The world of darts has thrown up many great characters down the years and our Paul Nicholson has revealed five of his favourites this week.
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We all have our darting heroes for many different reasons, ranging from their achievements and how they played the game to their personalities and characters both on and off the oche.
In this week's column, former major winner and commentator Paul Nicholson picks five of the many players that he feels stood out in the latter categories, including a mix of popular fan favourites and those who might have slightly different perceptions.
The Asset has now revealing all five and there's a couple that may surprise some readers...
There’s been so many things written about Bobby George down the years and everyone has their own stories to tell, which is what makes him so special.
He’s loved and known the world over for his character, personality, bling and even the house which he built in the shape of a darts flight, but that shouldn’t mean people overlook what a wonderful darts player he was too.
Bobby’s humour and heart are also richly complimented by his intelligence on and off the dart board, and I really don’t think there’s anyone better to guide you in the right direction.
I didn’t know Bobby until around four years ago because I hadn’t been in the same circles as him when it came to exhibitions, tournaments or media projects.
On the first night I met him in Batley, within 10 minutes he asked me what I’d done with all the money I’d made so far in my career and whether I’d paid my house of yet. I said I’d invested into a property but he insisted: “Make sure your pay your house off first.”
He never forgets that, because every time I see him he’ll ask me if I’ve done it yet!
When I effectively took over from him on commentary and punditry duties at the Lakeside, I think I felt more nervous about that than anything else in my career.
People love institutions don’t they? So, when the rights for the Lakeside changed networks, I was now in Bobby’s spot – talk about impossibly shoes to fill!
But when I saw him during that first week, he said: “You’re doing a great job…but have a shave will you!?”
I remember doing another exhibition with him where he was trying to bamboozle Rachel Riley about the mathematics of a dart board – and although it may not of worked, you couldn’t fault his confidence in trying!
When Bobby speaks, people listen. He’s like a darting Messiah and I don’t think that will ever change.
Bobby has got his own unique vernacular too, but while we can all try and imitate his phrases, nobody can deliver it the same way.
He’s the personification of darts from the previous generation and while the game has moved on, we must always remember where we started in order to help us go forward.
Bobby George is the start of the modern dart player thanks to the way he used his vibrancy, flair and huge smile on national television – well before the PDC was even formed - to show there could be so much more to this great sport.
If it wasn’t for some of the things he was doing as a celebrity as well as a player back in the 1980s, then darts may not have survived in the way it did.
Every sport needs a trailblazer as a point of reference and Bobby was that for some players – most notably Ted Hankey who came out in a cape and threw bats to the crowd!
Then in my career, I wanted to come out as a Neo-type character from the Matrix but would I have had the audacity to do that were it not for players like Ted?
Whenever you see a great walk-on – now or in the future – then you’ll be able to track it back to Bobby George. He’s the king of that and nobody will ever take his crown.
I’ve known about Fallon for a long time, way back when she made the women’s World Championship final as a 20-year-old. She’d already started to attract attention before then, and you could tell there was something special about her.
But my first proper encounter with her was around two and a half years ago when I was invited to play for the Team UK Soft Tips team in Hong Kong with Adrian Gray and Andy Jenkins, who also needed a female player.
Fallon of course got the call and after spending a lot of time with her over the three days in both tournament and social environments, I can honestly say no female player has ever made me laugh as much as she did!
You may not know it but she has got an incredible dry wit, and for a 25-year-old to be able to split the sides of some of the most seasoned professionals around, tells its own story.
Millions around the world now know of her amazing darting ability on the oche but in comparison, there’s not many who have truly seen her funny side yet.
I’d be flabbergasted if she isn’t involved in some kind of reality TV show when people get to know her properly, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her win it!
She hasn’t had it easy behind the scenes in recent years but that hasn’t detracted from her kindness and star quality.
Every sport has its own stories of when certain characters and personalities come along who stand out from the rest, and I think darts was probably craving something new when Fallon burst onto the scene last December.
It wasn’t just her showing how women could just be as good as men on the dart board, but also how she handled the press conferences and global media spotlight with such grace and humour.
Despite everything going on for someone so young and inexperienced during her incredible run at the Alexandra Palace, to make all those journalists laugh on numerous occasions after being peppered with questions is quite a talent.
She’s an image breaker for the sport because she’s exactly the opposite of what people tend to think of when anyone mentions darts. That’s why she’s so important for the future.
I’m not putting any extra pressure on Fallon though, because she’s just being herself. When I spend time with her, I expect to laugh and always do. She has a way of picking up on something you say and making something funny of it – but not in a mocking way.
Even when playing online darts she’s still able to hit the headlines, whether that’s for the standard of her darts or the fact she brings smiles to viewers faces when being distracted by her son, dog and even the arrival of an ice cream man!
I really do want the public to see more of her funny side because it’s been a breath of fresh air for me in my career, that’s for sure.
The TikTok videos she’s releasing on social media are certainly helping people realise there’s another side to Fallon and it’s great to see her just having fun at the moment and not taking life so seriously like so many other sports people.
She certainly doesn’t act like she feels any pressure from her responsibilities as a flag bearer for women’s darts and as a young mother, proving how well she can cope with anything and anyone thrown at her.
This is just the start for Fallon.
When Gerwyn Price started in the PDC system, he bypassed the normal route to success.
There had been a blueprint to get to the top in the United Kingdom, where you’d usually progress from local darts to Super League and county before going into open tournaments within the BDO. Once you’ve done well in that environment you’d start thinking about Q School and mixing it with the big boys.
But Gerwyn went straight to Q School having spent his previous years playing rugby, succeeded and here he is now as one of the best players in the world today. His journey has almost thrown the rulebook out of the window and has shown others there is a different way to make it in this game.
It goes to show how confident he must have been at the time and that level of belief has helped turn him into a two-time Grand Slam of Darts champion and a World Championship semi-finalist.
I know his stage presence polarises opinion from players and fans to promotors and pundits, especially when the antics against the likes of Gary Anderson and Peter Wright grabs the headlines, but ultimately if you take him away from the competitive arena, he’s a really nice guy who lead a quiet family life in Wales.
He’s proud to be Welsh and despite all the money he’s earned, doesn’t have any intention of moving to anywhere more lavish. Instead of even moving to a bigger house, he did up his own one up so his family could stay true to their roots.
Even though there’s a big heart inside of that vast chest of his, I don’t think many people know the real Gerwyn Price yet – and it might be quite some time before we do.
He has this immense ability to do interviews by speaking a lot but saying nothing, but in the right situation – like Sporting Life did with him and Daryl Gurney – you will see how much he loves a laugh and a joke.
I’ve spent a bit of time with Gezzy and I love his company like many other players do, while there’s no doubting his style of play does rub others up the wrong way.
Some players through the years believe there is a certain etiquette of play that must be adhered to so it inevitably upsets the apple cart when others try to make the sport more entertaining by adopting a different approach.
Take Gerwyn Price out of darts over the past four years, and I think we may have stagnated in terms of characters in the game and put too much pressure on Peter Wright to carry that flag.
There will always be robotic players out there who are just happy to do as they’re told but you do need the organic ones like Gerwyn to spice up the sport and bring a clash of personalities together.
I welcomed the aggression he’s brought to the game and I also think it’s healthy for fans to be split over players like Price – because that creates rivalries, emotion, talking points and ultimately makes the sport more watchable.
As a rugby player I think he had to control himself a lot more but in an individual game he has more of a licence to let go and that helps him function to the best of his ability.
Is he needed in the game? Yes. Is he liked by everyone? No. Should we care? No, but that doesn’t mean he or any other player should be surrounded by hate within the crowd and on social media.
Kevin Painter is in the list because I genuinely don’t think many people know what he’s really like. I’ve known him since the first week of me being a professional in the UK because he was in my group at the 2008 Grand Slam of Darts alongside Darryl Fitton and Gary Anderson.
I walked in there as a skinny, bespectacled 29-year-old who thought he was all that, and it was perhaps one of the best things that happened to me that I was brought down a peg by Kevin in the final game.
He had this reputation of being a fierce competitor, a bit of a snarler and not someone not to be trifled with on the oche because he had a few tricks up his sleeve.
Within six weeks I’d got to the opportunity to meet Kevin quite a few more times and I saw him in a completely different light, which others won’t see when he’s competing.
He’s got a great sense of humour, an infectious laugh and is just a tremendous character once you get to know what he’s about behind the scenes.
I’ve practiced with a lot of different people throughout my career and when it comes to darts, Kevin is about as intense as you can get, but once he switches his game brain off, he’s a completely different person.
I’ve had some of my best laughs during the many occasions he’s invited me round to his house to watch darts and his other favourite TV shows so it’s a shame not everyone has experienced that side of him.
On the oche, Kevin was never ashamed of being fierce well before that kind of on-stage persona became the norm, and that’s why I was so intrigued about him in the era when he made the final of the World Championship and even earlier.
He might mind me saying this, but when he’s in a competitive environment during a tournament, he’s borderline unapproachable. And after a defeat you had to accept it was going to take him some time to come down – especially at the time in his career when he was one of the best players and not used to being defeated.
Get him away from the game and he’s also very funny, and you can be talking to him for hours if you bring up Gavin and Stacey! He’s also become a movie buff during lockdown because he came up with the idea of watching a new film every day so if you ask him about his favourites then I’m sure he won’t stop either!
There was a perception that he thought he was better than everyone else, but I’m not sure that’s true. He’s always been one of the boys, going back to his BDO days when he represented England and Essex.
Was he one of the most naturally gifted players? Probably not. Was he one of the hardest working players to get in the position that he did? Absolutely. With hard work comes a hardened attitude and some people might interpret that as darting snobbery. He’s not like that and I’ll always fight his corner if someone says otherwise.
There will be areas about his career that he’d find tough to talk about such as the 2004 World Championship final because he knows that was his golden chance in a lot of peoples’ eyes. He was arguably the best player in that tournament to reach the final and agonisingly missed out to Phil Taylor.
But I once heard Kevin say that it was actually the 2008 semi-final to John Part at Alexandra Palace that hurt him the most, and a lot of people forget about that one.
There’s so many high points too, such as the World Grand Prix triumph over Phil Taylor when everyone thought the Power was impervious at double-start darts and also his major title at the 2011 Players Championship Finals, while there’s other great stories from the more distant past such as when he threw a 180 with his first visit as an England player and when he used to have a mullet while hanging around with Bob Taylor of Scotland!
In the future I think Kevin could write a very interesting book, which I'd definitely read, about his time in the BDO and PDC.
Kevin Painter is a prime example why we shouldn’t take everyone at face value from what we see on the TV and instead talk about what they’re like away from the board and how they started in the game.
VINCENT VAN DER VOORT
When you mention Vincent van der Voort the first thing you will probably think of is his walk-on song.
It wasn’t his idea and they only came up with it because the crowd started singing his name with one of the interval tracks but as a result it’s helped him become one of the most popular players in the world.
But here’s the thing – Vincent can’t stand it! He just understands it’ll get him a few extra cheers and make the crowd happy.
Vincent is never shy about expressing his opinion and he’s even been told by the DRA that he should stop giving interviews because he can be too honest – but that doesn’t stop sticking to his guns and sending us into hysterics!
Those who have watched him a lot both on and off the oche will know how he’s Box Office when it comes to his reactions to certain situations.
His personality has never really wilted during his tough times and seems to find the funny side in most scenarios.
I’m also amazed how funny he can be in his second language. When you see the other Dutch players like his best mate Michael van Gerwen hanging round him, they’re always laughing when he’s cracking jokes in their language.
But since coming over to England in the late 1990s during his BDO days, he’s developed an ability to make people laugh more than anyone else in English, and that’s astounding. It’s like me trying to make German people laugh and I find that impossible! I’ve never met anyone from a non-English speaking country who can make as many people laugh as Vincent.
I don’t think there’s anyone in darts who doesn’t like Vincent but if there was, they wouldn’t say anything because he’s well over six and a half foot tall and as hard as a coffin nail!
My first proper encounter with him came around 2010 at the European Championship, where I lost to Andy Smith in the first round.
I’d played so badly, particularly on my doubles, and was pretty much inconsolable. I was sat out on the terrace trying to work out what went wrong and Vincent came up and spent an hour with me. He didn’t have to sit there and listen to my rant and since then I’ve grown to respect and love him immensely as a fellow competitor.
He’s got a huge heart like Michael van Gerwen but ultimately it’s his humour that shines through for me, with his quick quips that also involves some risky profanities along the way!
Many fans will know him for his fast throwing, and that’s what helped make him so watchable, even during his early days in the BDO.
Back then he was regarded as a good player but perhaps not one who would go and challenge for the Lakeside title and subsequently the big PDC majors, but I think he was underestimated.
He reached the 2007 UK Open final and also won a European Tour event, beating me along the way, so we’ve got to value his achievements on the oche more than many of us do, especially due to the adversity that he’s had to overcome with his injuries.
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