Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category
Monday 7th June 2010
Hold on, what? The Harlem Globetrotters are playing in London? Time to get courtside tickets at Wembley Arena.
report to follow…
Sunday 23rd May 2010
After 14 enthralling weeks of Premier League Darts, it’s on to Wembley for the finale. Will The Power win back ‘his’ title?
report to follow…
Thursday 18th March 2010
After Wembley, Alexandra Palace and The O2, the darts roadshow continued with a trip to Brighton for Week 6 of the Premier League.
I arrived at the hotel in Brighton a couple of hours early, just in time for a quick bite to eat. Whilst eating in the lounge, I thought I’d noticed Róisín O’Shea from Unicorn sat opposite, but couldn’t be sure as I’d only seen a photo of her on Twitter. It now felt like I was daydreaming, as further back I recognised members of the Lewis entourage. Then I glanced to my left and realised Ronnie Baxter was having a pre-match drink with his wife, as Adrian Lewis walked in. It started to feel like I was having a pre-match meal inside a 3D television.
The players were waiting for the security to head out to the Brighton Centre. I decided it was time to head to my room. Whilst waiting for the elevator, a couple of other guests had asked Adrian Lewis for a photo. As he was about to walk past, I decided to ask for a photo too. He said no problem and I gave my camera to his wife to take the photo. He was extremely friendly and we had a quick chat about his current darts and off he went.
The Brighton Centre was completely packed out and I had a good view from one of the table seats near the front, although I have to say the tables were possibly a bit too close together. Phil Taylor (No .1) was up on first against draw specialist Terry Jenkins (No. 5), but The Power completely outclassed The Bull with an 8-3 victory. Next up was the battle between Raymond van Barneveld (No 2) and Mervin King (No. 4). The King almost had the match in the bag, but amazingly and with the crowds support, Barney fought back to secure a 7-7 draw.
It was now getting quite rowdy in the venue, with almost half the crowd focusing on a cute girl in the front row up in the circle. The matches were going on whilst there were eruptions of “Where’s your boyfriend gone?” and “We can see you sneaking out”. Eventually she had to leave for the sake of the darts as Ronnie Baxter (No. 6) was up against Adrian Lewis (No. 7). The Rocket stormed into a commanding lead, but a superb comeback from Jackpot secured an 8-6 win. The final match had the in-form Simon Whitlock up against an out-of-sorts James Wade (No.3). Even with a fantastic 170 finish, The Wizard was no match for The Machine, who went on to wrap up an 8-4 victory.
I walked back into the hotel at the same time as the PDC match officials. Whilst taking a photo with Scott Gibling, he pointed out that Sid Waddell had walked into the hotel. Wow, I was now standing next to the legendary commentator and the man who is synonymous with the world of Darts. He was more than happy to have a photo taken too.
With the adrenaline pumping, I decided to get a drink at the bar. I was acknowledged by members of the security team who had recognised me from the Brighton Centre. I had a quick chat with Adrian Lewis at the bar and then sat on one of the couches in the lounge. It then dawned on me that just to my left was Ronnie Baxter and his wife, in front was Adrian Lewis and his family, and on my right was Phil Taylor, Sid Waddell and Dave Lanning with their family members.
I could hear Phil Taylor explaining to a drunken ‘fan’ that he already taken at least 3 photos with him already, but still allowed him to take one last photo. I felt I had to ask too and broke the ice by showing him a picture of the teenager that was fortunate enough to receive the match dartboard and a set of darts from The Power. It put a smile on his face seeing the teenager’s joy. I didn’t expect Sid Waddell to give up his seat for me to sit down and for Taylor’s son to take the photo. I thanked Taylor and asked him a few questions which he answered gracefully. I didn’t want to take up anymore of his time, even though at no point did he make me feel like I should leave. I was also in Sid’s seat, so felt extra guilty.
Fans were now taking photos with Ronnie Baxter, so I thought I might as well get the full set and he was very obliging too. At this moment, I needed another drink to let the last hour sink in. Adrian Lewis invited Phil Taylor to join his family and friends for a drink which I thought was a really nice gesture. But to my astonishment, he turned to me, noticed I was sat alone and invited me over too. It just felt wrong for an outsider to join them, so I said thank you, but no, it was ok. But Lewis was not taking no for an answer and said, don’t sit over there on your own, join us and even pulled up a chair.
With the night already beyond a darting fan’s dream, I was now sat at the same table with Lewis, Taylor and their family and friends. I declined the offer of a drink as I really felt I was taking liberties, even though I was invited to join them. At one point, I even muttered the words “this is mad” under my breath, but think it came out louder than I had hoped. Lewis made everyone laugh when he said I and one his friends looked like ‘Baddiel and Skinner’. I ended up showing them the Whyte and Mackay Fan’s Poster to see if they could spot the mistake. They noticed the missing 13 after a few seconds. Later, Baxter spotted that the 13 was a 3 too.
I’d love to say I had a great night sleep, but my mind was in overdrive. At breakfast, Phil Taylor and the members of the security team were already there. I sat on the other side of the room, and it was really nice of Sid Waddell to walk past and say hello on route to the buffet. After breakfast, I ended up sharing an elevator with Raymond van Barneveld. Barney was really friendly and we had a chat about Holland and Darts.
Back in the room, I decided to get ready and catch the earlier train. I had more than enough excitement and felt it was time to leave. I have quite a vivid imagination, but even I’d never daydreamed of the events that had unfolded. A massive thank you goes out to Adrian Lewis, Sid Waddell, Phil Taylor, Ronnie Baxter, Raymond van Barneveld, the security and the officials. All had a part to play in a great evening/morning, but Adrian Lewis went beyond the norm and really made it a special night. Now all I need is the hotel’s CCTV footage, as I doubt my friends are really going to believe this story!
Thursday 11th February 2010
What’s next, Darts at Wembley Stadium? Well for now we’ll have to make do with the expected 10,000 fans for the first night of the new Premier League season at The O2.
In recent years, Premier League Darts has gone from strength to strength, adding more and more fans along the way. So much so, it’s now able to stage an event at the impressive O2. Only 2 of the 6 of us actually made it to the event, which meant we ended up with a front row table to ourselves.
Unlike at Alexandra Palace, the tables were really spaced out. Personally I would have added a few more rows of tables and had less people in the seats miles away from the stage. Not to pack them in like at Ally Pally, but enough for more people to get closer to the action. And another thing, unlike Wembley and Alexandra Palace, it was freezing in there, which should help Barney and The King.
First up was Ronnie Baxter (No. 6) against Terry Jenkins (No.5). The Rocket has been around since the BDO days, so it was no surprise that he was taking photos from the stage at this historic event. The match itself was tight, with draw specialist The Bull clawing his way back to earn a 7-7 draw.
Next up was Mervin King (No. 4) and wildcard entry Adrian Lewis (No. 7). Much is expected from Jackpot this season, as among all the players, he has the most potential to be a star in the sport. But like Jimmy White at Snooker, the worry is he may not fulfil the great talent he has been blessed with. King on the other hand is a real battler and is throwing better than he’s ever thrown. A good match entailed with King just coming out on top 8-5.
Time for a repeat of last year Semi-Final between Raymond van Barneveld (No. 2) and James Wade (No. 3). The Machine came out on top and then went on the lift the trophy, that Taylor had held for the four previous years it was staged. This time around Barney was up for the challenge and triumphed 8-5.
The final match was a repeat of The World Championship Final staged 6 weeks earlier between Phil Taylor (No. 1) and wildcard entry Simon Whitlock. There was a possibility that The Power was going to miss out due to a virus, but not only turned up, pretty much destroyed The Wizard 8-3. It seems The Power really want HIS trophy back.
Loads of fun at the Darts and The O2 proved a good venue. Being colder than other venues probably did help Barney and The King. However the performance of the night was from The Power, even though he was far from 100%. Great start to the tournament, and next up for me is a visit to the Brighton Centre for week 6 in the Premier League season. Can’t wait!
Saturday 16th January 2010
I played snooker throughout the whole of my teens and was a keen follower of the sport at the time. But I’d lost track of the game in the last 20 years.
I’d studied in Sheffield and lived in London, but for some reason, even though I loved Snooker in the 1980s, I never considered going to watch a match live at either the Crucible or the Conference Centre. Football aside, Darts was my main sport now. So the fact Barry Hearn had now taken the reigns at Snooker’s HQ, it was time to book tickets for the Masters at Wembley Arena. While I’m at it, it made sense to book a whole day covering both Semi-Finals.
Unfortunately, we arrived minutes after the first match had begun. Having to wait outside the hall, we followed the game on a small TV. We were then allowed in just before the break for the third frame. Unlike the atmosphere at the Darts, you could hear a pin drop and it was so difficult to keep quiet whilst looking for our seats. Armed with our earphones, we were able to follow the commentary from Dennis Taylor and Ken Doherty.
The opening Semi-Final was between Ronnie O’Sullivan (No. 1) and Mark Williams (No. 15). Both players were superb throughout the match, going at it blow for blow. Just when you had thought, Williams had done enough, Ronnie would force his way back into the match. It was fitting in the end, that it would go to the last frame. The Rocket eventually coming out on top 6-5 and through to tomorrow’s final.
It would have been great if the matches were reversed. Having two super quick players up first meant that even though it went to the maximum 11 frames, it finished in no time at all and we had over 3 hours to kill before the second Semi-Final. So after a bite to eat, a drink, one mate going home and even more waiting, the next match was about to begin.
Up next was a match up between Stephen McGuire (No. 3) and Mark Selby (No. 6). A slow start to the game made me think that the decision by one of my mates to go home early made some sense. The other mate just moved around the arena. I think I counted 5 different areas he sat in throughout the day. The main thing that kept the game entertaining was the commentary, but that was also proving a problem too. The ex-pro’s kept cracking jokes and thus making the audience laugh. Even though the referee called silence a number of times, it was like we were being told off for something outside our control. Eventually, the match recovered and got going after the interval, with Mark Selby going through to the final after a 6-3 win.
Not sure what impact Barry Hearn will make on the Sport, but it definitely needs a push in the right direction. At Boxing you hear “Let’s get ready to rumble” and at Darts you hear “It’s time to meet the players” before they are introduced with loud music blaring into the arena. For the first time, Snooker introduced its own “Let’s get the boys on the baize” with a musical introduction. However, unlike Boxing where a punch is thrown immediately, or in Darts where a 180 is possible, what you get with Snooker is a safety shot off the break. So the excitement of the intros is lost.
All in all though it was a fantastic day out. I loved it and may make it a yearly obsession!
Saturday 26th December 2009
With a superb run of 14 games unbeaten, Forest have climbed from 19th up to 3rd in the table. A Boxing Day clash away to Watford will provide Forest with another tough test.
In a match of few chances, the home side were slightly on top without really threatening. Watford did have a shout for a penalty in the second half, but the referee waved the appeals away. Forest had a good chance to steal the win through a Blackstock chance late in the game, but the keeper made a great save to deny the striker.
The match ended in a 0-0 stalemate keeping both Forest’s chances of automatic promotion alive and Watford’s hopes of pushing for a play-off place. The large Forest faithful amongst the 17,086 were probably happy with the point. Now it’s 15 games unbeaten and no Forest fan would have thought that possible after bad start to the season.
Wednesday 23rd December 2009
One final fun night at the Darts, even though my mates were somehow expecting to see Barney or The Power. Well they’ll have to make do with the current Premier League Champion, The Machine.
Once again the weather was playing havoc with our plans and the almost impossible climb uphill via the icy pavements to Alexandra Palace. Even so, the place was packed out again and everyone was getting comfy for another great night of darts.
Up on first was Wayne Jones (No. 22) against Alex Roy. In a pretty tight contest the high ranked player managed to outscore the Ace of Herts 3-1 and book a place into the second round.
In the preliminary match, Sweden’s Magnus Cariz was up against Spain’s Francisco Ruiz. An easy 4-0 victory for the Swede put him through to a round one match later on against Colin Lloyd.
It was time to enjoy some of the great food on offer whilst Dutch superkid Michael Van Gerwen and crazy-haired Peter Wright took to the oche. In a pretty tight match, Mighty Mike came out on top 3-1 against the red and white dreadlocked Snakebite.
The current Premier League Champion, Jame Wade (No. 3) was up next against Steve Brown. This turned out to be the match of the night with high scoring averages and great outshots. The Machine finally coming out on top 3-1.
In the final match, Colin Lloyd (No. 10) was up against the qualifier Magnus Caris. The Swede was no pushover and Jaws had to put in a great performance to triumph 3-1.
Favourite moment was finally getting to hear the words to Colin Lloyd’s walk-in song “what’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster?” live. Another great night at the Darts. Shame I now have to wait 2 months until the Premier League debuts at the O2!