Eric Bristow

(Born 25th April 1957) won his first world championship in 1980, defeating fellow Londoner Bobby George, and so began a decade’s worth of domination, in which he would retain his title in 1981 and win it again in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Like his snooker contemporary Steve Davis, however, he had to cope also with a shock defeat during this period, when young unknown Keith Deller beat him in the 1983 final, not to mention Steve Brennan in the previous year’s 1st Round. He finished as runner-up on four other occasions up to 1991.

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The nickname of the Crafty Cockney was given to Bristow when he visited an English pub of that name in 1976 during a visit to Santa Monica, California. Bristow wore a shirt (which he received from the same pub) depicting a uniformed British policeman, a Union Flag and the title Crafty Cockney whenever he took part in a tournament.

The way players hold a dart when playing the game has no rules nor recommended technique – players grasp a dart simply in the manner with which they feel comfortable. Bristow became known more than other players, however, for his style, which involved the extension of his little finger in a similar manner to the drinking of tea, often but falsely attributed to the English upper class – “me perked up right pinkie” he called it. Yet when he pulled the dart back from aiming position, he circled it with all of his fingers, therefore leading to speculation that the routine with the little finger was worthless to his throw. When asked about it, Bristow admitted the style was “just for show”.

Bristow emerged as the most successful and consistent darts player of the 1980s, reigning as number one in the world rankings from 1980 until 1987. He was fortunate to have been around at the right time as television began showing increased interest in the sport in the late 1970s, with the first world championship occurring in 1978. This, allied to the fact that a governing body had been formed in January 1973 and that Bristow had not only supreme talent for one so young but an imposing personality and uncontained belief, enabled him to make a very successful living. Cocky and arrogant, he invariably wound opponents up before and during matches with his gamesmanship. Crowds would boo Bristow when he was on stage, no less so than in Scotland, an atmosphere in which he revelled. During the 1982 Arrows Chemicals British International Championship match in Scotland, Bristow was subject to what Darts World Magazine called “the most sustained barrage of jeering witnessed at a Darts match” – he played to the crowd during his game with Harry Patterson – following a Treble 20, he turned to the crowd next dart, Treble 20, he turned to the crowd third dart was single 20 but he smiled and the crowd applauded – Bristow at his incomparable best.

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