Column #HR298 Beware, Johnny Clayton!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Column HR298
Beware, Johnny Clayton!

Mention the name John Travolta and most people think of the Academy Award-winning actor for Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.  Those of the Golden Generation of darts might have a different remembrance of him…

…maybe his role in the #1 TV sitcom in the 1970s, Welcome Back, Kotter, where he starred as Vincent “Vinnie” Barbarino in Gabe Kotter’s classroom of kids from Brooklyn.  The show opened each week with John Sebastian (of the Loving Spoonful) singing the title song.

With apologies to Sebastian, it seems only appropriate for the Old Dart Coach to sing (in the key of ugly) the following:

Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out 

Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about 

Well, the names may have changed since you hung around 

But those dreams have remained, and they’ve turned around 

Who’d have thought they’d lead ya 

(Who’d have thought they’d lead ya) 

Back here where we need ya 

(Back here where we need ya) 

Yeah, we tease him a lot ’cause we got darts on the spot 

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back, welcome back 

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. 

While gone, you may have missed the results of the first PDC major TV tournament of the year.  It wasn’t a really big major as presenter John McDonald was seen sans tie – which means it was a “major” but not a “really big major.”  The pocket hankie designates major.

In addition to a prize fund of £220,000, the Ladbrokes Masters gave all darters a chance to start off on the right foot in 2021.  For some players it was put up or shut up on their New Year’s resolution to make 2021 a banner year.  From Gary Anderson, for example (like many players) came the ubiquitous statement that “this was to be the year.”  Anderson had to turn his dismal 2020 around (a year during which in he won only one title).  His runner-up finish to World Champion Gerwyn Price showed promise.

As many dart players are aware, in any outing, particularly late, there can be slip.  Alas, Anderson’s would come early as he waved adios in his first match, losing to Adrian “Big Baby” Lewis (10-8).  Lewis is one of those who hoped for a “turn around year” following another “turn around year” that didn’t.  Lewis would drive off in his Roll’s in the quarterfinals, losing to Gerwyn Price (10-6).  The World Campion lost a nail bitter to Mervyn King 11-10.  Price could have won this one “if only.”

In the same round, last 16, Michael van Gerwen went down to Jonny Clayton who seems to have some serious gris-gris on van Gerwen.  He ejected van Gerwen in the Masters last year also.  MVG was trying to get his wooden shoes back on track after falling from the #1 spot last year.  Down 1-4, he used checks of 158, 150 and 148 to force the decider.  But he couldn’t answer Clayton’ back-to-back T80’s leading to a 14-dart finish which resulted in a trip back “coffee shops” and the drawing board…

After the match Clayton said, Hopefully I can go all the way, that’s what I’m out to try and do.  Let’s see what happens tomorrow. 

The next day proved very good as Clayton got by James Wade 10-9.  That was followed by taking the measure of 2020 World Champion Peter Wright 11-10 to reach the finals.

Clayton traveled a nail-biting road to the finals as every match (Jose de Sousa, Michael van Gerwen, James Wade and Peter Wright) ended on a final decider.  He survived more incoming than a President Trump supporter.  He averaged 104+ to reach the final.

On the other side of the draw Mervyn King dispatched the current world champion Gerwyn Price 11-10 to reach the finals.

The first TV title of 2021 saw a match between PDC players who also hold full time jobs, guys who actually work to earn a living wage.

Some critics, usually classified (rightly) as jerks, have for eons pointed out that King “never wins the big one.”  Lots of good players haven’t.  King has 6 PDC titles.

King started fast, taking a lead of 5-3 when the roof fell in, figuratively, as Clayton responded with 6 on the trot for a 9-5 lead.

On the back of a pair of 80-checks King edged back to 10-8 but Clayton’s 12-darter closed the deal.

Clayton would take home £60,000.  That amount provided him the opportunity to re-evaluate his full-time work.  “I’ll have to take a look at returning to work” he said.

Many years ago, the Old Dart Coach asked his Padre about the first time he went to the horse races…

I was driving a bus in the 1930’s.  A friend invited me to join him at the races at Bay Meadows.  I won $35.  That was almost as I made in a week.  I called my boss and quit.  The next day I went back to the races. 

Then, there was a silent pause causing the ODC to ask, What happened, Dad? 

I was able to get my job back driving the bus. 

Beware, Johnny Clayton!

During his hiatus, the IDC spoke with many darters from the Golden Age about that period.  To a person they agreed on one point: those in darts today owe a debt of gratitude to the darters of the Golden Age.  They were the trail blazers.  The Marco Polo’s and the Christopher Columbus’ of darts, sailing in unknown and greatly unappreciated waters.

It’s sad, as many pass away with nary a notice.  Age will take its toll.

One of those pioneers is Sharon Colclough who traveled the tungsten world far and wide with great success.  This at a time when the lady’s field was outstanding with great players throughout the world.

She averaged in the mid-80’s at a time when darters biggest challenge on the board were wires and staples.  She was a good player but a better person.  Sharon recently went in for a routine knee replacement that had a success rate of 999,999.999 per one million.

Sharon proved to be that .001 percent.  She awoke minus her leg.

A battler all her life, she will now have a new battle which those who know her are sure she will win.  Those who are friends of hers should message her with your love and support.

Here’s a Valentine poem from Thailand’s John Witkowski dedicated to our lovely Sharon.  God Bless you.

Roses are red 

Violets are blue 

Beer and darts cost less 

Than a dinner for two.  

Stay thirsty my friends.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.