Darts legend Bobby George will be entertaining the crowd at this Friday night’s Motherwell Masters – and recounted the bizarre occasion when a broken back put paid to his hopes of winning the BDO World Championship, writes Craig Goldthorp.
Speaking to Times and Speaker Sport, George (73) revealed he won’t be leaping around again, having suffered the agonising injury when celebrating his 4-2 quarter-final success over Kevin Kenny at the Lakeside Country Club in January 1994.
“I jumped up in the air, came down and felt my back go. I thought to myself: ‘I have done something dodgy here’.
“I went to the hospital and they told me: ‘You can’t play, you’ve broken your back’.
“But they made me a corset to wear during play and I got through to the semi-final.”
Despite battling agonising pain whenever he threw, George won that semi-final 5-4 against Swede Magnus Caris, having been 4-2 down.
The Englishman added: “Magnus missed double 18 to win 5-2, I got that leg and then I won every leg from then on.
“That was despite the fact that the pain I was in made it very difficult for me to concentrate.
“Back in those days there wasn’t a rest day between the semi-final and final, which meant I played the final the very next day (he would lose 6-0 against Canadian John Part).
“But a lot of people don’t get the chance to play in the final and I did.”
When asked if he would have won that final had he not had a bad back, George replied: “If Hitler hadn’t gone to Russia would he have won the war?
“I could say: ‘Yes I would have won’. But we’ll never know.”
George, a colourful character throughout his 32-year career, was popular with fans under the monikor King of Darts.
He made his way to the stage bedecked in jewellery, wearing a crown and cloak and holding a candelabra to the Queen song ‘We Are the Champions’.
Yet he hadn’t taken up darts until age 30, when he gave up working as a miner.
He recalled: “I was fishing in Ireland with my friend Malcolm Ellis and the weather was really rough so he suggested we go inside and play darts.
“I had never played darts in my life because I couldn’t count! But I just hit treble 18, double 16 straight away.
“Everyone was buying me drinks and I thought I would keep playing because it was a good social game.
“I won a super league within a week of taking it up and two weeks later I won the Essex Masters.
“I never looked back after that. Getting good at darts paid for my champagne in the pub!”
George, who was also runner-up in the 1980 BDO World final which he lost 5-3 to Eric Bristow, still suffers back pain today when he plays darts but he can laugh about it.
He joked: “My wife and I saw Planet of the Apes at the cinema and she said I walked like the monkeys in that film.
“She said it looked like I was taking the mickey out of them. As I was walking through the cinema foyer, somebody threw down a net over the top of me!”
* The Motherwell Darts Masters will run at Motherwell Concert Hall from 7.30pm this Friday, May 17, with the main event a challenge match between Scotland’s own Gary Anderson and fellow world champion Raymond van Barneveld.
Scottish ace Anderson, a two-time World Champion, will go up against five-time World Champion ‘Barney’. Preceding the head-to-head will be appearances from George and fellow legend Wayne Mardle.
For further information, call 01698 403120 or visit culturenl.co.uk.