"They won't just have to play outta their skin to beat Phil Taylor. They'll have to play outta their essence!" – Sid Waddell

Phil “The Power” Taylor is the greatest darts player ever. He has dominated the sport since his very first competition in 1990; winning the PDC World Championship ten times, the World Matchplay six times and the World Grand Prix three times. He has pioneered a revolutionary style of throw and combined his natural ability with a work ethic that few can better.

Early Life

Taylor was born on 13 August 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. His childhood was unremarkable and after leaving Mill Hill Comprehensive at the age of 16 he went to work at JF Sale and Co in Burslem as a sheet metal worker. A few years later he moved to Van Roy Engineering and after that to AG Hackney, back in Burslem in 1986. However all the while Taylor was playing darts, to begin with in the Central Club C.U.I. League and then moving on to play at the Huntsmen in Burslem. It was through his darts at the Huntsmen that Taylor met Eric Bristow, the man who helped to catapult Taylor to fame. Bristow himself was a great darts player, winning five World Championship titles, who at the time was suffering from dartitis1.

Burst on to the Scene

Maureen Flowers, a darts player herself and a manager, suggested to Bristow that he sponsor Taylor. Bristow agreed and gave Taylor £10,000 on the basis that should he win he would pay the money back. Taylor took voluntary redundancy from AG Hackney which included a pay off of £2000. With the money he married his fiancée, Yvonne, and she gave birth to their first two children, Lisa and Chris.

Bristow proved a great influence on Taylor, instilling in him his own drive and ambition. Taylor credits Bristow as the key influence on his career,

"He was the reason I am where I am now" - Phil Taylor
In 1990 Taylor entered his first competition, the Canadian Open. He was unranked and he battled his way to the final where he met Bob Anderson. He won 5-1 and became the first unranked player ever to win a major championship.

The Legend Begins

Taylor’s victory in Canada qualified him for the Embassy World Championship that same year. He went in to the competition facing odds of 125-1. He met his mentor, Bristow, in the final. The 125-1 outsider faced the world number 1 and beat him 6-1. This astonishing victory meant that by the end of 1990 Taylor had gone from an unranked unknown to world number 1.

Over the next year Taylor won 48 of 50 competitions, including doubles and triples. In 1992 he won his second Embassy title beating Mike Gregory 6-5 in one of the most exciting darts matches of all time. Both players were at 5 sets and 5 legs all coming into the deciding leg. Taylor produced a 13-dart leg with 11 million viewers watching to clinch the title.

A New Era

In 1993 the Professional Darts Corporation was formed. It aimed to provide a more player influenced administrative body for the sport to counter the one-man show of the British Darts Organisation. Taylor joined the players who backed the PDC and so took part in the inaugural PDC World Championship in 1994. He reached the final only to be defeated by a rampaging Dennis Priestly. However as if inspired by the shock defeat since then Taylor has gone on the win the last eight world championships.

He has simply demolished opposition, defeating his opposing finalists in the last two years2 7-0. His influence over the World Matchplay, another PDC competition, has been less complete having won only 6 out of 10 titles.

Not Finished Yet

Some thought that Taylor might be losing his powers after he lost the World Grand Prix in 2001, only the second final he has lost. However he hit back this year winning the World Championship and the World Matchplay already this year. In the World Matchplay he threw the first ever televised 9-dart finish. There was some controversy over his decision to keep the £100,000 prize for the achievement (the prize for winning the competition was only £14,000) as he had previously declared he would donate it to charity. However he is well known for his charity work for baby’s and cancer charities. Taylor is widely tipped to walk away with the World Grand Prix title, the first round of which begins this evening.

When asked at what point he will retire Taylor is always non-committal. He originally aimed to beat his friend and mentor Eric Bristow’s record of five World Championships but he has long since surpassed that. Now he says he aims for 13 as that is his lucky number. However you get the feeling that as long as he can keep on winning he will keep on playing.

A Revolutionary Style

Part of the key to Taylor’s success is his different style of throwing. I’m not really a dart expert so I shall take refuge in the words of Matt Gilbert of cyberdarts.com,
“Taylor's scoring in darts is exceptional. Unlike the majority of professional players, whose darts enter the board with a dipping angle, Taylor stacks his darts below the triple 20 bed, so that if the first one lies just underneath the bed, then he can plant the next one in immediately above it. His tally of maximum 180's have rocketed in the past few years due to his clinical mastering of this technique.” - Matt Gilbert
Many have tried to copy this style but have failed and only Taylor has mastered it. Combine this revolutionary style with his natural hand-eye co-ordination and his dedication to the sport then you begin to see the challenge facing the rest of the darts world.

A True Sporting Great

Unsurprisingly Taylor has attracted a considerable amount of praise. Sid Waddell claim "He is the best darts player to have ever drew breath" and few argue with this assertion. Waddell however goes even further to claim,

“I believe we will never see another Phil Taylor. Rees, Evans, Jocky, Lowe and Bristow should all be in the hall of fame, but Taylor has taken the game to a ‘masterful level’ He compares to Bradman, Jesse Owens and Pele – a unique world standards – setter. His style is unique. Lowe could put one in the sixty bed and build on it, but Taylor uses darts to fill the bed vertically and horizontally. His accuracy is not human.” - Sid Waddell

The only blemish on Taylor’s career is an incident after an exhibition match in Fife in Scotland in 1999. Two young girls, aged 23 and 25, accompanied Taylor back to his motorhome after the competition and later accused Taylor of sexual assault. Taylor himself denies the charges but he was found guilty of a minor offence and fined only £2000.

Many people look for great British sportsmen, some say Steve Redgrave, others Lennox Lewis, others more foolish still Michael Owen. Only Redgrave can claim to have dominated his sport to the same extent as Taylor and he is now retired whilst Taylor could continue for another 5 years. Taylor is the greatest living {BBC Sports Personality of the Year|British sportsman] and a serious contender for the title of the greatest British sportsman of all time.

1 – Dartitis is a sort of darts equivalent of the yips. It seems almost entirely psychological and basically means that the player can no longer successfully throw the dart. They either can’t release it or simply cannot throw straight.
2 – In 2001 he beat John Part and in 2002 Peter Manley.

http://www.skysports.com/
http://www.johnlowe.dartzshop.com/john_lowe_interviews_sid_waddell.htm
http://www.philtaylor180.co.uk/
http://www.toetheoche.co.uk/
http://www.planetdarts.co.uk
http://www.embassydarts.co.uk/
http://www.cyberdarts.com/Gilbert/gilbert.html

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