There Can Be Only One

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DENNIS Priestley changed darts, both on the board and off. The Mexborough Maestro’s longest lasting legacy may well be that of being the first PDC World champion. We caught up with The Menace and sought his thoughts:

  1. What were your early impressions, did you realise (or believe) you were involved in something so important for darts?

“No, not at the time at all. I didn’t know the significance of what we were started. Who could have foreseen what it has built up to today? So, no I never expected it. We had to start somewhere and the 14 who stuck together stood fast and proved that what we were doing was what was needed.

Obviously, it was a new venue, smoky atmosphere and low ceilings, I wouldn’t like to say seedy, but….To think back then we were giving tickets away and now you can’t buy them for love nor money!”

  1. Was there extra pressure due to the controversy of ‘The Spilt’ and what was your view back then?

“I went into it not expecting to win to be honest. My form wasnt great and I hadn’t had time to do a lot for it. But I got better and better as the event went on. I felt no extra pressure. I was already 43/44 years old and had seen many things happening and just took this as it came.”

  1. Having played both, did you prefer a group stage or the straight knock-out of later years?

“Although I prefer a straight knockout the group stage was needed at the time. Tommy Cox and Dick Allix  probably wanted it to be that the winner played the same 5 games as at the old Embassy event. So two groups games, a qtr, semi and final to win it. It also filled a lot of airtime that SKY was giving us!”

  1. You came through your group very strongly, but your game with Jocky was a belter. What are your memories of that stage?

“I have great memories of it, I didn’t quite realise how good it was until recently. 30 years ago in a group stage and we both averaged close on 95. My first visit to the board was 140 and Jocky followed in with 180 and off we went.”

  1. Your Qtr and Semi looked solid, with the win over Evison being tough looking, did they seem comfortable?

“Looking back, yes they did seem comfortable. Although Peter was the only player to hit a higher average than me in the event. He hit a 97+ in the before we played, perhaps I took out the form player.”

  1. What were your thoughts and expectations before taking on a certain Phillip Douglas Taylor?

“Ahh, I had not got a scarred mind at the time. I had been beating him almost every time back then. He only really got the better of me after 1995/96. Until that point I was a lot better.”

  1. The final score board looks rather one way, how did it seem to play out?

“It was one way, Yes, I thoroughly out played him. Although I didn’t realise how good we had actually played until later. We averaged in the mid 90s. I had been used to that, having done it in all five matches of my Lakeside win. But it still stands up now.”

  1. Being the first to lift a major trophy is something that can never be taken away, how did it feel then?

“Back then, you are in the moment when it happens. It’s a great feeling and to have won it so convincingly was very satisfying. But, the significance of it 30 years later is mind blowing. When you see how it’s progressed since.”

Now keep it quiet but, despite the remarkable feat of winning both Lakeside against Eric Bristow, and the first PDC World Championship against The Power,, The Menace’s fondest memories are from a different event altogether…Shhh

  1. Looking back across the 30 years or more what is your own favourite memory and do you have a moment from another year that you especially enjoyed playing or watching (either yourself or another).

“I always said the hardest to win was the Winmau World masters. The very best I played was when I won that in 1992. I had an over 35 average to defeat Alan Warriner I the semi and nearly the same again to beat Mike Gregory in the final.”

9b) What did it feel like to be in that zone Dennis?

“You’ve hit it on the head, at my best I could block everything out and concentrate 100%. As much as I wish I could play like Michael Smith or Luke Humphries, it wasn’t me. I based my game on mental strength and concentration.”

Dennis, a sprightly 73, is recovering at home after recent gallbladder surgery. Everyone at DW and, we are sure, the entire darts world wishes him a speedy and strong recovery and a fabulous festive season. There can be only one first World Champion!


Original piece published in Darts World Extra 14: Ally Pally Special

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