He’s the undisputed king of the oche, dominant with a dart for over 20 years. But when he’s not looking for his next nine-dart finish, don’t be too surprised if you see Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor glued to the snooker.
By Nick Teale
The 53-year-old is a regular at the Crucible and boasts a high-break of 64. It is a passion which stemmed from watching legends of the baize like Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, and nowadays Taylor can find it a struggle to put down his cue after hours at the table.
“I am a massive fan of snooker,” he said. “I love snooker, always have loved snooker and playing snooker. I have to not play snooker because I am in there too long! I have gone in to play snooker before at 11 o’clock in the morning and not come out until 11 o’clock the next day, and not even known I have been in the room; I love it.
“I can watch a lot more now because I have got an iPad and I can watch it on there. I really enjoy it.
“During the 70s and 80s snooker was getting bigger and bigger, and Steve Davis had broken through which made the game better. I love winners so I loved watching Steve, and Stephen Hendry when he broke through. I love thinking of the shots. I try and think of the shot they would play but then I would watch Steve do something different and I’d think ‘I never thought of screwing off that cushion’. It’s like a game of chess.
“My highest break was 64, and then I missed the easiest pot on a red you’ll ever see in your life. I have the utmost respect for these lads when they knock in a 147, or anything over 100 – that is fantastic.”
You’d have to combine the World Championship wins of Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan to be able to bring more world titles to the table than Taylor’s 16.
Taylor is accustomed to being the spectacle at the World Darts Championship. Just like O’Sullivan he is far from the only attraction, but he is the name on everybody’s lips, the man people want to see, and the man fans expect to win the world title year-on-year.
“You either do or you don’t feel that pressure,” he said when asked about dealing with the weight of expectation.
“There have been tournaments where I haven’t felt the pressure and just gone straight through and won the tournament. Other times I have been beaten first round and felt awful, I have felt like I had never thrown a dart in my life. It depends on the day, it really does.
“You can get up in the morning and feel a million dollars and know you are going to win, another time you might not feel it and then you don’t perform.
“Ronnie has massive, massive talent, that goes without saying, and I enjoy his winning mentality. I don’t always believe everything he says – when he says he hasn’t been practicing, I don’t always believe it! But he inspires me now.”
To walk into the World Darts Championship Final at Alexandra Palace is, in many ways, incomparable to walking into the Crucible on the evening of the early May Bank Holiday. The party atmosphere generated by the bright lights and the thousands of spectators chanting loudly is in contrast to the could-hear-a-pin-drop tension of the World Snooker Championship final. However, Taylor can see the likenesses between the annual showpiece finale of each sport’s season.
“How does it compare to the Alexandra Palace? In the final it is very similar,” he considers. “It is a smaller crowd at the Crucible, a different arena all together, but the atmosphere you could cut with a knife. It is very tinderbox-like, and everybody is excited because it is the final – very similar to the World Darts Finals in that sense. I’ve been to the Crucible many times and I always enjoy it.”
Over the past few years, the World Snooker schedule has seen more and more events added to the line-up, treating fans to a near-12 month season of action. It’s something they are well used to on the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) tour. Having witnessed first-hand the rapid growth of darts, Taylor is convinced the busier World Snooker season will see the sport enter its best ever era.
“There is one thing which makes any sport progress and any sport get bigger, and that is TV,” he said. “The more tournaments that you can get on TV the more it is going to progress and more people are going to want to play the sport.
“With the amount of tournaments on TV nowadays, everybody is talking about those sports, be it football, golf, cricket, snooker or darts. It is about getting people to talk about it, the national newspapers to write about it, and getting people to watch it.
“Barry has a vision, that is for sure. I know what he does and how hard he works and how much travelling he does. Can snooker get as big as it was in the 80s? Probably, but I think it will be worldwide this time and not just in England; I think it will be massive all over the world.”