Have you heard the one about the undertaker, the karaoke DJ and the bloke who packs David Beckham’s toiletries?
Punch line: They all reckon they can beat Barney, Taylor, Lloyd, Mason and Wade and Co and win the UK Open at Bolton. They are Nigel Heydon, alias Deadly of Leamington Spa, Disco Ian Walters of Manchester and Fragrant Dave Ladley of Scunthorpe. And therein lies the appeal of this weekend’s Open – the FA Cup of darts, where the minnows meet the sharks.
Since its inception in 2003 the Open has produced some remarkable darts. Phil Taylor did a nine-darter in 2004 and 2005. Adrian Lewis and Chris Mason, both currently in cracking form, had a belter of a match a couple of year’s back in which 19 180s were thrown. Last year bullet-headed Barrie Bates of Wales crushed his way to the final against Barney.
And this year the darting goulash has tastier ingredients than ever. On Thursday night Mighty Mike Van Gerwen, the Dutch wonder boy, takes on Chris McTernan of Bacup, and the adhesive technician could come seriously unstuck! (It’s a punster’s dream the Open.) And look out for Rico Vonck, another young Cloggie who got to Round 3 of the last world championship.
In Round 2 on Friday look out for Andy Callaby who did for Phil Taylor in the Grand Prix in Ireland a few years back with three 15-darters. Also look out for local lad Paul Williams, who made the semis in 2003 and who will have massive support.
Later on Friday some really big guns enter the fray: Bob Anderson, John Part, recently in great form, and ‘The Mouth of the South’ Alex Roy. Alex is just about the biggest extrovert in the game and always entertains. Last year he was up 10-5 on Barrie Bates in a race to 11 here…and lost!
Now, the top lads in the Order of Merit. Who is hot? Scholten won the last big event in Holland, beating Mason in the final. Also on form there were James Wade, and Andy Hamilton. And look out for the simmering talents of Wayne Mardle and Mervyn King.
Oh yes, The Power. He was last seen averaging 136 in a couple of legs of the Premier League finals. My message to the Open field: ‘Gather ye mini-scalps while ye may’ because ‘Here be Monsters.’
Off now for a Bolton Banquet: a pint of Thwaites and a Holland’s meat pie.