In the Mad House: A History of Scots in the World Darts Championship

Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson will hope to make an impact at the 2013 PDC World Darts Championship. SNS Group

On December 14, the 2013 PDC World Darts Championship kicks off at the Alexandra Palace, London.

In January, the BDO holds its own World Championship at the Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green.

In advance of this feast of darts, Neil Sargent looks back at the history of Scottish players in the World Darts Championship, and assesses the chances of the current crop of Scots being crowned king of the world in 2013.

The Split: 1994-2012

In 1994, a number of the top players, including Jocky Wilson, broke away from the game’s governing body after becoming disillusioned by the lack of commercial value they saw in the sport.

They formed their own governing body, known nowadays as the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), and set up a rival World Championship to run concurrently with the BDO version.

The BDO Championship, still seen by many as the traditional home of darts, would be held at the Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green, while the rival Championship would be held at the Circus Tavern, Purfleet.

Little-known Forres thrower Les Wallace first appeared at the Lakeside in 1995, at the age of 32. Assuming the nickname McDanger, Wallace played up to his Scottish roots by appearing on stage in a kilt.

In the first round, he was drawn to face Raymond van Barneveld, who was making his second appearance at the World Championships having reached round two in 1993.

Wallace put up a great fight, outscoring the Dutchman by almost five points, but he still came out second best, losing the match 3-2. Van Barneveld went on to reach the final, where he was beaten 6-3 by Welshman Richie Burnett.

The following year Wallace returned for another crack. He looked like a genuine contender from the word go, storming into the quarter finals without even losing a set, before destroying England’s Matt Clark 4-1 to reach the semi-finals. There he met defending champion Burnett, but The Prince of Wales proved to be too strong for

McDanger - progressing to his second successive final with a 5-2 victory. Wallace arrived at the Lakeside in 1997 still without a major title to his name and, despite his semi-final appearance 12 months previously, he found himself unseeded in the first round draw, where he was paired with fellow Scot Bob Taylor.

Taylor was making his fifth appearance at Frimley Green having first qualified in 1991, but he had lost in the first round on three of his four previous visits and so it was perhaps no surprise that Wallace progressed with a 3-1 victory.

Waiting for him in the second round was Raymond van Barneveld, his conqueror in 1995. The score of two years ago was repeated, but this time it was Wallace who came out on the right side of the 3-2 score line.

With confidence high, Wallace whitewashed Paul Williams 4-0 in the quarter finals and edged-out Mervyn King 5-3 in the semis to reach his first ever World Championship Final.

His opponent would be Marshall James, a fellow unseeded player. It was the first time two unseeded players had ever met in the final at the Lakeside, and remains so to this day.

Wallace won the first set 3-1 but looked to be in trouble when James took the next two in succession to lead 2-1. From there, though, Wallace took control, winning the next four sets in a row to put him on the verge of an historic victory.

James rallied to take the eighth set but it merely delayed the inevitable as Wallace saw out the match with a 3-0 win in the ninth set to seal a memorable 6-3 triumph, pocketing £38,000 in the process.

Following his win, Wallace spoke of his pride at becoming only the second Scottish player ever to lift the trophy.

"I am proud to be Scottish and that is why I wear my kilt for competitions,” he told the Daily Record.

"Being Scottish means a hell of a lot to me. One of my idols was Jocky Wilson and I've always tried to put Scotland back on the darts map with my arrows."

As well as being the last Scottish player ever to win the World Championship, Wallace was the first ever left-handed player to win the title and remained so until Welshman Mark Webster’s triumph at the Lakeside in 2008.

Following the victory Wallace was hotly tipped to take the darts world by storm, but after winning the Winmau World Masters in 1998 his career nosedived. The defence of his world title that year ended with a second round defeat to Steve Beaton, and he would win just one more game at the Lakeside in his career.

Just like his idol Jocky Wilson before him, turbulence in his personal life and the perils of fame proved too much for the star. He was rarely seen on the professional darts circuit after 1999.

Suffering from a drink problem, he was jailed for four months in 2001 after pleading guilty to charges of drink-driving and dangerous driving, while in the same year he was given a suspended sentence for “wilful refusal to pay council tax”. His lawyer at the time told the trial that Wallace had been “ill-equipped’ to cope with the fame that his overnight success had brought him.

In 2012, however, Wallace announced that he would be entering the Professional Darts Corporation’s Qualifying School, with the aim of winning a tour card for the next two years. In January, he successfully gained his card, allowing him to join the professional darts circuit for the first time in more than 12 years.

Following the demise of Wallace, Scottish darts suffered a relatively barren few years until the emergence of Eyemouth’s Gary Anderson in 2003. In only his second BDO World Championship, Anderson reached the semi-finals before losing to Ritchie Davies of Wales.

Coincidentally, Anderson, like Wallace six years previously, knocked out Bob Taylor on his way to the semis, meeting the Aberdeen thrower at the quarter final stage – only the third time in eleven Lakeside appearances that Taylor had progressed past the first round.

Ayrshire’s Robert Thornton made the quarter finals in his debut tournament in 2005, before losing to Darryl Fitton, while Paul Hanvidge and Mike Veitch both threatened to make the big time by reaching the quarter finals in 2006 and 2007, but their anticipated breakthrough never really materialised and neither player featured at the business end of the competition again.

Over in the PDC, Scots were finding it much more difficult to make an impact.

Jocky Wilson was eliminated in the first round of the only two Championships he played in under the new governing body, with Jamie Harvey the only other Scot to make a name for himself.

Harvey played in every PDC (formerly WDC) World Championship from 1994 until 2006, reaching the semi-finals in 1996 but losing to Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestly.

In 2008 Robert Thornton switched from the BDO to the PDC and, in 2009, he was joined by Gary Anderson.

Anderson reached the final of the World Championship at the Alexandra Palace in London in 2011 but was defeated 7-5 by Stoke’s Adrian Lewis, while Thornton has twice made the third round since switching codes, losing to Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis respectively.

On 14th December the 2013 PDC World Darts Championship begins again at the Alexandra Palace and both Thornton and Anderson will be hoping to make an impact.

Thornton is enjoying his best run in professional darts having won the UK Open in June, as well as performing consistently well on the pro-circuit throughout the season.

Anderson has seen his form slip in 2012, but he goes into the tournament still ranked in the world’s top five and therefore he will retain hope of emulating his late hero, Jocky Wilson, by bringing a World Championship trophy back over the border for the first time in 16 years.

You can follow Neil Sargent on Twitter @NeilSargent86

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