CW: Sexual Assault
During my research for this article, I found that Phil Taylor was found guilty of sexual assault of two women after a night out. I will be discussing this in more detail in an author’s note at the end of the piece; however, I must acknowledge this heinous act. Although this article was meant to be about a dominant man in his sport, his actions away from the game demonstrate a wider problem of misogyny in sport in which the punishments, if any, rarely fit the crime. It is important we acknowledge these people abusing their position is not something that can be celebrated or tolerated.
With the start of his career bringing multiple successes and breaking ground never dreamed of by other dart players, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was already a legend of the game. As the new millennium approached, Taylor had one thing on his mind, winning. On the verge of another World Championship with a “grand slam” on his mind, would the man from Stoke be able to continue his dominance, or would he fall from grace?Embed from Getty Images
Reaching New Heights
As the year 2000 World Championship came around, The Power felt confident with the big money match over Barney and the Grand Prix win fresh in his mind. Taylor’s darts showed the high level of his current form in his first-round matchup against Mick Manning. Taylor won the game 3-0. Manning did not even get a dart at the double as Taylor hit over five ton-plus finishes. The second-round matchup with Graeme Stoddart followed a similar trajectory. Stoddart would also fail to take a set against the reigning champion, with Taylor breezing to another 3-0 win.
A familiar opponent presented himself in the quarter-finals, ‘The Iceman’ Alan Warriner. Taylor’s form showed no sign of stopping as Warriner only took one leg against him. The Power won the game 5-0 with a 105.88 average. Incredibly, this contest lasted just 46 minutes from start to finish. After his brutal elimination, ‘The Iceman’ lost his cool. He stormed off the stage without shaking the hands of either Taylor or Match officials in a show of poor sportsmanship.
Dennis ‘Smiffy’ Smith was the only obstacle standing between Taylor and a sixth consecutive World Championship final. In the same vein that Bristow mentored Taylor, Smith has been mentored by the ‘Limestone Cowboy’ Bob Anderson. Taylor’s form refused to falter as he sent Smith crashing out after yet another 5-0 performance. In the post-match interviews, Smith called out Alan Warriner’s behaviour in the previous round, saying, ” You’ve got to learn to lose before you can become a champion”. Despite all the drama, one thing was clear, Taylor was an unstoppable juggernaut who was once again in the World Championship final.
On route to the final, Taylor did not concede a single leg to any of his opponents. However, his upcoming competition was also in fine form and knew The Power well. As had happened many times before, Taylor was in a final against Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestley. Bristow’s protégé flew out of the traps, taking the first set with ease. Priestley refused to be overwhelmed and showed why he made the finals. He became the first man to take a set against Taylor during this tournament and brought the contest level. Priestley may have had resilience, but Taylor was in prime form and took the match score to 6-2, winning the last two sets by taking six legs on the bounce. ‘The Menace’ continued to fight to the last and would bring the score back to 6-3, but it wasn’t enough to topple Taylor, who would take his seventh and the final set, to regain his title as world champion.
The Power was now the eight-time champion of the world after his remarkable six consecutive titles. However, he had to remain focused as he still had the “grand slam of titles” in his sights. This is a term which Taylor coined for winning all major tournaments available in a calendar year The World Championship, The World Matchplay and The Grand Prix. After heading to Ireland to compete in the newly founded Irish Masters and spending some time there on the golf course, Blackpool rolled around once again. This was Taylor’s chance for the grand slam but he was not the only person going into this competition with a personal milestone in mind. Rodney Harrington was looking to complete a hattrick of Matchplay wins, setting up a potential mouthwatering matchup.
Taylor would begin his campaign against the Scottish born Jamie ‘Bravedart’ Harvey who, despite taking a 2-1 leg lead, would go on to throw away this rare advantage and lose the match to 10-2. Taylor carried this momentum through to the second round, knocking out Nigel Justice 13-3. This victory set up a quarter-final with ‘Old Stoneface’, John Lowe. Taylor’s performance showed his pre-tournament preparations were paying off after taking down Lowe 16-4. Richie Burnett, 1995 BDO Champion and the man who had denied Rod Harrington his chance at a hattrick, stood in the way of Taylor reaching the final. After stopping one milestone this tournament, Burnett set his sights on spoiling the party yet again. After five legs, Burnett held a 4-1 advantage over The Power. Taylor found himself in a rare situation of not being in control. However, the current World Champion had not built up his legendary career without having to fight. After an extraordinary fightback, he managed to even the score 5-5. As the match ebbed and slowed, Taylor eventually found himself on top with a lead of 8-7, but he still wasn’t producing the average or ability he was used to.
Taylor managed to lift himself out of this torrid situation and found some better form, leading him to a final score of 17-9. He went in to fifth gear just when it mattered and had put himself on the verge of making history; the grand slam of titles was well within his grasp. The man standing between him and victory was a familiar name: Alan Warriner. The Iceman would barely keep pace with Taylor in the first nine legs, as Taylor took a 5-4 lead. As the game went on, Taylor would turn the screws. Warriner could not keep up with The Power’s darts, thus Taylor emerged victorious with an 18-12 scoreline, doing what few people thought possible; he had a “grand slam” of world titles. Taylor held the Grand Prix, the World Championship and the World Matchplay simultaneously. His way with the darts becoming less of a sport and more like well-rehearsed theatre.Embed from Getty Images
The Show Must Go On
Taylor did not have long to revel in his remarkable accomplishment as, a few months later, the Grand Prix would come back around. He knew he would have an even bigger target on his back now that he had a “grand slam of titles” to defend. The Grand Prix would change location in 2000, moving from The Casino Room in Rochester, Kent to the Crosbie Cedars Hotel in Rosslare, Ireland. Standing at the Shamrock oche would not lead to any change in Taylor’s approach as he prepared for his title defence.
Taylor would fight his way to the final again, scraping a tight 3-1 win over ‘The Artist’ Kevin Painter in the second round, followed by 6-1 victories over Chris Mason and Dennis Priestley respectively. He would meet Shayne Burgess in the final who would waste his chances at doubles, allowing Taylor to continue his run with another 6-1 victory. The Power successfully defended his title and won his third consecutive Grand Prix while defending his “grand slam”. Taylor also remained the only man to have had his hands on this trophy.
Around this time Phil and his wife Yvonne would sell their pub, The Cricketers Arms, which they had been the landlord for seven years. With Phil away on tour so often, it was becoming hard for Yvonne to run the pub alone with four children. Selling the pub would significantly reduce the stress it had on both of them. This was not the only change in Taylor’s life as he also attempted to live a far healthier lifestyle. He had moved onto a more controlled diet of less fat and more exercise in the lead up to tournaments to become more fit for the competition. With these newly implemented changes, The Power was looking for longevity within the sport and continued building on his success.
At this point in his career, if you were to walk into a betting office and put your life savings on Taylor to win the World Championship, there would be little to no fear about losing your money due to his dominance on the top stage. The 2001 World Championship did not do much in the way of changing that outcome. The tournament would see Taylor inevitably find his way to the final. The Power defeated Nigel Justice 3-0, Les Fitton 3-1, Keith Deller 4-0, and Dave Askew 6-0 to set up a final with Canadian player John Part. Taylor had only lost one leg on route to the final and looked in prime position to take home the World Championship title. Taylor tore him apart. The reigning champion took 13 legs in a row during the game as he claimed a 7-0 scoreline victory. Taylor had won his 7th world title in a row and his 9th in total. Perhaps most importantly, the “grand slam” was still his.
Taylor continued to expand on his vast trophy collection as the World Matchplay returned. He made his way to the final, to the surprise of no one, where he faced Richie Burnett. Taylor appeared to be in trouble after letting a 5-2 lead slip to 5-5. However, he regained his composure before moving the score to 10-5 in his favour. From this point, The Power recovered his usual high standard of play, moving to a 16-9 lead before finally taking the match 18-10 to retain his World Matchplay title. The win at this tournament meant that he had now held the “grand slam” in all three competitions.
The run would finally come to an end in the 2001 Grand Prix. Taylor would meet his fate in the First Round in a 2-1 defeat to ‘The Artist’ Kevin Painter. This shock exit was Taylor’s first televised loss in 2 years and meant that, for the first time in its history, someone other than The Power would win the Grand Prix. The current world champion knew he would have to improve his tournament preparation to re-reach the highest he had reached prior.
As the 2002 World Championship came around, Purfleet expected a Taylor masterclass, despite his failure to win the Grand Prix. Taylor now had another record on his mind, a tenth world title. In the first round, Phil Taylor took down Paul Williams with a 4-1 win and Shayne Burgess in the second 6-1. With an Old Rival John Part standing between Taylor and the Semi-finals, The Power showed just how hard he was bouncing back. He took down the Canadian 6-0. ‘Diamond’ Dave Askew would be Taylor’s opponent in the Semi-Finals, but he provided no challenge for the reigning champion, falling 6-0. This victory set up a final between Taylor and Peter Manley.
Once Again, Taylor blew away his opponent. Manley was not able to register a set, going down 7-0. Taylor had made more history. He was now the first person to take home ten world titles and had won the last eight consecutive championships. Manley would rush off the stage, refusing to shake the champion’s hand after the game. After composing himself, he did eventually return for the handshake.
A new test presented itself for Taylor to conquer, taking the man from Stoke to the bright lights of Las Vegas. 4th July 2002 marked the inaugural year of a new Tournament, The Desert Classic. This tournament would be a best of legs event, with the first round and quarter-final being best of 3, and the semi-final and final being best of 5. Taylor had a chance for new success, a chance to win another brand-new trophy. The first round would see Taylor against an old foe, ‘The Artist’ Kevin Painter. Taylor came out on top after sneaking a 2-1 victory. He followed success up with a 2-0 Quarter-Final win over Dennis Ovens. The Power’s dominance continued as he brushed aside Lee Palfreyman 3-0 in the semi-finals. Only Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Baxter stood in Taylor’s way from being crowned the inaugural champion of yet another tournament. Despite his best efforts, Baxter was blown away by Taylor in a 3-0 whitewash. Not only had The Power claimed the inaugural Desert Classic, but he only dropped one set throughout the competition.
Taylor was now on for another new record, winning the “grand slam of titles” alongside the Desert Classic in what he called the “super slam”. Blackpool would be his next hurdle in achieving this feat. The reigning champion’s first-round performance showed he was taking no prisoners as he thrashed Shayne Burgess 10-0. The Power faced off against ‘The Artist’ Kevin Painter in the second round, brushing his way past him with a 13-6 victory before defeating Chris Mason in the Quarter-finals 16-7.
The Semi-final would prove to be a far more significant challenge as Taylor went to battle with John Lowe. In a 32-leg thriller Taylor squeezed his way to a 17-15 victory, cementing his place in the final. If the semi-final were a battle, then the final was a war. In a match for the ages, Taylor would come up against ‘Darth Maple’ John Part. In a showdown that ebbed and flowed both ways, both players gained the initiative and then dropped back as the other displayed their skill. From being tied at 13-13 to Taylor going 16-18 behind, the game had spectators on tenterhooks. The 34-leg marathon came to an end with the score 18-16 in The Powers’ favour. John Part had given everything he had and still had not come out on top.
Taylor had won the day and only had one more prize to claim to have won all the majors in a calendar year: he had to retake the Grand Prix he had lost the year prior, so he packed his bags for Dublin. Taylor would find his way to the final without dropping a set, beating Keith Deller 2-0, Jack Mckenna 2-0, Mark Holden 4-0 and Peter Evison 6-0 to set up another final with Darth Maple. This Final would be less of a classic matchup than their last game; Taylor would turn 3-0 lead into a 7-3 victory. Taylor had regained the Grand Prix title, having only parted with it for one year. The Power had done it; the “super grand slam” was complete. With there seeming to be no bounds to The Powers’ mastery, he would refocus again, as the World Championship was once again at his doorstep.Embed from Getty Images
An Unexpected Twist
Taylor entered the 2003 World Championship as the favourite, with the bookies backing him to once again take home the top prize. He would have first-round success against Steve Brown with a 4-1 victory, followed by a 5-3 Victory over ‘Hawaii 501’, Wayne Mardle. Dennis Smith would be the man trying to deny the reigning Champ a chance at the title again. Still, he wouldn’t be able to hold Taylor back from progressing through the quarter-final, falling 5-3, before Alan Warriner was also defeated in the semi-final 6-1, Putting Taylor in the World Championship final for the ninth consecutive year. It almost seemed par for the course now that Taylor would meet John Part in the final, as the two would again face off. Everything was going as planned for Taylor as he went into a 5-4 lead over The Canadian, but Part wasn’t finished. Darth Maple found his best form and would manage to drag the score back to 5-5 and then 6-5 in his favour. Taylor was being pushed but managed to fight the game to 6-6 and send it to a deciding set. Taylor found himself needing to check 121 to save the game but would miss the Bull, leaving Part to check out 77 and win the world title. For the first time in 8 years, Taylor had failed to win the World Championship, and his record of eight in a row would not go any higher.
If there was one thing we have seen over the years, Taylor was not one to give up after a setback. He would spend his time preparing to get back to the top-level, waiting for his chance at the Matchplay. Taylor would still enter this tournament as a favourite and showed why with a first-round win 10-0 over Les Fitton. He would defeat Jamie Taylor in the second round 13-3 and Dennis Smith in the quarter-finals 17-7, setting up a semi-final clash with Peter ‘One Dart’ Manley. Manley would put on a show but succumb to The Power 17-10, as Taylor moved onto the Final to play Hawaii 501, Wayne Mardle. Taylor would resume business as usual, taking an 18-12 win to hold the World Matchplay for the 4th year running, and showing the darts world, that he was far from done.
As Las Vegas Beckoned, this year would not bear the same results for Taylor, as after a strong run, he would be toppled at the Semi-Final stage 13-10 by John Part, who seemed to have found a way to get one over on The Power after their clashes at recent tournaments. This would leave one Major in the calendar year for Taylor to win; The Grand Prix. As the time came around for the showdown at the Citywest Hotel, Taylor was going to be ready.
The Current Champion would take down Steve Beaton 2-0, Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestley 3-0, Alan Warriner 4-1 and Dutch international Roland Scholten, 6-1, to find his way to the Final. At the time, the idea of anyone but Taylor and Part in the final must-have felt alien, as the two foes would once again clash in a major competition. However, this time, Taylor would get control of the game and wouldn’t give it up, clinching the game 7-2 and defending his Grand Prix title, with his fifth time winning the competition. Despite his inability to win the World Championship, Taylor had shown the darting world it was just a stumble, not a fall, and that he was still here to win big.
Taylor wouldn’t have to wait much longer for the World Championship to roll back around, and this year, a change in the format would give Taylor even more of a chance to show his skill. The tournament size had been increased, from 32 players to 48. The top 24 ranked players would automatically qualify for the main Final, with the 24 other players going through two knockout stages, with eight winners coming out on top, who would join the top 24 in the main Final. Taylor would, of course, miss the knockouts, being the tournaments number one seed, but with more competitors, Taylor would be able to show just how good he is.
Taylor would enter the third round against Colin McGarry, who hadn’t dropped a set in winning his two qualifying legs. Despite his record, he wouldn’t match Taylor and would fall to a 4-0 scoreline. Taylor would find an old adversary in the fourth round in Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestley. AS The Power had done so many times before, he would Triumph over the former World Champion in a 4-1 scoreline before Beating Alan Warriner in the Quarter-finals 5-1 to set up a Semi-Final with Hawaii 501. Mardle would throw well, hitting a 96.49 average, but it wouldn’t be enough, as Taylor would make his way back to the final, winning out 6-2. This final would see him pitted up against ‘The Artist’ Kevin Painter in what would be a Final to remember.
Painter would find himself 5-3 against The Power who would pull back the score back to 5-4 with a two-dart check on 82. Taylor would then pull the game level before going on to take a 6-5 lead. Painter would then manage to gather himself and find his previous form taking the 12th set 3-1 to level the game at 6-6 on sets, to go to a decider. The decider had to be won by two clear legs unless the game went to 5-5, which would lead to a deciding leg. ‘The Artist’ found himself with a 3-2 lead and was in a position to take the match. Painter found himself with 124 required from 3 darts to win, with Taylor waiting on 98, all he could do was watch.
The first dart would hit 20, meaning he needed Treble 18 to set up a check on Bull, but the dart would slip into the single, leaving Taylor with a chance to level the game. Taylor would check it in two darts T20, followed by D19, and the decider went to another leg. Taylor would then fail to check 68, giving Painter the chance to retake the lead, which he took. Taylor wasn’t giving in, as he would level the game again at 4-4, so far, every set in the tie break going with the throw. This wouldn’t change in the next leg, as The Artist would take the lead 5-4 before Taylor won the tenth leg to level the score 5-5 and take the game to a deciding leg. Taylor would throw second but scored well, leaving himself 40, while Painter still needed 222, Taylor knowing he would get at least three darts at the double. Taylor would hit a single 20 followed by a single 10, meaning he required D5 with his last dart to win. Taylor wouldn’t miss. The Power had regained his World Championship title, winning his 11th Championship in a thriller of a final.
After getting back to winning ways, The World Champion would be able to look forward to his next Challenge, the return of the Matchplay. In the first round, Taylor would take a 10-1 victory over Alex Roy, followed by a 13-4 win in the second round over Steve Beaton. Taylor would take a quarter-final win over Colin Lloyd 16-10 to set up a Semi-Final and another game with John Part. Despite’ Darth Maple’ being the number one seed in the competition, he wouldn’t be able to hold back the wrath of The Power, who would come out with a 17-8, putting Taylor once again in the Final. Mark Dudbridge would be his opponent. Dudbridge wouldn’t find his best in the Final, while Taylor would average 100.12 and won the game 18-8. It was Taylor’s 7th Matchplay and 5th in a row.
This would put Taylor on a high as he once again made his way to Vegas for the Desert Classic. This tournament would start with a match of interest to fans. Over the past year, Taylor had been mentoring fellow player Adrian Lewis, another dart player from Stoke-On-Trent, the same stomping grounds as The Power. ‘Jackpot’ as he would come to be known had just made the move over to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and would find himself in a first-round Desert Classic tie with his mentor. Today would not be the day he would surpass him, however, with Taylor progressing with a 2-0 victory. Despite this, it gave the world a glimpse of what the 19-year-old could accomplish with The Power’s guidance.
Taylor would follow this win with a second-round victory over Alan Warriner 3-1 and a quarter-final win over Steve Coote 3-0 to set up a semi-final against The Artist. After the spectacle Painter and Taylor had put on in the World Championship finals, the crowd anticipated a great fixture. Both players averaged over 90, with Taylor coming out on top in a 4-2 victory, sending him through to the final to face Hawaii 501. Wayne Mardle would push Taylor hard throughout the final, but was not be able reach the level Taylor was producing. With an average of 100.80, Taylor would win 6-4 and claim his second Desert Classic in 3 years. The Power was now just one tournament away from reclaiming the “super grand slam”. With this in mind, he prepared for his trip to Ireland for the Grand Prix.
Taylor’s Grand Prix appearance this year would be surprisingly short-lived when he suffered a shock First Round defeat to Andy Callaby 2-0. This was the first time Taylor hadn’t made it past the Grand Prix’s first-round since his debut appearance in 1998. With the shock exit, his dream of regaining the Super Slam was gone. Taylor would need to bounce back quickly as the coming year of 2005 would hold new lands to conquer.
Author’s Note: CW Sexual Assault
As mentioned at the beginning of the piece, Taylor was convicted in 2001 of the sexual assault of two women. Having been found guilty of the crime, Taylor’s punishment was a £2000 fine. This isn’t enough to teach a lesson and is an insult to sexual assault survivors, and those working tirelessly to ensure that sports people are held accountable for their actions despite being idols to many. Taylor admitted himself that he was not punished severely enough in his autobiography saying: “It seemed like being convicted of Drunken Driving and not being banned”. When I started writing this piece on Taylor, it was to show the achievements of the greatest player darts had ever seen; however, upon finding out about this crime and the lack of punishment, I can’t endorse this man’s accomplishments as I planned to. Despite any success Taylor had, it cannot excuse any of the actions he committed, nor can it excuse the lack of punishment he received, with the only reason seemingly being, he was a famous figure. We must be sure never to separate the art from the artist. Our idols are people too and in order to incite change we must hold them accountable for their actions.