Dave Whitcombe has vowed to return fitter and stronger for the 2009 Betfred.com League of Legends after admitting his physical condition had contributed to his failure to reach this year’s semi-finals.
The Sittingbourne publican will be a spectator at Purfleet’s Circus Tavern this Friday when Bob Anderson, Keith Deller, Peter Evison and Cliff Lazarenko will battle it out for the inaugural title.
This is despite a superb start to the competition in which Whitcombe won his first three matches and still sat proudly at the top of the table after the fourth of the seven round-robin events.
But things quickly took a downturn for the 54-year-old and a crushing 7-2 defeat by Keith Deller in Stoke last week ended his qualification hopes, leaving Whitcombe to reflect on what had gone wrong.
Words of advice from 13-time former world champion Phil Taylor, who was in the crowd at Stoke, convinced Whitcombe he must shape up physically if he is to realise his dream of lifting the coveted Legends trophy in the future.
“I’ve noticed throughout the tournament that I’m simply not by any stretch of the imagination fit enough to play at a consistent level under the pressure of competing, as well as the heat,” said the dual former World Masters champion.
“It was and is the same, of course, in any televised darts where the lights are powerful. But when I did it on a regular basis, not only do you adapt but I was of course younger and fitter.
“I spoke to Phil Taylor about it – and of course he was in the same boat early this year when his form suffered – and he gave me some valuable advice about losing weight, which he has had to do.
“I should have known to do this anyway in all fairness, but it only hit home when I started practising again, the long travelling in the car and of course the events themselves.
“I have started already by joining a gym and putting together a better eating plan. It will take time but I am looking to show major improvement by Christmas.
“Out of every negative you can find a positive. My negative is not qualifying for the semi-finals. To do something about that, the positive is the weight loss and fitness plan.”
In Friday’s semi-finals, Anderson, the 2/5 favourite for the title with Betfred, will face Evison over the best of 19 legs before Deller takes on Lazarenko to establish which other player goes through to the best-of-21-legs final.
For further information on the Betfred.com League of Legends and how to purchase tickets for finals night, please visit www.leagueoflegends.tv.
The ‘League of Legends’ only lasted for two years but, of course, all of these participating darts legends are still playing and are available for exhibitions. Merely go to their individual websites for information. (Note: Eric Bristow can be contacted via John Lowe’s ‘Legends’ website.