Weekend with the Pro Tour
Krispy from Darts, Beers & Cheers! hits Barnsley
Danger and Krispy^s darts road trip - Saturday
As before (when I went to Wigan earlier in the year) I was buzzing with excitement - another great weekend coming up - 12 hours or so of close up darts, and the small matter of an England game in the evening (little did I know then what a small matter that game would be.. doh!).
Silton darts legend and good mate Lee ^Danger^ Griffin picked me up about 9am.. and we programmed in Barnsley FC into the sat nav, as it is pretty damn close to the Metrodome. Amazingly we managed to find the place pretty quickly.. although it did get a bit one way at times (up and down a feck off hill to. Well it^s a big hill for a Peterborough lad, I got a nose bleed from altitude! :D)
Our timing was spot on, as we met our invitee, Steve ^Mr Magic^ Maish on the stairs, as he was off for a medicinal ^sanity stick^. I haven^t known Steve for long, but he^s a fantastic bloke, as friendly as they come - but he^s not known for being organised.. so luckily the PDC security believed us when we said we were Maishy^s guests .. else we^d have had to wait for him to finish his smoke :)
The venue looked better than at Wigan - the toilets especially so (that wouldn^t have been hard). Straight to the bar for thirst quencher. While in the queue for a drink I turned round asking Lee (well I thought it was Lee) if I could get him a pint - only to have Terry ^The Bull^ Jenkins reply "that would be very kind of you". I^m sure you^ve seen Jenkins on TV - and he really is the same when you meet him in person, always smiling and laughing.
Justin Pipe in his marathon game against Dennis Priestly on Sunday
We then took a stroll around looking for Justin Pipe (who has just won the sponsorship of the Stars of Darts forum, including some of my own hard earned cash). I found Justin at his table - where he introduced me to Gary Anderson. After a quick chat, Justin told Gary to show me his ^trick^ ... and suddenly 3 pound coins were found. I was hoping that this wasn^t the time I was about to lose my beer tokens.. but I needn^t have worried. Gary went on to pretty much astound me - he can spin the coins and call them heads or tails.. and he got it right EVERY TIME. He must have spun 12 coins.. no mistakes. Justin joked that they could set-up a table in Vegas and clear up.. and I think he^s right!
We then caught up with Maishy - who stood chatting with Lee and myself. He didn^t even leave our side as the draw came up - so found out that he had James Wade in round 1 from other players as they walked past. Not a great draw to have early on!
I tried to follow Justin Pipe and Steve Maish^s games, and was rewarded with some great darts from Justin - unfortunately Steve did go out round 1, 6-2 to Wade. Justin started off solid with a 6-3 against Trevor Frost... but his second round was against Simon Whitlock. A really tough game that I didn^t see him winning (not in the form Whitlock has been in this year!). Me of little faith! Justin got the game to 5-5.. and he had the throw in the last leg. Justin hit 101 with Whitlock on 120 - and you know that Whitlock^s big score finishing means that Pipe had to hit that! Great stuff.. into round 3 and a big scalp in the bag. Third round Justin beat John MaGowan, who was returning to the tour after the sad death of his wife. Justin then beat Alex Roy 6-0, who up to that point had been playing some great darts (Lee had been following his games). Then Justin got further than he^s ever been by beating Wayne Jones, who is one of THE top floor players. It was all set-up then for a battle between the mates and practice partners - JP vs. Gary Anderson. I had watched some of Gary^s earlier games, and he really was throwing well. You may have heard a lot on TV about him not being good on doubles - but there was no sign of that on Saturday! He was hitting everything, and looking great. It was a close game, and JP had his chances... but it was Gary^s day (in more ways than one).
In between those games I also watched Jamie Caven vs. Brendan Dolan, as Jamie is another play who makes time to come and chat to me. It was really close... and at 5-5 it wasn^t looking good for Jamie. He threw what I thought was some odd darts.. but then I realised he^d counted well and left himself on 170. Dolan didn^t finish, and left himself on 24 - and probably thinking he^s be back. Jamie then threw 3 perfect darts.. to take out 170 - that got quite a loud noise from the watching crowd (or was it just me.. can^t remember now!). I think Jamie knew he^d picked Dolan^s pocket there.
I also popped over to say hello to Mervyn King, as I^d never properly said hello, and I thanked him for doing the interview for this site. I must say though, he wasn^t a happy chap, even though he was winning his games at that point. He told me that there was a gale blowing across the boards in his side of the room - a breeze probably coming from an open door or air-con. It surprised me that he was upset (as he was winning!), but other players did confirm that there was a breeze.. I guess Merv is such a perfectionist it affected him mentally more. Hopefully I can meet him when he^s feeling more up.. as I had to tip-toe away from him to be honest!
Which aching feet I watched the final, Anderson vs. Walsh. Now after being to a few events, I really do appreciate that Walsh is one tough floor player, and does the business week in week out. But not on Saturday - Anderson was far too good, and won 6-1. Great stuff, especially as I knew that Justin and Gary were in my hotel, and I^d been following them both all day. JP was also really chuffed, as he knew that the people on The Stars of Darts forum would be following his progress as their new sponsored player, and he^s returned their confidence in him with a semi final finish.
Back at the hotel Lee and myself stuffed ourselves on some fairly decent grub - and a few ales while we watched the England game... I^ve not got a lot to say about that! Muppets. Bed fairly early - as it had been a long day again.
Danger and Krispy^s darts road trip - Sunday
Started with a breakfast of kings... it^s almost unreal as a darts fans, sitting there having breakfast with Simon Whitlock (and girlfriend), Mark Dudbridge, Gary Anderson, Justin Pipe, Tony Eccles, and Mark Webster all sitting around you. I better add they were having their breakfast too - not just sitting in a circle watching me eat! :D
Back to the venue about 10:45am.. for a ^warm up^ cider and ice (or two). Again Maishy come and found us and he had a good chat - Steve Grubb joined us too, and it was brilliant watching Justin Pipe play with Grubby and Maishy standing with us... Grubby giving me commentary on the game, with some great player insights. Nothing like the TV commentary (thank god!). It was about this point that Steve Maish gave me his replies for an interview - in a book! Only Maishy could take my e-mailed questions and give me a hard-bound book back in return :D I^ll be typing that up this week for you to read! Top man. We also got to watch Maish beat Lee Hayes 6-1 - Lee really didn^t have any consistency in his throw - he hit some big numbers, but also some 20^s and even an 11, so not a great day in the office for him.
Maish^s win led on to him playing Jamie Caven, who wasn^t playing his consistent best, but had got out of jail on Sat with a couple of 170 finishes. Maish set off like a steam train - 3-0 before we knew it. I was a tough game to ^support^, as both players I consider ^mates^ now. Caven fought back, just managing to take a game back to 3-1 when Maish could have made it 4-0... and then suddenly it was 3-3. Then it happened - Jamie Caven suddenly went up two gears, and hit a purple patch so purple, deep purple would have been impressed. Every dart hit it^s target.. 11 darts... 11 darts... then finished with a 12 dart leg. That^s an 132+ average over those three legs, and it was AMAZING to watch. Both players came round to join Lee and myself, even Jamie was a bit stunned. We all had a laugh - Steve agreed that there was absolutely nothing he could have done about that game. Made my weekend that did.
Justin Pipe^s first game was again Darren Johnson - who Dave Ladley introduced me too. A really nice guy, who Dave told me has been a long time practice partner for Dennis Priestly, so is used to player a slower thrower (as Justin is - very deliberate). It showed, as their game was very close... Justin Pipe just taking it right at the end in a tense leg which could have gone either way.
I met quite a few people off the forums - and will miss some of you out I^m sure. It was great to meet Lee and Chissy - both moderators off The Stars of Darts. Both were marking, but took different preparation routes for Sunday^s ^work^. Lee had a few scoops and some food, then early to bed after a long day (hours to get to Barnsley for these guys). Chissy on the other hand continued on drinking... with the beers probably reaching the double figures.. darts thrown.. ALMOST Karaoke sung... and to end the night a stomach settling (???) 1/2 pint or so of Baileys over ice. No wonder he^s nicknamed "the legend". 3am to bed... and up again 5 hours later. I possibly wouldn^t recommend that regime to anyone else thinking of volunteering to mark on the pro tour :D
I also chatted with James Holmes, who is a young (OK that^s young compared to me!) darts player who I have as a friend on facebook, who is mates with Tony Martin and Anastasia (he was there as part of their group). I know James keeps up with this site, so hello mate! Anyway - keep that name in your ^one to watch^ notebook, as you could see him playing pro one day... he gets to practice with some real talent, and that can^t be a bad start!
Anyway, back to the darts! Justin Pipe continued his run, beating Mark Webster 6-3, and then Steve Farmer 6-2. I joked with him that he was just showing off at this point, as I know the forum and sponsors would be watching every score. Unfortunately for Justin, he then played Dennis Priestly - which was a little unfortunately for the PDC organisers, as both players are known for their precise throwing technique (some of the unkind might say ^slow^). I did watch every throw - but the 50 minute timespan may be the longest best of 11 game every played - who knows? It came down to the decider leg... with Dennis hitting some big scores early doors. Justin was way back with Dennis throwing for a double.. but suddenly he couldn^t buy one. Justin came back slowly (I think he threw 60 three times in the middle of the leg), but Dennis kept missing and creeping down the doubles. Justin had a throw to win.. but missed, and Priestly finally found the mark, to a big round of applause. It was a great game, two players who really concentrate on their throws. I just pity the marker (who was ^Bradders^, a well known forum poster).
I then watched Adrian Lewis vs. Ronnie Baxter in their semi final - as I kinda hoped to see Lewis throw some exciting darts, as we all know he can. It was such a contrast in speed vs. the previous game!! Unfortunately right before the game, Lewis seemed distracted; he complained about the boards, saying they were too soft, and that his darts were sticking too deep in, almost pulling his points out when he pulled them from the board. The PDC officials swapped in another board that he was happier with. That can^t have helped his concentration though, and it must have been nagging at him during the game. Ronnie just blew him away, 6-0.
The final turned out to be Denis Ovens (who is on a bit of form again, doing well in the UK Open), vs. Ronnie Baxter - we decided to nip off at that point, as we had a long drive (through torrential rain!) back. Another great two days of darts, again showing what great blokes the players are. Thanks to everyone who chatted with us, players, officials, and fellow fans and forum members!