It is becoming more and more common that I hear news of yet another darts star of the past, who I admired and watched on TV back in the day has passed away.
On this occasion I discovered that England and Kent’s Tony Brown died on 22nd September, when his daughter Kelly announced the sad news to members of the Darts of the Past Facebook page. (The image of Tony above shows him in Embassy action. Courtesy of DW/PC Archive.)
Tributes poured in to Kelly via Darts of the Past. These are just a few of those received.
Of his many friends from his darts past, Roger Nickson said
‘Super guy. So unassuming, always very professional and one of the true greats of the day…Tony used to travel up from Dover every Monday night to play in the London Super League. He will always be remembered by us all from the 70s and 80s as one of the true greats of the game of darts. R.I.P.’
Marie George wrote
So, so sorry to hear of your loss. Bobby has fond memories of him back in the day. He says you could always rely on Tony to have something in his medicine bag to cure a headache or sore throat etc. RIP Tony xxx
David Lennard, son of Bill Lennard, the 1976 News of the World champion said
‘So sorry for your loss Kelly. My dad knew your dad well and they played together for England.’
Whilst the Swedish darts star Stefan Lord added
‘So sorry to hear that. Great friend and partner. RIP’
Steve Beaton, the 1996 World Champion wrote
‘Sorry to hear Tony has passed away Kelly. He was a lovely man. I played him a few times and we always had a laugh. RIP my friend.’
Dave Babb said
‘So very sorry to hear of Tony’s passing. A great sportsman and a gentleman. Always a cheerful adversary with lots of good advice. My condolences to all his family and friends. He will be sadly missed by us old darters. RIP Tony.’
Capped for England on twenty-three occasions, a Kent County player for eleven years, a member of the famous Marlboro Team of Champions (Tony is shown above depicted in a Marlboro beer mat) and a top professional darts player for eight years, darts folklore will have us believe that Tony Brown, who reached the semi-finals of the Embassy World Professional Darts Championship on no less than four occasions, simply gave up darts in 1984 and disappeared from the scene.
In 2011 I caught up with Tony and he spoke to me about his amazing career and the real reason he left the sport he loved, apparently, so suddenly.
Tony was born in Enfield, North London on 1st April 1945 and moved to Dover with his parents Kenneth and Pauline in 1956 when they became licensees at The Falcon public house in the town. It was there that eleven-year-old Tony first played the game that he would eventually master.
In those early days Tony was inspired by the darting skills of two local players, Arthur Young and Tony Fox and learning from these players certainly paid dividends. In 1973 Tony was selected to play in a Kent ‘North versus South’ representative match and as a result of participating in that tournament he earned a place in his County side. In his first season playing county darts Tony won half of his matches but in the following year he won all of his games which earned him a call-up for the England squad.
Tony’s big break came in 1977. He told me, “Jim Mangan, who was managing Eric Bristow at the time, asked me if I would join Eric and John Lowe in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Triples.” Tony worked in the paper industry but wanted to take up Mangan’s offer so asked his employer for time off which was refused. “So,” said Tony, “I gave in my notice and took a chance on becoming a professional.”
The team of Tony, Eric and John won the Triples tournament and success for Tony followed success. That same year (1977) Tony appeared on television for the first time when he appeared on Yorkshire TV’s The Indoor League and won the men’s darts trophy beating David ‘Rocky’ Jones in the final.
In 1979 Tony won the British Open (beating Brian Langworth in the final), the Darts World Tons Trophy, was a member of the World Cup winning team in Las Vegas (other members being John, Eric and Bill Lennard), beat Alan Evans during England’s win over Wales in the Nations Cup and reached the semi-final of the Embassy World Professional Darts Championship. The image, below shows Tont with the BDO and Kent legend, Sam Hawkins, presenting Tony with another trophy he won that year; the Kent Open Singles. (Image: DWPC Archive)
Tony reached the Embassy World Darts Championships on no less than seven occasions. He appeared in the inaugural Embassy in 1978 where he was beaten in the first round 6-3 (in legs) by Australia’s Tim Brown. (No relation.)
In 1979 Tony beat Wales’ Ceri Morgan 2-0 (in sets) and moved into the quarter finals where he beat England colleague, Alan Glazier, 3-2, and then moved in his first semi-final. Unfortunately, England’s John Lowe was too good for him on that occasion, beating Tony by 3-2.
In 1980 Tony beat the Australian star, Terry O’Dea, 2-0 in the second round, then moved on to the quarter-final where he beat England’s Bill Lennard 3-0. Tony moved into his second semi-final where his progress was stopped by Eric Bristow 4-3. Tony told me back in 2011, that one of his finest memories of his career in professional darts was when he beat Cliff Lazarenko into third place in the 3rd/4th playoff that year.
In the 1981 Embassy Tony made it to the semi-final for the third time by beating England’s Paul Gosling 2-1 in the first round, Belgium’s Luc Marreel (2-0) in the second, then Scotland’s Jocky Wilson 4-2 in the quarter final by beating Tony but was then defeated 4-1 by John Lowe. Surprisingly, Tony met Cliff Lazarenko again in the 3rd/4th playoff. Cliff was able to gain his revenge 2-1.
Tony returned in 1982 but his stay was a little shorter. He beat the USA darts ace, John Kramer 2-0 but found another USA player, David Miller waiting for him in the second round who beat Tony 2-0.
In 1983 Tony was victorious over his England colleague, Bobby George, by 2-0 in the first round. He then met yet another USA player in Jerry Umberger who Tony dispatched by 3-0. In the quarter final Tony met Sweden’s Stefan Lord and won 4-1, thus leading to fourth semi-final where the Crafty Cockney awaited him. Eric defeated Tony by 5-1. In the 3rd/4th place play off, Tony lost to Jocky Wilson 2-0.
Tony’s last appearance in the Embassy was 1984 when he was beaten in the first round by John Lowe. He had made seven consecutive appearances at the Embassy (1978-1984) and made it to four semi-finals. Quite a record.
During that same year Tony decided to call it a day and give up professional darts. He told me in 2011
“I wanted to get back into the paper industry before I was too old. Some people say I quit too early. I just did what I wanted to do at the time. I have no regrets.”
Tony returned to darts after an 18-year break. It was at his mother’s wake. He told me
“I was dragged on to the oche late in the evening. I was very drunk but managed to hit a 180 and a 134 finish with old brass pub darts.”
By 2011, when I interviewed him, Tony had retired from the paper industry and played regularly for the Diamond Hotel, Dover. I asked him how he thought he would fare against the top players of today and he replied
“I would certainly have enjoyed competing with them when I was in my prime.”
Does he have one over-riding special memory of his darting life? Yes, he does and it dates back to his earliest days as a Kent County player. Tony told me:
“The one I will always remember is when Tom Barrett, who won the News of the World in 1964 and 1965, came and sat beside me for a chat after I had just played my first County game. Although I had scored quite well my finishing let me down and I was feeling a bit despondent. Tom reassured me and bucked me up and I remember thinking what a gentleman he was as well as a great champion.”
Cheers Tony. You too were a great champion and a credit to the sport of darts. RIP.
© 2022 Patrick Chaplin.
Images as credited.
Thanks Patrick , a good insight .
Great piece Patrick and a full tribute that Tony would have been proud of. Hope everybody on Darts from the Past reads it, i will recommend that they do.
Great interview Patrick and a lovely tribute to Tony R.I.P. Tony
R.I.P Tony. I worked alongside Tony in Devon for years. Enjoyed many tales from his darts years. Sadly missed by me when he left to return to Dover.
Saw Tony Brown close-up a couple of times in the late 70s. We were supporting a couple of Oxfordshire players at the London & Home Counties Divisional finals at Battersea Town Hall. Oxon’s Joe Dodd reached the the final against Tony and in his 2nd leg hit 100-100-100-100. And never got another throw. That’s how good Tony was. In the fish n chip shop afterwards, Tony took all the banter good-naturedly and I thought what a smashing bloke. R.I.P.
Thanks for you message Malcolm. Great memories.