This is a story about a man who has succeeded against the odds through a combination of hard work, determination, consistent self-improvement and luck. It also helped having an aggressive mentor in 5-times world champion Eric Bristow.
It was the intervention of and support from Bristow which led to Taylor becoming the world darts champion (ten times over) and the most potent force in the sport today. Taylor always had the talent but it was Bristow who saw the potential – a mirror image of himself, arrogant with an aggressive approach – and invested in him. As Taylor says, ‘Eric did not teach me to play darts, but he certainly did teach me how to win.’
Taylor was brought up in the back streets of the Potteries where his father had tried to turn him into a boxer. At the age of 25 he witnessed a Bristow darts exhibition and was inspired by him. At the time Taylor was earning a modest living making ceramic beer pumps and toilet handles, but that single exhibition was to change his life.
In ‘The Power – My Autobiography’, Phil Taylor, with the assistance of Sid Waddell, chronicles more than his successes and failures (Yes, there were a few!). The book is more than an ego-boosting record of those championship wins. ‘The Power’ shares with the reader the highs and lows of his incredible career. Describing himself as a one-time ‘nearly man’, Taylor details the struggle for recognition, not only for himself but also for the sport he loves and commands.
Taylor succeeded where others might have failed. His arrival in the top flight of darts corresponded with terrestrial TV pulling the plug on what had been extensive coverage of the sport during the 1970s and 1980s. Within a year of his 1992 epic Embassy win over Mike Gregory, the sport of darts was in turmoil. He talks frankly about the dispute between the professional players and the British Darts Organisation in 1993 which almost made him give up the game.
He writes candidly about the court case which nearly ended his career, the case which took him to the edge of despair and led to the retraction of the award of the MBE. There is a stark honesty about this ‘darkest period’ of his life with Taylor suggesting that, if it had not been for the support of his wife Yvonne and his closet friends and family, he may well have committed suicide.
One or two professional colleagues come in for a dose of vitriol from Taylor’s ballpoint and it will be interesting to see if this leads to lively exchanges of views in the darts press and in Internet chatrooms and websites. I also suspect that the Taylor/PDC version of the dispute and its aftermath will also be challenged by other parties who see matters from a different perspective.
As for the future, how many more World Championship successes is this master darter capable of? In the book, Taylor reckons thirteen, but then admits, “I may do more, because I think I can do better.” And that’s the challenge to all darters. Is there anyone out there who can beat Taylor and be consistent about it? In Bristow’s day it was – in the main – the legendary John Lowe who was there time and time again to remind the Crafty Cockney that he was vulnerable. (Or was that vice versa?) Taylor is beaten occasionally but not consistently – although John Part improves with every throw. Who is capable of writing that chapter in the life story of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor?
I have a feeling that Phil Taylor has a lot more darts history to write yet before he retires to a sun bed on a patio in Spain.
Taylor’s story is an inspirational and at times a controversial one. It is a story of an unlikely sporting hero with an extraordinary talent. Those who have been waiting to read the true story of ‘The Power’ – some anticipated that it would be written after he achieved his sixth world championship – need wait no longer. They will not be disappointed. Sid Waddell has made sure of that.
© 2007 Patrick Chaplin