Belfast Telegraph

By George, Four darts is way forward

Billy On The Box

By Billy Weir

I must confess that when I heard the World Darts Championship was moving from the BBC to Channel Four my heart did sink a little.

Some of my earliest sporting (and it is a sport) highlights back in smoke-filled days were brought to us by Sid Waddell and Tony Green on the Beeb from the Lakeside Club at Frimley Green.

Back then it was known as the Embassy World Championships, not a battle between foreign diplomats but often the fourth missile being held by the darter, three tungsten and one tobacco, with names that still trip off the tongue.

Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Jocky Wilson, big Dave Whitcombe, even bigger Cliff Lazarenko, Keith Deller and his wobbly darts and my personal favourite, the Limestone Cowboy himself, Bob Anderson, whose, as any fan will know, early prowess as a javelin thrower had, by law, to be mentioned at some point.

Of course things have changed, the smoke has cleared, the clink of pint pots has been replaced by some strange substance called water and this version of the World Championship is now the Vanarama Conference to the PDC's Premiership.

The BBC decided that with the sport making something of a comeback to jettison its coverage and Channel Four snapped up the terrestrial rights and now shares the coverage with BT Sport.

Of course Channel Four is the home of the likes of Embarrassing Bodies and Shameless but also has a whiff of the politically correct about it, so I was slightly fearful that the beer-quaffing, pie-munching fraternity would be sipping coconut water and eating lentil burgers as we arrived on Saturday lunchtime.

To put our minds at rest, Channel Four have enlisted the services of the world's most cheerful man, Rob Walker (above), a man who would laugh and smile if he was being impaled by three polonium tipped arrows.

He will be better known to you as the annoying man who shouts a lot before snooker players come out to play and as he stood outside he told us that "for nine days this venue known for cabaret, comedians and singers transforms itself into a festival of arrows". Just as well the Limestone Cowboy is at home with his javelin.

Once he got in, Rob got down on his knees on the oche to "touch the hallowed carpet" which was a bit strange and then alienated the cleaners by saying "it maybe just needs a hoover before we get going" and he then committed an even bigger crime by admitting that the Lakeside World Championship isn't all it seems.

"We all know there are two World Championships, the PDC is rightly heralded for great champions and great averages, but you know what, in each of the last eight years when I arrive here, I've been really happy," he said, but not as much as Mrs Walker who can get her head showered and run the hoover around in peace.

What's that, sexist, I hear you cry? Hang on, darts is no longer just a man's game, the women are here too, playing on the stage and behind the scenes too with roving reporter Seema Jaswal who got to meet a man who is as politically correct as a Stormont heating scheme.

"I'm with a man who needs no introduction whatsoever - Bobby George," she said, so only a small introduction needed, in a room that may have been at the Lakeside or my granny's living room as the carpet was identical and from some time ago.

"How much has this changed?" she enquired of the man with no name (Bobby George).

"It's a lot bigger, it was smaller then," came the reply. He may have been talking about the room or himself or both but no matter, best to move on before Phil and Kirsty arrive to try and sell it or Kevin McCloud constructs a gazebo made from pork scratchings.

"If they play good on that dartboard here they're going to take that onto the stage but that doesn't always happen," explained Bobby as they tottered past the practice boards.

"You can hit everything on the practice board but when you get out there Shaky Stevens comes in," he snorted as they headed for the door, a green one presumably.

"Oh I bet because it's such a psychological game," retorted Seema, which led to a slight pause and then this classic.

"Well, it's a mind game as well." Thanks for clearing that up, Bobby.

"It's physical as well as you have to practice and use your body," he added, but thankfully there was no sign of the doctors from Embarrassing Bodies as we reached the corridor, the only light being provided by the gold festooning Bobby's bits.

"I love the bling, by the way, it looks very well," Seema said.

"It's all chocolate, darlin', I have to put it in the fridge," came the reply as suddenly we were whisked back a generation when a 180 on Channel Four was how many viewers they had.

Onto Sunday and Rob popped up in the Artistes' Bar ahead of Martin 'Wolfie' Adams' clash, surrounded by a gallery of stars who have graced the Lakeside stage.

"Tarbuck, Forsyth, Max Boyce, Norman Wisdom, Tommy Cooper and the late, great Les Dawson," he said, cruelly over-looking Nookie the Bear and Renee and Renato.

There were even more famous names as a preliminary round game featured Tom Sawyer against Paul Hogan, the winner going on to play Huckleberry Finn or Crocodile Dundee next, before Rob struggled to make himself heard over the melodic strains of Agadoo.

By the end of the tournament Channel Four may have changed forever. Jim Davidson will be presenting Countdown, Jon Snow will front the news topless and in David Sharkey's exciting new six-part documentary series he will look at great Georges from throughout time - The Third, Lloyd, Michael, Boy, from Rainbow, and the greatest of them all, Bobby.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph