Sid Waddell takes a look at darts history as he prepares for the Premier League in Birmingham.
Last Updated: 03/05/12 11:49am
I studied history at Cambridge University between 1959 and 1962 and would often look at the clashes between major powers.
I would have been a rubbish history teacher, I'm too impatient, but at least I get to focus on clashes between major powers at the darts every week!
In fact, I've been immersing myself in the history of darts this week (which makes a change from thinking up puns based on Merseyside songs) and I've written a short piece for darts' own historian, Patrick Chaplin.
This lad has an unparalleled interest in darts history and even has a doctorate in the subject. What's even more bizarre is that one of the guys who judged his thesis was the Hull University history professor Keith Laybourn, who lives over the road from me and is my pool partner!
Patrick's new book is called '180! Fascinating Darts Facts' and will be published at the end of the year. Sections will include nicknames, topless darts and the language of the oche. He's also going to analyse some of the myths that surround that sport, such as the idea that Henry VIII had a set of golden darts.
I wrote a book called 'World Darts' in 1979 and I reckon there's been at least 60 books on the sport since then. We've never had a comprehensive history, but who knows? Maybe one day the Cambridge University Press will ring up and ask me to work on the official history of the sport?
Now when it comes to darts, it's often been asked why it became so popular in Holland.
I think it's down to the British Legion Clubs that were set up there after the war in 1945. Some of the ex-servicemen mixed with Dutch people and gave them the game of darts.
And all these years later, the country has produced one of the finest players to grace the sport in Raymond van Barneveld.
I'll be calling Barney's game against Gary Anderson in Birmingham on Thursday, which should be a hell of a match. In fact, I reckon it will be the match of the night.
There's only a minute mathematical possibility of Ando qualifying from his position at the bottom of the table, but Barney still has a great chance. I think he's looking more solid than James Wade at the moment and my Geordie quid would be on him making the last four.
He's been averaging more than 105 when he needs to and has climbed as high as 112 this year. He also seems to get the most empathy from the crowd. There's something about him and he looks like he's enjoying it up there.
Also on the card
Thursday's card opens with Simon Whitlock, who was in sensational form in the opening five legs against Phil Taylor last week. I think he'll be too good for Andy Hamilton. A win should see the Aussie clinch a place at the Big Dance at the O2 Arena.
We'll also see the sparkling talent of Adrian Lewis in Birmingham. Like Pele and the great Brazilian footballers, he loves to go on the pitch to entertain. He isn't boastful, but he loves to show off all the tricks he can do.
He's somebody you go and see for pure entertainment. I always remember Colin Grainger, who used to play for Sunderland and England, who would appear at the Sunderland Empire as a singer (I once heard a Sunderland fan shouting: 'give us a song' you've done nothing else for the last 90 minutes').
In a similar way, Adie is from a tradition of darts players, like Alan Evans and Jocky Wilson, who plays the game with a big grin on his face. I've got him down to beat Kevin Painter about 8-4 in Birmingham.
Finally, I have grave doubts about James Wade's concentration levels ahead of his match with Phil Taylor. I don't think he has the consistency to do much about The Power.
It'll be good to be in the West Midlands, which has always had a great tradition in darts. Back in 1983 I made a documentary in Cradley Heath and they were all mad about the game. I'm sure they'll have a good night on Thursday.
They've always been known for handling metals in that part of the world, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised!