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Article: Jonny Clayton and the Social Distancing Lollipop

Jonny Clayton and the Social Distancing Lollipop

JONNY CLAYTON reckons he’s ready for the new normal on the oche of playing with a stage ‘lollipop social distancing’ man.

The World No.16 Welshman has become a key worker for Carmarthenshire council making sure the self-isolating get their shopping during the coronavirus crisis.

Clayton, 45, resumes his lucrative hobby of darts to bid for a semi-final place in the Low6 Home Tour online streaming event tonight (Tues) against Scott Waites, Max Hopp and Carl Wilkinson.

In a recent German tournament, it was played with a ‘stop and go’ stage referee to tell the players when to step forward to the oche.

He said: “If the Matchplay goes ahead then, as far as I know I’m in it. If there is a stage lollipop man, it’ll be funny and different!

“It’s just something that we are going to have to do. It will be strange but it’s important for the sport to get going again if it’s safe.

“Without a crowd it’s always going to be strange, you get fired-up with the fans and the banter. The fans do play a big part but we need to get used to it if we have to.

“I played in the UK Open a couple of years ago behind closed doors because of the Beast From The East cold weather.

“I remember it being quiet odd, but I remember more being freezing cold playing in Minehead, that’s what bothered me the most, not there being no fans.

“But it’s important to get back playing. It’s been boring not being so busy with the darts.

“I’ve been delivering food to the vulnerable every Wednesday and also doing emergency work for the council like water leakages or ceilings have come down.

“I’m always busy me. I don’t sit still for long. I’ve bought a second home and that will be where we live and sell this one. So I’ve been doing lots there as well. The only problem is that I’ve not been able to get any building materials, so it’s been frustrating.

“I like keeping darts as a hobby. If I gave up my job, I don’t know what I’d do all day. Playing darts to earn a living is extra pressure and I don’t need that!”

Clayton kicked off 2020 in epic fashion, beating Michael van Gerwen in his first TV match of the year at the Ladbrokes Masters in Milton Keynes - before hitting a nine-darter at the UK Open in early March.

It has been suggested that the Matchplay could be run at the Marshalls Arena where he beat MVG, the same venue as where the snooker is being played this week.

But he admits that the pandemic has flushed his momentum down the pan, adding: “I started off the year pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, my floor tournaments weren’t the best. But my TV performances were really good. I beat Michael (Van Gerwen) and got a nine-darter, I felt I was going in the right direction for a big year.

“You build confidence obviously and this has put a stop to it. How dare coronavirus do that to me!

“Seriously though, sport is sport. Nothing is guaranteed. I personally think I’m more than capable of beating anyone with a bit of luck and consistency.

“If everything sits in place, I know I can get results in any tournament. But nothing in sport is set in stone so you need to keep going and battling.

“Maybe I should live up to my nickname The Ferret in darts. I got it from my rugby days, because I was quiet and small in the scrum.

“In darts I’d be happy to win trophies when I’m not expected to. Just the quiet one who sneaks up to win majors.”

Clayton, who has racked up over £250,000 in prize money in two years as an oche part-timer, faces an interesting last 32 Home Tour group against Waites, Hopp and Wilkinson.

But thus far the online tournament has been all about the underdogs.

He said: “I just play in my spare room, that’s where my dartboard is. So I’ve no had anything special to do to get set up for playing live at home.

“I’m not a massive practice player, I’ve not got any routines. So basically I don’t know how to take this Home Tour event but it was good to win my group. It’s a weird feeling to be doing this live in my spare room.

“I just find darts a weird sport. If you are on form you can beat anybody but if you’re not you could be the worst player ever. It just depends if you turn up on the night.”

By Phil Lanning

Pic: Taylor Lanning

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