Darts nicknames: from the Crafty Cockney to the Assassin
Darts, through its nicknames, stands alone in UK sport. No other sport equals its colourfully monikered cast of characters in this sceptred isle – and it’s time we paid tribute to it.
Where US sport has its Babes, A-Rods and Pistol Petes, and the footballers of Brazil wear names like Garrincha ( “songbird”), Ronaldinho (“little Ronaldo”) and Fred (erm, “Fred”), sportsmen in the UK tend to go by names like Alan, Steve, Wayne and, um, Rio.
Not so our nation’s professional darts players. They add some much-needed colour to the world of sport – if, no longer, ITV’s World of Sport – and what’s more, a well-chosen nickname can turn a darts player from a permed also-ran with a beergut into a household name. Just ask Steve “the Bronzed Adonis” Beaton.
A good darts nickname gives you an extra three inches at the oche. Phil “the Power” Taylor has a headstart on Raymond “Barney” van Barneveld every time they meet – largely because he’s got a proper nickname.
And, if you’re Keith “the Kid” Dellar, your own name could even become rhyming slang for the nation’s favourite drink.
A history of darts nicknames
The first darts nickname is generally agreed to have belonged to the “Crafty Cockney”, Eric Bristow. According to a story in the Daily Mirror in 2005, he was given the nom de guerre by Bobby George – then known to the world as “Bobby George”, and not “Bobby Dazzler”, “Mister Glitter”, “the King of Darts” or any of the other monikers given to the legendary Essex pro.
Another story mentions an ex-pat pub in Los Angeles that Bristow visited – that’s how big darts was in the 1980s – called “The Crafty Cockney”. The pub produced red bowling shirts with its name emblazoned on the back.
London lad Bristow bagged himself one to wear on the oche – up to then he’d traditionally appeared in a red polo shirt – and the nickname went back to Britain with the darts player.
Other players of the day soon got nicknames of their own, although most were attributed by others rather than self-chosen (Bobby George almost certainly coined John Lowe’s moniker of “Old Stoneface”) and some – like Cliff Lazarenko’s “Big Cliff” – didn’t exactly test the crowd’s imagination.
By the time Steve Beaton was appearing in tournaments as “the Bronzed Adonis” in the early 1990s, though, a nickname was an essential part of a pro darts player’s armoury. And with the arrival of the World Darts Council (later the PDC) and darts’ great schism, having a nickname became de facto darts law. The PDC added razzmatazz, family friendliness and Sky cash to darts, and a nickname and entrance music was part of the pro player’s package.
Plain old Phil Taylor – winner of two pre-split BDO World Championships – went on to dominate the game of darts with 11 PDC titles as the more impressive Phil “the Power” Taylor.
The BDO soon got in on the act, too, with “the Count” (Ted Hankey), “the Viking” (Andy Fordham) and “Wolfie” (Martin Adams) all winning World titles.
Selected list of darts nicknames
The Assassin – Martin Atkins
Av It – Wes Newton
Bravedart – Jamie Harvey
The Count – Ted Hankey
The Crafty Cockney – Eric Bristow
Diamond Dave – Dave Askew
Dreamboy – Gary Anderson
Hawaii 501 – Wayne Mardle (pictured, above)
The King – Mervyn King
Magnum PI (formerly the Bronzed Adonis) – Steve Beaton
McDanger – Les Wallace
Old Stoneface – John Lowe
One Dart – Peter Manley
The Power – Phil Taylor
The Singapore Slinger – Paul Lim
The Tornado – Tony West
The Viking – Andy Fordham
Webby – Mark Webster
Wolfie – Martin Adams
The Wizard of Oz – Simon Whitlock