This week I am taking a look back on the 1984 World Darts Championships, as Eric Bristow emphatically rights the wrong of the previous year, Keith Deller finds it tough at the top, John Lowe causes ire, and a slightly tipsy Jocky Wilson takes a tumble in a classic semi-final.
Deller falls at the first
After his surprise win at the 1983 World Championships, Keith Deller was determined to prove that this was not a one-off achievement. "I know I flopped in the British Professional, the other big one on TV. But I did well in the World Cup and the British Matchplay, both of them on the box. You'd think people would realise I'm not a fluke."
Deller was certainly bullish enough on his arrival in Stoke, proclaiming that no one would outscore him, and that he was more than capable of retaining the title. After earning a reported £100,000 in the year since he became world champion, the Ipswich-born 24-year-old had recently treated himself to a house with a swimming pool, with his manager John Markovic claiming that a successful title defence would see Deller become the first millionaire of darts.
It didn't quite work out like that though. Dumped out in the first round by the American Nicky Virachkul, Deller's 2-1 loss saw the 1983 champion brought down to earth with a bump, and he would only ever win three more matches at the BDO World Championships. After beating John Lowe, Jocky Wilson and Eric Bristow on his way to the 1983 title, no one could dispute his right to be champion, but Deller's subsequent performances at Jollees/Lakeside left a lot to be desired.
The man that Deller had beaten in the final twelve months earlier was certainly not unhappy to see the back of the young upstart, Bristow revealing in his Crafty Cockney autobiography that Deller had been insufferable during his spell as world champion. "I said to Nicky afterwards, 'Cheers for that. Now we don't have to suffer that twat for another year. We can get on with the tournament now'". Say what you mean, Eric.
First round sprint
The short nature of the first round matches did not leave much room for any nerves or wayward darts. Each match was the best of three sets, meaning a few dodgy legs would leave even the best in danger of an early exit. Along with Deller, two other seeds departed. Cliff Lazarenko lost 2-1 to Wales' Ceri Morgan, with Bobby George - who the Daily Mirror reported had just signed a lucrative three-year deal with Courage Breweries - also losing to a Welshman, Malcolm Davies beating the Dazzler by the same score.
Elsewhere there was very little to worry about for the top players. Bristow eased past the Dane Finn Jensen 2-0; Lowe beat Tony Brown without dropping a set; Dave Whitcombe had a similarly straight forward win over Canada's Bob Sinnaeve; and Jocky Wilson put in a stunning performance against Australian Terry O'Dea, winning in just 14 (FOURTEEN) minutes and not allowing his opponent one shot at a double.
Future world champion Bob Anderson made his debut in the tournament, losing to the number seven seed Stefan Lord. The Swede may well have enjoyed himself against one English debutant, but Lord was about to be shown the door by another, as the tournament moved on to the second round, and the slightly less cut throat nature of best of seven set matches.
Second round procession
The big three were again remorseless in the next round, Wilson particularly impressive during his 4-0 destruction of Alan Glazier. Lowe hammered John Joe O'Shea (more of which later), with Bristow handing out a similar thrashing to American Rick Ney. "I think I'll now make it to the final," stated an understandably confident Bristow. "I think my opponent will be Dave Whitcombe, not Jocky Wilson as everybody seems to think". Very prophetic.
Mike Gregory made sure that the remaining seeds did not have everything their own way though, the qualifier defeating Lord 4-1 to set up a quarter final clash with Wilson. "I beat Jocky in the World Masters less than a month ago, but I know he likes the longer matches and this time the format will suit him better". Gregory was confirming to the world that he was a player to be reckoned with in the future, the 27-year-old laminator promising to hand in his notice if he could repeat Deller's feat of the year before.
Third seed Whitcombe continued his smooth progress, his 4-1 win over Steve Brennan booking a quarter final date with Virachkul who crushed Gerry Haywood 4-0. Wales would be represented in the last eight by Ceri Morgan and Peter Locke, the latter having knocked out his compatriot Davies in a final set decider.
And now on to a bit of controversy. John Lowe's actions against Ceri Morgan in their quarter final match upset the Welshman, so much so that after his 5-0 defeat, Evans spoke out. "I thought he was taking the mickey. He had the upper hand - and he was rubbing it in a bit," Evans complained, after Lowe started going for ambitious outshots and bull finishes when he really had no need to.
"I've come here to play exhibition darts - the game I play 300 days a year," retorted Lowe. "I find I miss double two and double four these days. I don't miss the bull. I respect Ceri, but he's got to accept that your opponent will rub your nose in it if he can at this stage in a world championship".
Lowe had already caused a bit of a stir after his second round match against John Joe O'Shea, indicating that he had considered throwing a set on purpose in order to give himself more practice time and potentially more money. "I toyed with the idea but then chickened out. There's a £32,000 prize for a nine dart minimum checkout and, I was going so well I thought I'd give it a go by losing a set. But then one set can become more - so I dropped the idea".
If there were any hard feelings felt towards Lowe then he certainly was delivered a dose of sporting karma come the semi-final. Eric Bristow was in awesome form and was about to hand out a thrashing to Lowe, just as he had done in previous rounds against Jensen, Ney and Locke (Bristow's quarter final win over the Welshman took just 46 minutes). The Crafty Cockney was fully justifying his pre-tournament odds of 6/4, the bookies reducing his price to 11/8 as he marched on imperiously.
His first three wins were fine performances, but to beat someone as solid and composed as Lowe without dropping a set was startling, an indicator of just how good Bristow was at the time. "I have never been so embarrassed in all my life," Lowe said after his 6-0 humiliation. "I just wanted Eric to finish it and get me off," he added. In his defence, Lowe had been suffering from flu during the match and the tournament, but whether he could have lived with Bristow at the time is debatable.
Wilson staggers out
Bristow v Lowe may have been a let down in terms of drama, yet the other semi-final certainly made up for it. Jocky Wilson, like Bristow and Lowe, had not dropped a set on the way to the last four, his 4-0 win over Gregory in the quarter final seemingly backing up his own claim that he was playing well enough to be world champion again. But in Whitcombe - who had beaten Virachkul in the previous round - Wilson would be provided with a stern test of his mental and physical capabilities. One that he would unfortunately fail in a big way.
It all looked so good for the Scot as the match unfolded. Leading 3-1 and 4-2 at various stages, Wilson appeared to have one foot in the final, yet in what would turn out to be a marathon session of darts, his stamina let him down. That and the fact that come the conclusion of the match, Wilson was a little worse for wear.
Whitcombe's 6-5 comeback win was a rare epic in a tournament that contained a number of one-sided affairs, a match that quite literally left Wilson on the floor. At the conclusion of the lengthy semi-final, Whitcombe hit double-18 and turned to shake the hand of Wilson, only to find his opponent sprawled across the stage.
Commentator Tony Green explained Wilson's fall in this Guardian article. "It was the World darts semi-final and Jocky looked set to go all the way. But then you could drink and smoke on the stage, which Jocky always took full advantage of. He kept downing the pints, his game got poorer and Dave eventually beat him 5-4 (in fact, it was 6-5). But when the cameras turned round he'd disappeared. Jocky was so drunk he'd fallen off the stage".
Not the first time that Wilson had been drunk on the oche, but in a year in which he was playing so well, you do have to wonder if a less inebriated Jocky would have prevailed and given Bristow a bigger headache in the final. But with characters such as Wilson you had to learn to take the rough with the smooth. After all, he wouldn't have been such a popular figure if he had done things in a conventional manner.
The inevitable conclusion
Bookmakers are rarely wrong. Bristow's price of 2/7 was a true reflection of his tag as favourite - conversely, Whitcombe was 5/2 - and despite his painful 1983 scars, the world number one was rightfully confident. "I had no doubts going into that match that I'd win because I was playing the best darts of my life," Bristow recounts in his autobiography. "I'd hit top form". The reigning World Cup and World Masters champion was at the peak of his powers.
Bristow also highlighted the laid back approach of his opponent, stating that Whitcombe sometimes could not be bothered to practice, and even on the day of the final Bristow was warming up whilst the number three seed sat in his room watching videos. "There's more to life than just darts," admitted Whitcombe before his quarter final with Virachkul. "If I spend all day in the lounge of the players' hotel, I do nothing but talk darts, throw darts at the practice boards and even watch videos of the darts".
Mind you, Whitcombe could have spent six hours a day preparing for his date with Bristow and it might not have done him any good. The Crafty Cockney stood clearly head and shoulders above the rest in 1984, and the final was another example of this. The 1200 spectators inside Jollees saw Bristow race into an early two set lead, and although Whitcombe won the third - the only set Bristow would lose in the tournament - Bristow took the next for a 3-1 advantage, as the players left the stage for a break.
Bristow and Whitcombe returned with the much missed chant of 'Here we go' ringing around the room (missed by me at least). The outcome of the fifth set was the final nail in Whitcombe's coffin, as his chance of edging his way back into the match disappeared. Failing to take out 25 in the deciding leg, Whitcombe found himself 4-1 down instead of 3-2, and it was the point of no return. "After that he was dead. It was all over," Bristow told Tony Gubba after the final, a statement as accurate as his darts on the day.
The impact of the fifth set was clear for all to see as Bristow reeled off the next seven legs to move closer to his third world title. Whitcombe stopped the rot by taking the second leg of the final set, yet there was no stopping Bristow, even if he did miss three darts for the championship. When his final dart hit double four, there was simply no argument that Bristow was a fully deserving champion.