Darts will pay tribute to Jocky Wilson this week. Rod Harrington shares some memories of a legend.
Last Updated: 27/03/12 3:46pm
This Thursday in Cardiff, the sport of darts will honour a true legend with a minute of applause for the late Jocky Wilson.
He was a great character and there's no question he will be missed. He was a founder member of the PDC and today's players, who are earning a lot of money, owe guys like him a big favour. The game wouldn't be what it is without people like him.
His legendary rivalry with Eric Bristow and Alan Evans moved the sport forward. You had a Scotsman, an Englishman and a Welshman putting spark into the game and it really captured the attention. They were superstars and they were recognised everywhere they went.
They didn't hate each other off the board, but they were incredibly fiery when they got on that oche. I remember Jocky giving Eric a kick in the shins before a Scotland v England match and while I'm not saying that should be allowed, it made for sporting drama. You hear modern players complaining about the booing from the crowds, but those guys wouldn't have flinched; they just got on with it.
The talent of the man was unbelievable too. Whenever I stood behind him he'd flick and lunge around, but then you'd look at the dartboard and somehow it would land in the treble 20 or the double. He was remarkable.
I remember going up to Scotland in the late 1980's and watched him do an unforgettable exhibition in a pub in Ayr. In the second leg of the night he took out 1001 in 19 darts and I've never seen anything like it since. That's akin to Phil Taylor at his very best.
He was also a great character. I remember one occasion in Ireland we were showing some sponsors a trick where Eric would throw darts and I'd catch them before they hit the board. Then all of a sudden, Jocky strolled up and said 'catch this' before chucking a dart straight at my stomach. We laughed about that afterwards because that was what he was like; a very volatile person and a great character.
I also saw what a lovely guy he was as well. I remember going to the World Matchplay when my youngest son was only six years old and he went up to Jocky at the bar one night to ask for a set of flights. The next morning, Jocky bounded into our hotel room and gave Ryan a huge bag of darts, flights, stems and signed photos. He really went out of his way and that was a side of him that a lot of people didn't see.
A bit like Hurricane Higgins or George Best, you wouldn't always see the best of them, but you need characters like that in sport. Without him darts wouldn't have grown as quickly as it has. It wouldn't work if all the players were brilliant, but boring, professionals.
There's no question he abused his body, as many darts players do, and sadly it caught up with him in the end. He was only 62, which is no age, and maybe other players can learn from that. But more importantly we need to remember and recognise what a great player he was.
Without him the game wouldn't be where it is today.
Our thoughts will also be with Gary Anderson, who will miss Thursday night's event following the death of his father.
He will take a week off and Adrian Lewis will play two games in Cardiff. Gary will then repay the favour by playing twice in Sheffield on April 12.
Let's take a look at what we can expect...
Adrian Lewis v Andy Hamilton
It will be very tough for Adrian Lewis to play two games in one night. In the weekend tour events you have to play six or seven games in a day to win, but it's different when you're going up in front of massive crowds on TV. You have to try and get yourself up for the first game and when you come off the stage, win or lose, you will naturally come down. It can then be hard to get up for a second match. In the early days of the Premier League you'd regularly play twice in one night and none of the players liked it.
Furthermore he's not playing at the top of his game, although his victory over Kevin Painter last week will give him some confidence. He's up against Andy Hamilton, who proved his street-fighting qualities in Dublin by battling to a deserved draw with Simon Whitlock. If he can up his scoring he will be very hard to beat. Normally you would back Lewis to win this, but with the way Hamilton has been playing it wouldn't surprise me if we saw a draw.
James Wade v Simon Whitlock
James Wade was heavily beaten by Phil Taylor last week, but you have to put that in your locker and forget about it. At the moment Taylor's producing performances like that against everybody and Wade needs to focus on the previous two weeks when he was playing quite well.
These two players know each other's games very well and it should be a close match. Whitlock was the favourite to beat Hamilton in Dublin, but missed a few doubles and that's something that has cost him a number of points in the last few weeks. This is a tough one to call and once again I could see a draw, but if I had to pick a winner I would take Wade to nick a close-fought game.
Kevin Painter v Phil Taylor
This is the second time these two players have met in the Premier League and I think it's good for Kevin Painter to get The Power out of the way early. Phil won both of the tour events last weekend and whether it's on the floor or on TV he is beating everybody. I have a friend called Jamie Donaldson, who is a professional golfer and he shot 61 at the European Tour event in Morocco last weekend. He texted me to say he was in a "Taylor zone" - and that seems to be the byword for doing something exceptional in sport these days!
Kev has got nothing to lose here. He took five legs off Taylor last time they met in Aberdeen and he can just go onto the stage with no pressure and try to stand toe-to-toe with him. He's got to go up there and have a right go at Taylor to try and build some confidence because he tends to get down on himself when he misses doubles. However, I can't see anybody getting near Taylor and this should be another heavy win.
Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis
Barney's performance against Anderson in Dublin was the best I've seen from him in the last two years. He's been a bit lacklustre in the middle of matches this season, but last week he was on form in every single leg. He's talking a completely different game now, he's playing in the tour events to keep himself sharp and I think he's back to his best.
This will be the second game of the night for Lewis and as a result I think Barney will win. There's always a chance that the real Adrian Lewis will turn up, but I think he'll find it hard to get up for a second match, especially against a confident Raymond van Barneveld. This is a tough task for Lewis for all sorts of reasons.