Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Sid and the slinging of outrageous arrows

I have a dirty and lurid confession that I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while now and I feel that the time is right — I had fallen right out of love with darts.

Shocking stuff and not the sordid ovine-based shame that many of you would have surmised, but the return of the Premier League has rekindled my feelings for my first love.

This was helped in no small part last Thursday evening with the welcome return of Sid Waddell, back after his fight against illness on a night when there was a new look for the tungsten tossers.

After years of alcohol-related sponsors it’s nice to see McCoys taking over, although not the Moneyglass-based horse-racing twins, Tony and AP, as I first thought, but it turns out they’re a purveyor of manly potato crisps.

This may be the start, though, of a worrying healthier new image for the game and in five years time will Dave Clark be introducing us to an evening of Activia Premier League darts with 8,000 fans smashed out of their heads on Yop? Leighton Rees will be spinning in his grave.

Sid was eased back gently, given just the night’s opening game as one of the new boys, Andy Hamilton, took on James Wade, with the bard of the board going all English Literature on us as he told us ‘Charles Dickens would have called James ‘Pip’ because his family had great expectations.’

I understood that but quite what he meant by ‘sometimes he looks like a man trying to eat candy floss in a wind tunnel’ is way beyond mine or Dickens’ comprehension.

The Manchester Arena was described as ‘a cross between the Munich Beer Festival and the Coliseum in Rome when the Christians were on the menu’ but the real gladiatorial battle was yet to come.

Sid made way and next up it was Raymond van Barneveld and Simon Whitlock with the Dutchman abandoning his traditional orange number for a natty new lime one. You see, Peter Robinson goes to one gaelic match and the whole world turns upside down.

Another great game with Barney looking like the ‘real McCoy’ according to Wayne Mardle, keeping the sponsor, happy, and revealed that the ‘World Cup was very tensing on the players.’ It would take more than one Sherpa to get darts throwers to the top of Everest.

The walk-on girls have survived the move towards the 20th century, and how nice it was to see Germaine Greer and Sandi Toksvig leading out Gary ‘Angry’ Anderson and Kevin ‘The’ Painter for game three, with the Scotsman missing out on more doubles than an AA meeting.

And so onto the denouement, the battle between the sorcerer and the apprentice, as Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis locked horns like two Martine McCutcheons fighting over the last pot of Spelga.

Lewis romped into a 5-0 lead, before the mother of all comebacks as Taylor powered (pun intended) back to 6-6 and then everyone went home happy and quite merry as the last two legs were shared.

So, Sid is back, the lovely ladies in their lovely new outfits are back and the best arrows in the world are back. I’m in love again and I don’t care who knows it. Anyone for a yoghurt?

Belfast Telegraph

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