Premier Prodigies Pt I: From Bristow to Littler Darts’ Generational Gems

Red Dragon Darts

COULD Luke Littler’s recent exploits, and the massive attention they have garnered our game, simply be the natural extension of what has gone before?

PROFESSIONAL tennis and the elite side of darts have much more in common than many would care to admit. Much of the competitive and commercial structure of the PDC for example can be compared directly to modern tennis tours. 

Both also share a remarkable habit of regularly producing or discovering, and maximising the benefits of, teenage prodigies.

Whereas today’s racket wielding icons follow in the footsteps of Borg, McEnroe, Agassi and Becker, their tungsten tossing cousins are walking an oche laid down by several generational talents who lifted our game as they went.

The founder of this happy habit was, as so often in Darts’ early days, Eric Bristow. 

The Crafty Cockney was just 20-years-old when he won the Winmau World Masters in 1977, arguably, the games most prestigious prize of the time, only two years after legally being allowed into competitive venues.

The first ‘Boy Wonder’’s talent, although he was a couple of years older than the point at which MVG and now The Nuke would would breakthrough, had to be honed in pubs, for his adult county team and at ‘Open’ competitions whenever and wherever they were held as there was no infrastructure to assist him at all. 

Yet, also in that 21st year Eric became a full international and a World Cup Pairs champion. 

The brash, but somehow lovable, Bristow became the face of the game and almost every rivalry within it. In a unified field he reached 10 World Finals in 12 years, winning five of them, lifted every major title on multiple occasions and went undefeated as England Captain.

Eric basically invented the modern template for a darts player: nickname, logo, shirts, style, personalised equipment and effectively became its global salesman.

It is unheard of in a modern sporting activity for the greatest champion to not only hand pick his successor, train/mentor and bankroll him, and then hand on the baton having created perhaps the only player capable of surpassing his own achievements. Only The Crafty Cockney could manage that….

Being mentored and developed by Eric led to a certain Stoke-on-Trent native defying almost every previous darting maxim and most other sports’ ones to boot. Total domination, not just for one generation but, over at least two saw Phil The Power Taylor stand as titan over our sport. 

However, the combination of the split in darts – the formation of the PDC (then WDC) – together with the rise – and then single minded domination – of the legend, did have its downsides. For more than decade no other player rose to top the PDC ranks or was truly able to establish themselves longterm and provide the new impetus and rivalries that all sports need. From its creation, through to 2011 no new player won a PDC world title. 

The PDC needed to add that extra ingredient luckily they already had just the chap for the job.

Mention a dart prodigy winning his first big titles in the mid 2000s, and most will think of a spiky haired Dutchman in vivid green,of whom more later, but another tungsten weilding youngster was hitting the Jackpot from 2005! 

That year saw the first Pro Tour win for Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis, also from Stoke and mentored by none other than The Power himself. The fast throwing youngster had captured the British Teenage title in 2002 but was perhaps the first to pursue the direct PDC route rather than the more traditional training grounds.

For your formative years to be up against the very best players who had lived, up to that point at least, and were all battle hardened and hungry to the hardships caused by the split, was no picnic. 


Jackpot became a fast, furious and aggressive player not afraid to mix it in any way his opponents wanted or asked for. Ade won a variety of PDC tour titles and had decent runs in major events, all whilst the PDC side of the game was dominated by Taylor, before finally displaying his full talent in 2011 & 12.

Not bothering with winning the lesser TV major events Adrian swept through the draw to claim his first World Title and then, as if to conclude the Bristow circle, Lewis claims that he only managed to win the 2012 edition of the Ally Pally jamboree because Eric said he had no chance of going back-to-back. 

Proving his point ensured the former Crewe goalkeeper a place in the history books.

Jackpot went on to claim more major titles and many other event wins before suffering a loss of form and personal troubles in recent years. Although currently away from the game his contribution was highly significant 

Finally, the PDC had produced a new star of its own, but it was one forged in the European WDF fire that was to burst through next……

Premier Prodigies Part II continues from Page 78 of Darts World 586


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Images: Lawrence Lustig/ PDC (Graphic style by Darts World Magazine)


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