In this article we are going to take a look at darts worldwide. We will be focusing on Stoke England and the legacy that is there.
On the surface Stoke, or Stoke on Trent to give it its full title, is very much like any other working class town in England. It has a football team, a glorious but now fading industrial past and a fierce pride in its own identity. However, for the latter part of the last century – and the first decade of this one – Stoke was famous for something else. It was without doubt the darts capital of the world.
In its present form, Stoke is a relative newcomer on the landscape, formed from the amalgamation of six towns in North Staffordshire as recently as 1910. Its history dates all the way back to the 7th century, however.
Located roughly equidistant (50 miles give or take) between the industrial giants of Birmingham and Manchester, Stoke and the surrounding regions became synonymous with fine pottery. It is where world famous companies such as Royal Doulton and Wedgwood were formed and based, and the area is still known as The Potteries today.
In 2016, the population of Stoke stood at a little over 260,000. There are no exact numbers, but a high proportion of that 260,000 will probably be darts fans or players. Many of the numerous pubs don’t simply have a dartboard or dart team, some have as many have six, seven or more darts teams. As a consequence, it has been a long time since a player from the Potteries was not among the leading names to win the PDC World Championship.
It is hard to talk about Stoke – and indeed equally difficult to discuss darts – without Phil “The Power” Taylor being front and centre of that discussion. His record is remarkable and in all probability will not just never be bettered or even equalled, but no one will come close.
Born in 1960 in Stoke, Taylor went on to win 214 dart tournaments, 85 of them being major titles – a record. He won the Worldwide Darts Championships 16 times, another record. Between 1994 and 2007 Taylor appeared in every single World Championship final (a record), winning 8 consecutive ones between 1995 and 2002 – yes, you guessed it another record. The list goes on and on. Taylor was also one of the 16 players who broke away from the British Darts Organisation (BDO) in 1993 to form the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation).
Those he Inspired
It is hard to underestimate the effect such a star in the sport had on the what is a small close knit community. It is little wonder the sport is now a part of the town’s identity, and many others have stepped up and taken the baton Taylor held aloft for so long.
Adrian Lewis was a friend and practice partner of Taylor, and won the World Championships in 2011 and 2012. The second of those was against Andy Hamilton – another Stokie. Talk to people in the know in the pubs and clubs around town and there are many more waiting to move up to elite level and join local thrower Ian White, who is currently ranked in the world top ten.
Where it all Began
Interestingly, Stoke’s love affair with darts did not start with Phil Taylor. For that we have to go back further in time, to one of the sport’s most charismatic figures.
Despite being known as “The Crafty Cockney”, darts legend and winner of 5 World Championships between 1980 and 1986, Eric Bristow moved to North Staffordshire in 1979. Coincidentally or not, that was the same year that the venue for the World Championships moved to a venue in Stoke. In Taylor’s autobiography he talks about how instrumental Bristow’s move to the area was for him and the town as a whole, “It was almost like Jesus relocating from the Holy Land to Milton Keynes.”
Whatever happens in the future, Stoke on Trent will always have that period in its history when it was the capital of the darts world. It’s extremely unlikely that any other British town or city will come close to matching its monopoly on the worldwide darts game. If this has inspired you to pick up that tungsten, we have articles and advice from Taylor himself, and other aids to improve your game.