In his latest exclusive blog for Prostate Cancer UK, Jeff Stelling welcomes news of the darts community getting behind the cause with a look back to a blunder on his first commentating job, and looks forward to meeting Dominic Cork after his recent educational visit to Mark Hughes and Stoke City.
Those of you who don't know my early broadcasting career, it was in fact the darts coverage on Sky where I got my big break.
And in 1994, during my debut season hosting the World Championships darts, viewers would soon be asking "Who is Jocky Brown?" as I announced his arrival to the oche. It was a mistake I'll never forget (much like the tie pictured above). It was, of course, Jocky Wilson (pictured below), the twice World Champion darts player and big rival of Eric Bristow. Not Jocky Brown.
I was reminded of all this last year on the March in a pub in Northampton, on the way to MK Dons, by none other than my Soccer Saturday colleague and darting stalwart John Gwynne.
John – walking pole and all – made a surprise appearance in the pub that day, and walked me in to Stadium MK before handing a very generous donation towards our marching fund for Prostate Cancer UK.
John wasn’t the only person to remind me about the darts, or about why I wear the charity’s 'Man of Men' badge on Soccer Saturday.
In Middlesbrough last year – where we’ll be heading back to on the penultimate day of this year’s March – was where I first met Sheffield United fans Tracy Fletcher and Danny Bolton, who shared their story and have since gone on to form Team Darts (pictured below), aided and abetted by a number of the best players in the sport.
Seeing the badge on Soccer Saturday provoked Danny to investigate what the little man on my lapel represented.
It was a Google search worth making, and ultimately led Danny to ask the doctors for a PSA test while having a routine blood test. He was later diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer – something both he and Tracy knew little about at the time.
Like many blokes, Danny loves the darts. And together with Tracy and many other inspirational people I have met, they will not let the disease beat them.
They have single-handily taken Prostate Cancer UK’s message to the darts community, travelling the length and breadth of the country, and beyond to be heard.
They’ve struck their first bullseye too, having already raised over £50k to beat the disease and I know they have only just begun. I look forward to seeing them on the March again this year.
A lot has changed in darts since my time working in the sport. There are two governing bodies now: the British Darts Organisation and the Professional Darts Corporation, which is shown on Sky.
What hasn’t changed is the ability of the darts community, both players and fans, to come together for a great cause.
Tracy and Danny have been joined in the fight by darting legend Martin 'Wolfie' Adams, himself battling the disease.
Martin has had significant treatment following his prostate cancer diagnosis, but it hasn’t stopped him throwing arrows or helping Team Darts raise vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK.
It’s not just Wolfie either. Boro fan Glen Durrant, who will have grown up watching Jocky Wilson (not Brown!) back in the late 80s and 90s, wore the badge when winning the BDO World Championship in January.
He hopes to join me at the Riverside on Thursday 15 June and is a fully signed up member of Team Darts – as is Peter 'Snakebite' Wright, Phil 'The Power' Taylor, and great friend of Wolfie, Ross 'The Boss' Montgomerie.
No doubt by the time I get to the Riverside, my conversations with Glen Durrant about Boro’s season won't be that positive. Sorry Boro fans, but it looks like a mountain to climb at the moment even with the win against Sunderland. You look ahead and there's Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all to play in the remaining weeks of the season.
I’ll be able to have a more positive conversation with Stoke City fan Dominic Cork. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs he’s joining on Day 5 from Stoke City to Crewe Alexandra, via Port Vale. And since then, he, Stoke City and First Group buses have been busy promoting the march.
Dominic interviewed Potters boss Mark Hughes, and I was delighted to hear everyone at Stoke City is looking forward to welcoming us in June. I’ve also heard a rumour some bona fide club legends will be joining me on the day. Watch this space…
Corky managed to ask Mark about why he wears the 'Man of Men' badge on the touchline, and was able to educate himself and Stoke’s players about the prostate too.
It was Jose Mourinho who coined the term parking the bus, but First Group (a charity partner of Prostate Cancer UK) have done just that.
They’ve really gone to town by putting my face on the side of their buses in Stoke, Huddersfield, Bristol, Bradford and Manchester, all places I’ll be visiting in June. And they popped into theBet365 stadium last week. You can’t say fare-r than that.
That’s it for this week. While Tracy, Danny and Team Darts consider a £180k future target, I’ll be turning my attention to my own fifteen leg finish in June.