Belfast Telegraph

Crafty Cockney Eric Bristow shoots from lip

By Billy Weir

One of the first questions Gabriel Clarke asked in the latest excellent instalment of ITV4's superb Sports Stories series was 'what's your biggest strength?'.

'My mental strength' was the reply from Tuesday night's subject, Eric Bristow, who had shown precious little of that on Saturday evening when somehow he found himself on The Chase.

Unbelievably he got to the final where the only question he got right was 'how many darts do you have at the start of a throw' but then again he was much brighter than his fellow jungle contestant, Nadine Dorries, which is surely a reason for never visiting a ballot box ever again.

Anyhow, back to Gabriel, who was persisting with the same line of interrogation, the biggest weakness eliciting an answer of 'none' and one lesson in darts 'don't trust nobody.' Confidence and low self-esteem were never the Crafty Cockney's way.

And thus it continued, some insights with Eric interspersed with clips from down the years including the infamous match with Jocky Wilson in Scotland, sponsored by Holsten Pils, where a can of the sponsor's finest whistled by Eric's lug and crashed against the wall as he prepared to throw for the match.

He won, as happened so often when he was in his pomp, the sharpness and accuracy of his projectiles only matched by the rapier-like qualities of his tongue.

For example, defeat in an early World Championships was dealt with by him concluding: "I was never going to be like a Jimmy White who choked every time – I was going to win, I was too good not to win it."

And he was right, seeing off Bobby George in 1980 and being interviewed, bizarrely, by Peter Purves, who hadn't dealt with Eric's type on Blue Peter, whose praise of Bobby was met with Bristow predicting that his victim had the potential 'to be the No.2 of the future.'

There were darker days to come, the loss of Wilson, his unsuccessful battle to overcome dartitis, creating the monster that is Phil Taylor and most damning of all, appearing in an episode of Supergran.

But love or loathe him, and people did and do in equal measure, in the words of the man himself, he did 'a little bit for darts, and if you don't like it, up yours.' Quite.

Belfast Telegraph


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