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Article: Taylor the toiler

Taylor the toiler

Phil Taylor^s display in the World Championship final justifies my case for saying he^s up there with Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens and Mohammad Ali as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.

His average of 111 is not just the best ever in a PDC final, but the best final average myself and Dave Lanning can remember in the history of darts - and Dave started doing this in 1971.

He was hitting two of the requisite trebles every visit and it truly was a magnificent display from The Power.

Somebody posted on my last blog to say I was biased towards Phil Taylor. I^m sorry, but that^s a load of rubbish.

Let me explain. I^ve been involved with darts since 1972 when myself and Dave Lanning went to the News of the Worlds at Ally Pally. Back then we saw two things; firstly that darts was sport in miniature and was perfect for television; and secondly we saw the subculture of Welshman playing darts for thousands of pounds in side betting.

In 1972 men were putting up three or four times their wages into a kitty to back two Welshmen at darts. Out of that amazing subculture came Leighton Rees and Alan Evans. Eric Bristow then watched these guys and won it a few years later and Taylor has come along and taken the game to even greater heights.

It^s not that I^m in love with Phil Taylor or indeed with the working classes. It^s just that myself and Dave were two of the first people to see the potential of darts.

How do we feel now after seeing where the game has gone? We feel like two blokes watching their son run out at Wembley with the three lions on his chest.

Practice makes perfect

Raymond van Barneveld said after the final that any man who can practise for 10 hours a day - as Taylor does - deserves everything he gets. I thought that was a really significant quote.

Taylor^s work ethic is incredible. He practised for a minimum of four hours on Christmas Day and I think he was working on that problematic double 16.

That ethic has been with him for a long time. When he was first married with children, he used to do nine hours work a day in a factory before spending another couple of hours under a car to make an extra few quid. He had the mentality that the hours you put in will boost your bank balance and that paid for his kids^ food and clothes in the early 1980s.

He brings the same ethos to his new job as world darts champion and it has certainly borne fruit. By my reckoning he has clocked up a minimum of £9million since he became world champion for the first time.

He has amazing pride in what he does. I was given 20 Staffordshire oatcakes by some fans at my hotel last week and was asked to sign a picture for the canteen ladies at The Sentinel, the daily newspaper in Stoke.

I told Taylor about this and he was so thrilled that the Sentinel had sent a reporter and a photographer. It meant more to him that they were there than The Times, The Sun, The Mirror, The Star, Sky Sports and the other TV channels added together. He^s an amazing character.

Best of the rest

I thought Taylor^s problems around the double 16 and the double 8 might let him down and I also thought Barney might give up hope when the pressure was on. Both of those fears proved to be unfounded.

I didn^t think Barney would be able to live with Taylor in the final, but I was proved wrong. If he^d thrown three better darts in set four it would have been 2-2 and we could have had a much closer game. As it was, Taylor got to 3-1 and there was no looking back from there.

Other guys to emerge with credit from the tournament include Jelle Klaasen, who looked the part as he reached the quarter-finals.

I^ve also been fascinated by the Geordie Aussie Paul Nicholson, who showed absolute dedication. He was the dude with attitude in those Elvis Costello-style specs and he was absolutely magnificent.

Feeling good

Generally, the last three weeks gave me some of the most exciting matches I^ve ever commentated on. On day one alone there were three 100-plus averages and five of the seeds went out.

When the standard is so high the commentators say less. For want of a better word we are not apologising and there is no need for us to ramble on.

Another reason why I was feeling so good was that the PDC brought in a very nice masseuse for the last three days of the tournament.

Before the final I had this girl working on my shoulders and my neck for 20 minutes. Afterwards I was so loose I could have limbo^d underneath a swing door!

Whatever next? Will we get a steam and sauna room at Ally Pally next year? Barney may have sacked his Zen Master, but the commentators are getting massages. Who^d have thought darts would end up like this!

Stort By: Sky Sports,19793,12535_4759863,00.html

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