting star.

The Stoke thrower captured his 15th world title in 20 years at the Professional Darts Championships in London on Sunday night, a quite staggering feat during the most competitive era ever for professional darts.

The only multiple world champion who can rival Taylor’s historic success is a snooker legend from the archives, Joe Davis. Davis also won 15 world championships between 1927 and 1946, although most of his triumphs came in one-off challenge matches and he did not have to endure the high pressure tournament format that Taylor has excelled in.

Of course, because of the historic association of darts as a pub game, Taylor is never going to achieve the level of sporting worship given to the heroes of boxing, tennis or golf. He is never seriously going to appear on a list of all-time sporting legends alongside Muhammad Ali, Pele, Don Bradman, Roger Federer or Jack Nicklaus.

There are many who still refuse even to acknowledge darts as a sport, claiming there is not enough athletic action for it to qualify. True enough Taylor and some of his portly counterparts are not Charles Atlas material, and most players (Taylor excepted) admit that they down more than a few pints before they step up to the oche.

However, the popularity of darts, mostly down to Taylor’s immense success and a huge injection of funds from Sky TV, is on the rise, leading to many other sporting stars queuing up to recognise Taylor as one of the giants of the modern sporting landscape.

Boxing great Ricky Hatton recently said of Taylor: “His work ethic is incredible. With his dedication he's one of the greatest sportsmen alive.”

Still not convinced? What about this from cricketing hero Andrew Flintoff: “Taylor should be rewarded and celebrated for a fantastic career. He practises for five or six hours a day and his appetite is amazing. He's got to be regarded as one of our top sportsmen.”

Or this from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard: “On the big stage he always delivers. He's not just a great sportsman, he's a role model.”

Leading darts aficionados in Northern Ireland have also paid tribute to Taylor’s achievements.

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Darts Organisation Trevor Ditty described Taylor as an inspiration to all young competitors.

“Phil Taylor began his career in the BDO (British Darts Organisation) before moving over to the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) and he has been a fine ambassador for the game,” he said.

“You can’t take away from what he has achieved and I can’t see anyone being fit to better him in the foreseeable future. He was absolutely brilliant in Sunday night’s final.”

Mr Ditty admits that darts lags some way behind football, rugby and GAA in Northern Ireland, but claims its popularity is back on the increase.

“It had gone into decline about five years ago but is becoming more popular,” he added. “People like Phil Taylor have been a real inspiration.”

Local fans hoping to ‘check out’ Taylor will be relieved that they do not have to wait long to see the legend.

He will be appearing in Britain’s biggest indoor sporting event, the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts, at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on February 25.

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