He is a 16-time world champion, a man credited with redefining the sport of darts, and has just released a second autobiographical work; despite being widely regarded as the greatest darts player of all time, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor remains a working man’s sportsman.
A decade since the release of his autobiography, Taylor’s second literary outing focuses on a calendar year which has brought the 54-year-old heartbreak and triumph in equal measure, as well as challenging common misconceptions around the sport itself.
The idea for a second book came about when Taylor was contacted by sports journalist and darts fanatic Mike Walters: “Mike asked me a couple of years ago if I’d be interested in doing another book. He’d got this idea, I said why not,” he explains. On the snapshot format of the book, Taylor explains: “People think darts players just nip down the pub for half an hour and have a practice, then play a tournament. It’s not like that at all, so Mike wanted to put over exactly what a year is like in somebody’s life as a pro.” He admits the process was less gruelling than writing his autobiography with Sid Waddell in 2004. “The last one was my life so you’ve got to try and remember a lot more. Mike is at the dart tournaments, he’s a journalist so he knows all the results and fixtures and he’s around the back room a lot. It’s been quite easy, this one has.”
Despite twice being nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Taylor has come away empty handed on both occasions; something he attributes to outdated perceptions of darts: “We don’t get that recognition, do we? We’ll always have that element of snobbery toward us, always classed as a second act. A second class sport.” Despite this, he admits the sport has come a long way during his 25 year career at the top, thanks in no small part to an old friend. “Barry Hearn never stops working, getting more and more sponsorship, putting the prize money up. When anybody starts winning massive prize money, you’re going to start taking notice,” Taylor says with a smile. He believes an updated presentation of darts has also helped its rejuvenation. “Sky gave it much more razzmatazz, which got more children wanting to watch it. I mean, our average viewer’s age now is about 16-25!” A far cry from the game played in dimly lit pubs of yesteryear.
On a personal level, Taylor is gearing up for the World Championships, which begin on December 17th take place at one of darts’ spiritual homes, London’s Alexandra Palace. “I’d love to win another title. I think one more will do it, and if I win that one, I’ll probably try for one more,” he laughs, revealing his hopes for the tournament. It is testament to Taylor’s continued appetite for success 25 years and 16 titles later that he is considered among the front runners this time around; “It’s just the way I am. It’s the way my parents brought me up. While you’re out there working, you try your best, and you think about other people as well,” he says, referring to his children, who now work as part of his team.
Taylor admits it will be a tall order to compete with the likes of Adrian Lewis, the man with whom he contested what many consider to be the best game of darts ever played. “The Premier League final against James Wade, when I had the two nine-darters is probably my second best game. But that one, to me, is the best game ever.” He marks other professionals out for praise when discussing his title rivals this year: “James Wade, Michael van Gerwen, I think Robert Thornton’s playing out of his skin at the minute. They’re all good players now to be honest with you. If you’re not on song, or if you’re average, you’re going to get beat.”
Having retired and un-retired once in 2004, Taylor admits he has no designs on leaving the oche just yet, despite a tempting offer from his beloved Port Vale Football Club. “They’ve asked me to be on the board, which I wouldn’t have time for now, but I would consider in the future. I’d be very motivated towards them and also very truthful as well. They’d have to do better, that’s for sure!” If the last quarter century is anything to go by, the Phil Taylor success story is far from finished just yet.