138: Game, Shot and the Match is a book that almost never came into existence. Shortly after it was commissioned COVID-19 struck and the normal process for producing such a story instantly became impossible. Yet, within 18 months Keith and Edward Couzens-Lake have published an easy-to-read and enjoyable account of the life that surrounds one of the all-time sporting fairytales.
The 138 referred to in the title, is, of course, the finish checked out by Deller to claim the 1983 World Darts Championship, that moment not only created Keith’s legacy but also ignited the interest and devotion of many who still follow the game today. Indeed, no lesser luminary than Stephen Fry counts this moment as the spark which lit the flame of his passion for our game. The TV star, and national treasure, recounts the moments with great warmth in his generous forward to the book.
The early chapters of this accessible read take us through Keith’s conventional (for the time) upbringing in what might be described as an upper working-class family and how Ipswich, football and then darts came to dominate his life. One thing that immediately strikes home is the familiarity of the story: Young lad takes up games under the family influence, enjoys it and shows talent, plays locally and is spotted and encouraged by older players, wins small events, sponsors offer support and the player takes the opportunity to progress to bigger and bigger stages.
Not wishing to spoil the story for those too young to be familiar with its highs and lows, it’s enough to say that the milestones of Keith’s playing career and the story of the development of darts as the phenomenon it now is are all here. Fans can learn the background to reaching the top, staying there, and the stresses and strains that became players during this period.
From a coaching or player development perspective, there are several nuggets that confirm many of the key factors AIM180 has come to believe. From that perspective, a large section of the book illustrates that Keith’s shock win at the World’s was nothing of the kind. It could be said that it was simply a quirk in the rankings, and the lack of knowledge in the media, that create the illusion of the unknown qualifier coming through against the odds. But again we’ll let you discover that for yourself.
The side stories and quips from Bobby George or Eric Bristow and other legends are manifold and keep the story light and entertaining throughout. There are two chapters in the book full of additional stories for the reader to enjoy.
The only sadness for me is the absence of the details of Keith’s work with former World Champion Adrian Lewis. For a former world champion player to assist a prodigious young talent of a totally different generation to fulfill his potential and claim the biggest prizes in the game is very rare and the inside story could have been, useful to many, as well as, highly interesting for the reader.
Keith’s competitive nature shines through at every stage and his keenness to take part and perform well, in the World Seniors next year shows how that light has never dimmed.
138: Game, Shot and the Match is a nice read for those who love their arrows. It is not as predictable or formulaic as many such books and can either be block read or dipped in and out of.
Whether you’re an armchair fan, a player, or involved in other ways, it makes a fine diversion and will whet your appetite for upcoming events.
Keith Deller or ‘Dynamite’ as he is referred to by Phil Taylor has created an ideal gift for the tungsten devotee.
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