Eric Bristow a 'massive loss', says Keith Deller
"When you look at the big stars we've had in Britain, Eric Bristow would be right up at the top."
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 06/04/18 1:32am
Eric Bristow's death at the age of 60 is "a massive loss to darts", says close friend Keith Deller.
Bristow passed away on Thursday evening, following a heart attack. He won five World Championship titles between 1980-1986, as well as winning five World Masters titles during an incredible career.
He played an instrumental role in the founding of the PDC in 1993, as he was one of 16 players who broke away from the British Darts Organisation, and he was inducted into the PDC's Hall of Fame in 2005.
The news of Bristow's death broke during the latter stages of Premier League Judgement Night in Liverpool, and the Echo Arena paid tributes to the 'Crafty Cockney' with prolonged chants of 'There's only one Eric Bristow'.
Speaking to Sky Sports' Dave Clark, Deller, who defeated Bristow in the memorable 1983 world final, admitted that he was "devastated" by his friend's sudden passing.
"I was doing the spotting tonight and the news came through; me and Eric were together all the time. What he's done for our game; if it wasn't for Eric, nobody would be here tonight. It's a massive loss to our sport," Deller said.
"Eric always said it how it was. He wasn't one of these to talk behind people's backs. He just said what he thought and that was his honest opinion and I think everybody loved Eric for that. When he was playing darts in our day, he had the self-belief to win every tournament and he would always let us know that he was going to take the trophy home.
"I always remember when we used to be at the Matchplay in Blackpool, we walked back from the venue to our hotel and we always used to stop at a certain pub on the way, and it used to take 20 minutes to walk five minutes, because everyone in the street, who might not be darts fans, but they all knew that Eric Bristow was the biggest name our sport will ever have.
"It was unbelievable to see people from 18 years old to 80, wanted to say hello to Eric and all the time it was just shaking his hand, but they knew that they had met a superstar of our sport. When you look at the big stars we've had in Britain, Eric Bristow would be right up at the top."
We had so many great memories and it's a real sad night tonight; it's very sad for me because he's been one of my best friends I've ever had in my life and I'm sadly going to miss him, I really am.
Keith Deller shocked and saddened by Bristow's death
Deller shocked the world of darts when on his World Championship debut in 1983, he defeated Bristow in an incredible deciding-set, taking out an unforgettable 138 finish to seal victory.
"It was a long time ago now when I won the World Championship. People always say well you beat some great players. If you ask anybody in any sport, you always want to beat the number one, the best player. At that time, the likes of John Lowe, Jocky Wilson, Eric was the one you wanted in the final in one respect, but then you didn't want him in the final.
"To beat Eric in the final, it couldn't be any better for me, but I always think with us at Sky, we would have a tournament at Blackpool, there would be Russ Bray, Wayne Mardle, myself and Eric on the golf course.
"When we used to play at Dublin, a lot of players would get through the first round and we would just walk round the 18 holes to hear Eric telling us we couldn't hit a putt from such a short distance."
While the pair competed against each other on the darting circuits, more recently they worked together as spotters for Sky Sports' darting coverage.
Deller added: "We had so many great memories and it's a real sad night tonight; it's very sad for me because he's been one of my best friends I've ever had in my life and I'm sadly going to miss him, I really am.
"In the 40th year of the monarchy we went to Buckingham Palace; all world champions of sport.
"We went through to the garden and you saw people like Nigel Mansell; there were five people that had a personal meeting with the Queen. I think it was Frank Bruno, Nick Faldo, Nigel Mansell, another one, and Eric Bristow. They were the five that saw the Queen before us. That just shows you how big a name he was; not just for darts, but for British sport."
Bristow also mentored 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, and sponsored 'The Power' in the early stages of his astonishing career.
"I remember when Eric was sponsoring Phil Taylor. Phil came to his first tournament in Canada. He beat me on the way unfortunately and I blamed Eric after that. He brought maybe the best dart player of all time - I know Michael van Gerwen is on the way to being that - but Phil owes so much to Eric Bristow.
"Phil has said that on a number of occasions in fairness, because if it wasn't for his sponsorship, Phil wouldn't have had the chance to go around the world and win so many World Championship titles.
"That's how big Eric Bristow has been, not just for Phil, to me, for being able to play darts on TV for so many years, but also for all of the players that come up here tonight. They have got to thank Eric so much, because if it wasn't for that, they wouldn't be here tonight."
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