England and Kent’s Tony Brown passed away on 22nd September 2022.

Although I never met Tony, I used to watch him on TV and I did eventually speak to him on the phone in 2011 and we spoke of his life in darts. That interview can be found elsewhere on this website.

After I had published my tribute to Tony, I realised that, although he had never published a biography, he had written the Foreword for Keith Turner’s excellent book Darts – The Complete Book of the Game published by David & Charles in 1980.

Even though it had been written over four decades ago, it was produced when Tony was one of the top darts players in Britain and stood at Number Two in the rankings. His insight of darts and the information he provided of his life at that time is well worth reproducing for all darts fans to read.

Thus, having gained permission from the publisher, I produce Tony’s words here in full. All I have done is add some photos from my archive to illustrate the piece.


One minute nobody has heard of Tony Brown and the next I am rated number two darts player in the world.

How did it all happen?

This is a question I am often asked by darts fans all over the country, including youngsters hoping they have the potential to break into the professional ranks when the time comes, and by seasoned players knowing in their hearts they are good enough but needing that break at the right time.

I first started playing the game in 1956 when my father decided to take a public house, the Falcon Hotel, in Dover [Kent]. I was eleven at the time and this gave me an early opportunity to play darts. I think that in any sport the earlier you are able to participate the more advantageous it is, provided, of course, you possess that natural ability which is required to succeed at the highest level.

I can remember very clearly how I would rush home from school, change out of my uniform, push my homework aside and go into the bar to practise. Often I would need a stool to reach the darts above the double top.

The Falcon Hotel has long since been pulled down to make way for road improvements but every time I cross the road where it used to be I think to myself, ‘this is where it all started’. What if my father had not become a licensee? Would I have ended up playing darts?  

I doubt it.

I mentioned earlier that the younger you are when you start playing a sport, the easier it is for you. Well, I had a cricket bat shoved in my hand from about two years old and so my childhood ambition was to play county cricket for a living. My father and his four brothers had all played professional cricket or football so I suppose it was only natural for me to have a similar ambition.

However, we took another pub, the Three Cups, in 1960. I was now fifteen and did not require the stool anymore. Homework was still being neglected but I was doing well at cricket and football at school. I started chalking for the local darts team and was fortunate at this stage to be able to mix with good players and learn the right shots to throw for. This is a very important aspect in darts, especially at the top level, where every dart counts. To know automatically what to throw for when you require a finish is a great asset because you do not have to hesitate and risk losing concentration.

By the time I was seventeen, I was playing in the first team at the Cups and occasionally winning local titles. My cricket, too, had gone well and I had joined Dover Cricket Club where I was adjusting to a higher class of cricket. At twenty years of age, I was given the opportunity to join the Kent Club and Ground Staff, but unfortunately due to work I was unable to attend regularly and the chance dwindled. However, in the games I did play I performed well, and held my own with several of the lads who are the backbone of the present county team.

Meanwhile, I was becoming a more prominent figure in local darts, and once I had realised that my chance to play professional cricket had slipped away, darts gradually began to take over from cricket.

In January 1973, the British Darts Organisation [BDO] was formed and an inter-counties league soon followed. As most counties had not formed a super league by this time, there was no way county secretaries could examine results and scores to determine their leading players, so many of them arranged friendlies with other counties hoping that a galaxy of local talent would emerge. Kent officials decided to stage a match between north and south thus giving them a chance to see in action players from both ends of the county, from which they could select the basis of their forthcoming county team.

Having been successful at this time by winning several local titles, I was selected to represent South Kent in this intriguing fixture. I was drawn out first and although I gave a good account of myself, I was narrowly beaten by two legs to one. However, I must have shown the selectors that I had the potential to become a county player because shortly afterwards I was selected to play for the Kent first team.

I will always remember my first game. It was played at Crayford Social Club against Surrey who at the time were a very strong side. I was drawn out about fourth and scored very well but failed to get my doubles to finish, a fate that seems to befall a lot of youngsters making their county debuts. Probably a case of being a little nervous and trying too hard.

After my game I remember going to the back of the hall to sit down and watch the rest of the matches. I had been sitting there for about ten minutes when Tom Barrett, that gentleman of darts who won the News of the World two years running, came over and sat beside me. He obviously thought I looked disheartened and wanted to cheer me up.

What a marvellous gesture by such a great player to come and talk to a disappointed youngster, knowing I needed a few words of encouragement at that time. This is the type of person who has helped to put darts where it is today, and I know that myself and several other players who are doing well at the moment can look back and realise what we owe to the pioneers of yesterday.

Well, Tom and I had a chat about several aspects of the game, and by the time we had finished it was surprising how much better and reassured I felt. Tom went off to play his game, which I watched admiringly, hoping that one day I would emulate this great sportsman.

There is an incredible difference playing in your local against average players and playing in front of up to five hundred spectators against a top player from another county. There are about four different progressive stages in darts, each one producing higher-class opposition and requiring greater concentration and experience to succeed.

The first is obviously playing in your local in leagues or cup matches. The second is playing in your super league team which should produce most of the best players in your area. The third is being selected for your county and the fourth, the ultimate, becoming an English International. I believe that each of these different stages requires at least a year at that level before you produce the darts that you are capable of throwing. In other words, you require a year to adjust to the different pressures and tensions that each progressive step produces.

I was probably just as good a dart thrower ten years ago. It was just that now I have become more experienced by playing in front of large audiences and against top players most of the time. Becoming number two in the world does not just happen. You have to spend a lot of time and money besides being one hundred per cent dedicated and producing maximum effort all the time.

I suggest entering all tournaments that you can to give you the chance to play against top players from other parts of the country, thus building up your experience. You will not improve by playing in your own back yard all time, and beating players inferior in ability to you.

I finished the rest of the season with the Kent A team and found that I won about as many as I had lost. Not a record to shout about but enough to suggest I could hold my own at county standards given enough time. My record the following year helped to change my destination in life and eventually to become a darts professional. I went through the whole season without losing a game and this was the stepping stone to becoming a full England International. My name was submitted to the England selectors and after scrutinising my county performances, they decided I had earned my chance to represent my country.

I was selected to play against Wales at Tottenham in May 1976. Once again I had a good game but was just pipped by three games to two. This time I did not feel too despondent because I had given a good account of myself and was pleased with my performance, although of course I would have preferred to have started with a victory!

My international career progressed and I found that, as in my first county season, I was winning one and losing one. There was no magic formula for instant success, only hard work, endeavour and persistence. I find now that at international level I am producing the form and getting the results I know I am capable of.

So, I must again stress to players progressing to a higher standard of darts, give yourselves a year before judging your performances. Don’t give up and think that the standard is too high for you. Remember, I took a year to each level to produce the form that I was capable of. I’m glad I didn’t give in.

Even though I have had the good fortune to reach the top of my profession and now travel all over the world, whenever I am at home I still call in at the local to have a game and chat with the lads. After all, this is where I started on my long trail to darting fame. I often look back and think how much we owe to darts secretaries everywhere who have formed leagues and given up their own time to organise and help run competitions, all of which help the local players to improve.

There is no doubt that the sport of darts holds a certain fascination for all of the millions who endeavour to play, from the average pub thrower to the top professionals.

Tony, on the right, as a member of the England team with, of course, Eric Bristow and John Lowe winning the Elkadart Triples in March 1979 (Image (c) DW/PC Archive)

I often compare it with golf in that one day you can go round the course in a respectable score and the next you are struggling to get round in under one hundred. Yet, there is no apparent explanation. With darts you can throw a perfect hundred followed by twenty-six, and in your mind, the darts have been held exactly the same and released in the same way.

To try and achieve a nine-dart leg, the minimum possible at 501, is a target which holds a certain amount of fascination, especially for the top players. For the average player, progress may be measured by counting the number of darts required to a finish a leg of 501. Starting, say, at 30 darts, improvement may be seen when they break 25 darts and then 20 darts until they near perfection by throwing 15 darts and under.

Also, what an achievement to throw three darts into the treble twenty or into the inner bull for someone who has never done it before. Probably fifty per cent of all darts players will never reach such figures, so all their lives they will be a challenge.

The appeal the game has to the general public is tremendous. Darts has no physical barriers – housewives and school children are equally capable of hitting that elusive target.  They all have three darts in their hands and it is up to the individual how they throw them.

I feel, personally, there is an aura of magnetism about the game, an excitement at getting the winning double whether it is a top professional adding another title to his credit, or an average player winning the knockout at his local. Because the cameras are able to get so close, darts is a natural for television. Viewers are able to see the expressions made by the players, a look of satisfaction or of disappointment. Also, people who cannot find time to attend top darts competitions can understand why the sport has such spectator appeal because the game is played at a fast pace with a quick build-up to the final climax.

So, all in all, darts has a fascination and appeal that is not generated by many other sports and I am sure that with the help of the media, especially colour television, it will become one of the most popular games of all time…

Happy darting.

Tony Brown

[Foreword from Keith Turner’s book Darts – The Complete Book of the Game, (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1980) is reproduced by kind permission of David and Charles Ltd. 2022.]

Additional text (c) Patrick Chaplin. Images: DW/PC Archive. Used with permission.

(Posted 22 October 2022)

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