Eric was like marmite some fans loved him, and in equal measure, some didn’t. Whatever you say about Eric, he was one of the few professional dart players to make darts the sport it is today.
Eric was an arrogant player, but unlike most, he could back up his words with his play. Famously after beating Bobby George 5-3 in the 1980 BDO World Professional final, he was asked what he thought of his opponent. To the commentator’s amazement, Eric said ‘he will be the No.2 of the future’. Eric, of course, held the No.1 spot at the time. Bobby never lifted the World Championship Title. However, Eric won the event five times.
To be awarded a UK Honour such as the MBE was unheard of in the World of darts however Eric was the first to receive the medal for services to the sport of darts. It was an honour he was immensely proud of receiving and highlighted the sport as the main sporting event.
I was a firm fan of Eric, he had a mouth on him everyone liked to hate, but he was pure magic when he threw darts, and in the 1980s, few could challenge him.
Eric was a man’s man, loved his cigarettes, a pint of beer and a hot curry! He was held no fear something that he brought with him from a tough neighbourhood upbringing. It was probably the no fear that gave Eric the edge over most of his darting opponents, some buckling before they even threw a dart.
However, it was the money racer games that made the dart stars of the past. Players and fans would travel long distances to bet on and watch two great players of the day. Today things are a little simpler you can see online offer from Fanduel and watch the matches in the comfort of your own home or your local bar on TV. The coverage of the sport is now vast, and major tournaments are now streamed most months.
Of the few that could challenge Eric was John Lowe. John appeared in the first BDO World Champions final losing to Leighton Rees 11-7 (legs) but went on to win the World title three times in three different decades.
Although John lost to Eric 6-2 in the 1985 World Final, he reversed the outcome in 1987 by beating Eric 6-4. John and Eric both represented England international squad and although were chalk and cheese they had a mutual respect of each other’s darting ability.
If you ask most people of a certain age in the UK, who was ‘Jocky Wilson’? Most will know him for being the famous darting Scotsman. An unlikely working-class hero, Jocky went on to win the World Championship twice and was also the pride of Scotland. Scottish fans are passionate supporters of their fellow Scottish players, and there was no bigger rivalry than a match featuring Eric Bristow ‘the Crafty Cockney’ and Jockey Wilson.
In 1989 the Scottish fans got what they always wanted a World Final between Jocky Wilson and Eric Bristow. Jocky won the match 6-4 to the delight of the Scottish supporters. Jocky was leading the game by a mile but could hit the winning double, Eric realising Jocky had a few nervous finishing darts clawed his way back into the game before Jocky managed to hit the winning double with pure relief written over his face.
In 2018 Eric sadly died of a heart attack. He was visiting the PDC Premier League Liverpool when he collapsed. The announcement of his passing was announced live during the competition before the last match of the night. Eric was a darting hero to many, a prominent player of his time, outspoken but will always be remembered for his skill and entertainment on the oche.