Authors: Eric Bristow
About the Book
ERIC BRISTOW MBE is considered to be the greatest darts player of all time. He was an unmistakable figure on the oche during his 1980s heyday, and became renowned not just for the number of world titles he won but for his arrogance on stage and off it.
In this candid account Bristow reveals how darts proved a salvation from his early life as a cat burglar, shoplifter and thug, introducing him to a new world of beer, babes and undreamed of success. And in his rapid rise to the top he gives fascinating insights into the characters that pioneered darts in those early days and how, when his own career began to slide at the end of the decade, he trained his protégé Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, turning him into the most successful player darts has ever known.
Bristow holds nothing back as he reveals his battle with dartitis, a psychological condition which left him unable to let go of the dart and almost destroyed his career; his relationship with girlfriend and former women’s world darts champion Maureen Flowers; and his occasional all-to-public falls from grace.
Bristow’s life story is a thrill-a-minute ride through the raucous world of darts and how it has helped to shape and drive his life over the past forty years.
About the Author
ERIC BRISTOW MBE was the most successful darts player of the 1980s and single-handedly turned the game into a worldwide spectator sport. He won five World Championships between 1980 and 1986, five World Masters, and has won almost every tournament in the game at least once. Between 1980 and 1987 he reigned as number one in the world and in 1989 was given an MBE for his services to the sport. He currently works as a pundit and commentator for
and tours Britain with other famous darts names such as John Lowe as part of the
PAUL CARTER began his career in journalism in 1990 at the
. He has worked as a sports reporter for the
, feature writer for the
and also at
. In 1996 Paul joined
and was made editor of the
in 2001. He quit in September 2007 to pursue a career as a writer. Paul has had one other book published in 2006,
Behind Palace Doors
, the story of the Queen Mother as told through the eyes of her equerry Major Colin Burgess.
For all my family, friends and supporters and especially for my former drivers Trevor Band and Phil Dacasto who have sadly passed away, and Bass entertainments manager Malcolm Powell who supported me during my lowest moment in darts.
Writing this book wouldn’t have been possible without the goodwill, vision and encouragement of so many people who have helped me in my career throughout the years. I’d particularly like to thank all those involved with the BDO especially Ollie Croft and his late wife Lorna who put a great structure in place for darts to build upon; all the officials and organisers involved in the PDC, especially John Raby, without whom there would’ve been no PDC; everyone at Sky Sports for making darts bigger than it has ever been in its history and supporting it through its troubled times during the breakaway from the BDOs and Dick Allix who managed me for over two decades. I’d also like to thank everyone at Random House for their help in making this book happen, especially editor Timothy Andrews; Jonathan Harris of literary agents Luxton Harris; and finally Paul Carter for doing such a great job in writing the book. I also send my appreciation to all those who have shown
help, support and patience and who have backed me during my career in darts with all the ups and downs that went with it – and there were many of those.
‘YOU PLAY LIKE
These were the words my dad George said to me when he first watched me play darts. I was eleven years old and he’d just bought me a board for my birthday. I was playing in my bedroom.
‘I can’t take you down the pub if you play like that,’ he said.
I’d never played darts before, but three weeks later I was getting regular three-dart scores of a hundred plus. The trouble was I had a unique style of throwing that in my dad’s eyes looked suspect. It involved standing to the side and holding the dart lower down the barrel so my little finger rested on the tip of it. This hindered my throwing action. To overcome this I raised my little finger in the air so there was no contact with the point.
‘You look like a little posh boy holding a china tea-cup,’ he said.
‘Give it a rest, Dad,’ I said to him. ‘This is the way I play, and this is the way I’ll always play.’
He didn’t like it, but it was a style that gave me five World Championships, five World Masters, two
News of the World
titles, four British Opens, three Butlins Grand Masters and numerous Open wins in Sweden, Denmark and North America, plus a host of other titles – and pretty soon everybody was copying my throwing style. As soon as I got good there were thousands of other players in pubs and clubs up and down the country all playing with raised pinkies. They thought they could be great darts players just by lifting up their little finger. What a bunch of wallies!
I was born in Ward 6, Hackney Hospital, East London, at 5.50 a.m. on 25 April 1957, and weighed a healthy, though not huge, six pounds. My mum Pamela was a telephonist in the City and Dad was a plasterer. Mum was the rock in our family, she was the one who pushed me and encouraged me, and she always stood up for me whenever I got into any trouble, which was quite often. My dad was a bit quieter. He had his routine: the occasional trip down the bookies, the pub on a Sunday afternoon, that sort of thing. We lived in Stoke Newington, where you learnt at an early age that life on the streets was tough. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but in my case it was true. After the Second World War Stoke Newington, like many run-down areas, suffered
the hands of urban planners who tore down the slums and replaced them with housing estates. These quickly became a magnet for crime. I was lucky in that I lived in a big three-storey Victorian house. It’d be worth a fortune now because Stoke Newington, like most places in the East End, has been yuppified. However, it was slap bang in the middle of these new housing projects.
On the bottom floor of our house lived my nan, we lived on the middle floor and at the top was my Auntie Ethel. Nan smoked Kensington cigarettes all her life and when I was a kid I used to sneak into her living room and steal a few, like you do when you’re young. Later on, when I’d made it at darts and was on good money, I lived with the guilt of stealing her fags so I’d use my winnings to buy her packets of two hundred, which I’d take round to her house, together with a crate of Guinness. She drank Guinness every night.
In those early days one thing a young boy had to do, living in London’s East End, was learn to survive. Stoke Newington was tough and you had to be streetwise to get on. When I was a teenager I got in with a gang. My crew was known as the Oxton Boys. We were petty thieves getting up to mischief, but we were mere foot soldiers compared to the bigger gangs, of which the main one at the time was the Richardson’s. They were the governors on our patch and were led by Charlie Richardson. You didn’t mess with them: you avoided them at all costs and if you crossed them you left the country: either that or
end up dead. They were also known as the Torture Gang. Their ‘speciality’ was pinning victims to the floor with six-inch nails and removing their toes with bolt cutters. Other tortures included whippings, cigarette burning, teeth being pulled out with pliers, and electrocution into unconsciousness. The electrocutions were inflicted by an old Army field telephone which acted as a generator. The victims had the terminals attached to their nipples and bollocks and were then forced into a bath of cold water to enhance the electrical charge. Afterwards, if they were too badly injured, they’d be sent to a doctor who’d been struck off the Medical Register. If you saw a member of the Richardson Gang you put your head down, kept yourself to yourself and behaved. It was as simple as that. They used a pub just round the corner from where we hung out.
I always walked the streets with a claw hammer stuffed down the front of my trousers in case of any trouble. Everywhere I went I took it with me. That claw hammer became my best friend. It got me out of some sticky situations because you never felt totally safe walking the streets of Stoke Newington. Your worst enemy could always be lurking in the shadows or around the next corner. Our gang were a handy bunch, if a little small-time. I got in trouble with the police on lots of occasions for thieving, or beating people up or stealing cars. We loved the Mini Cooper S. If we saw one of those we’d have it. They were great, really nippy.
My first brush with the law came when I was thirteen. I’d borrowed a couple of monkey wrenches from a friend and was trying to steal money from a telephone box. There were two Turkish lads and myself. The police caught us red-handed and I had to appear at juvenile court, but I got away with it thanks to Mum. She’d been advised by the police to make me admit the crime, but she was having none of it. She got £40-worth of legal aid and a solicitor who established that the phone box had been tampered with before I and my two accomplices had got to work with the wrench. My brief got this fact by cross-examining a police sergeant who you could see going bright red in the face as he realised I was going to walk away free and innocent. Then I got nicked for joy-riding. Three of us had stolen a car, but the idiot driving it couldn’t get out of third gear. We were being chased by the cops and had to abandon it. If you’re being chased by the cops you really need someone who can drive. One of us got caught and grassed on the others. I remember a copper coming to my house and saying to me: ‘You’re going down this time, son.’
I got away with that as well when the police decided not to press charges. It had something to do with the driver being the son of a policeman, which was handy.
At weekends four of us would go out stealing. A local menswear shop was a particular favourite of mine. It was designed so the main window handles were on the
. By hanging on the handle and pulling it down I could open the window, climb in and help myself to whatever I wanted. I did this about half a dozen times. Then, one night I was walking past, saw that nobody was about and pushed my fingers under the handle and took a tight grip to pull it open. All of a sudden I felt a shock of pain running through my hands. The shop owner, tired of my pilfering, had used sticky tape to fix razor blades under the handles. I was badly cut; my hands were a mess.
A tobacconist shop was another favourite. Attached to the door was a tinkling bell which rang when a customer walked in. I was a big lad, so it was easy for me to open the door slowly and grab the bell so that it didn’t ring. Then I slipped inside and helped myself to as many fags as I could physically carry. By the time the shopkeeper realised some of his stock was missing I was long gone. I was particularly good with a knife, and if ever there was a small gap between a door and its frame I could get a blade in there and flip the lock. Sheds were a particular speciality. I could get in any shed.