AWAY from the bright lights of the television studio, Emma Paton loves to run. In fact, that is quite the understatement - she competed at national level and was amongst the elite 400m runners in Great Britain. Sadly a series of injuries put a stop to a potential promising athletics career.
An avid fan of Darts, and despite receiving the Christmas gift of a board from her partner and a set of complimentary arrows from Sky colleague and friend, Wayne Mardle, she is still the second best player in her apartment.
When it comes to throwing on a CD in the car, rap music is Emma’s weapon of choice. Moving swiftly back to the darts, getting paid for doing something you adore - well surely that’s the ultimate definition of ‘living the dream’.
Taking us through her journey, Emma recalls: “I’ve been at Sky Sports for nine years now and done every job you can imagine. From typing out the yellow breaking news bar on Sky Sports News to breaking some of our biggest stories. I did anything and everything behind the camera before I got a full-time role in-front of it in 2019.”
“I spent most of those years getting up at 2am, I was part of the breakfast production team, it was brutal! I don’t miss those days!”
With Sky Sports Darts looking for a new presenter it was actually the show’s producer, Mr Rory Hopkins who got the ball rolling for Emma
She said: “Rory has been working at Sky for around thirty years, he’s the man you don’t hear about but he changed the face of darts, he completely innovated it.
“Last year, he invited me along to the World Matchplay in Milton Keynes for a bit of reporting duties. And things just went on from there really.
“I find it funny when people ask me about replacing Dave Clark. You can’t replace Dave!! They’re not just massive shoes to fill, but impossible shoes, he’s a legend."
“For me, it’s never been about trying to be Dave, but being me, putting my own spin on things, being someone who loves watching and talking about darts and going from there.”
Here is a question Emma often gets asked - Is it as much fun as it looks working with Wayne Mardle? The answer was a resounding “yes”.
Laughing, she said: “Wayne is one of my favourite people ever! To be honest, the whole team at Sky Sports Darts have made me feel at home from day one, and my god do we have a laugh!
“Wayne is like no one I have ever met before, and I mean that in all sincerity. He’s someone you always want around - he just exudes positivity. Often when you see someone in person, they are different to how you perceive them on TV - not with Wayne! He is exactly the same in real life - if you can believe it!
“ I always says he’s the Gary Neville of Sky Sports Darts – he has incredibly intelligent analysis and insight, but he’s so engaging as well.”
“Then there is Webby [Mark Webster]”, she smirks. “His stories are hilarious and he has one of the most remarkable memories of anyone I’ve ever met.
“Pykey [Stuart Pyke] is always texting me asking how I am, he’s a massive support, Bridgey [Michael Bridge] is great too, I’ve known him a long time and love working with him. Then there’s Laura [Turner], Devon [Petersen], John Part, Nigel [Pearson], also Paul Prenderville who delivers all of our digital content - I could go on, the entire crew are just fantastic”.
As a fan, Emma had enjoyed countless nights at the Darts - but as a presenter, it wasn’t until the climax of the Premier League when she could savour the party atmosphere from a very different perspective.
Smiling, she said: “Oh it was amazing. It was on either the first or second night, the video was rolling and the fans were watching on the big screen. Moments later, the director gave me the cue, the camera cut to me and a huge roar went up from the crowd. In that second, I completely forgot what I was going to say!! But I think I styled it out!
“There was a moment on one of the nights when fans were leaving and we were up in our studio. Suddenly they all began shouting my name - Wayne was telling me to wave back but I was worried they’d ignore me if I did!! I waved back in the end and they gave out a collective cheer. That was a lovely moment.
Asked about the famous ‘Wayne losing his voice moment’ and Emma laughs: “Oh yes, that was ridiculous! I just saw the floor manager running across the arena and then Webby dashing in the opposite direction towards the commentary box. Until Wayne trudged out and motioned that his voice had gone, I didn’t have a clue what had happened.
“But the whole week with the fans back was just an amazing experience – it was ‘proper darts’. During the Premier League final I texted our producer Rory to say it had just been the most enjoyable week.
So with the World Matchplay on the horizon and full crowds expected, Emma is eagerly counting down the days.
Excitedly, she said: “I can’t wait for Blackpool. It’s the one I’ve been looking forward to as I’ve never even been to the Winter Gardens before. Webby has been telling me virtually non-stop just how amazing it is so can’t wait to experience it for myself.
“Hopefully Rod [Studd] may be back in commentary, I can’t wait to see him, and we would love Dave Clark to pop in. He deserves a proper send off from the fans and it would be a perfect place to have it.
Hear, Hear! The countdown to Blackpool is on.
Read Emma's debut Column in Darts World 575 OUT NOW