The summer of 1996 is fondly remembered. Three Lions, Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland and, sadly, England’s heartbreaking defeat on penalties to Germany in the semi-finals. While the memories from 25 years ago this summer all came flooding back during the delayed Euro 2020, another sporting event reached its own 25-year anniversary.
The 1996 World Matchplay, the third staging of the PDC’s flagship summer tournament, saw Peter Evison crowned the champion, producing a series of performances at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens that are still spoken about to this day. The first of those transpired in the second round, when Evison averaged a stunning 103.77, and thrashed the top seed Phil Taylor 8-1, on the Empress Ballroom stage:
“I used to practice with Phil, back when Phil was no one,” Evison said on the Weekly Dartscast’s Darts Legends series, as he looked back on that crowning week, almost 25 years ago. “He didn’t worry me. I was confident if I played well, I could beat anyone.” “It was just the way he came in (during the walk on) it made me a bit angrier. He came on with a cape and a hat on, I thought ‘you’re taking the p*** here’, (I beat him 8-1) and that’s what he got for doing it. I think (the cape) was retired!”
While Evison could have been excused for celebrating such an eye-catching performance, and result, his then manager Dick Allix would ensure his preparation was perfect for the quarter-finals. “Normally I would probably celebrate, but Dick Allix, my manager at the time, said ‘you’ve got another round to play next. Get yourself to bed and I’ll see you tomorrow. I went back to the hotel and had an early night. Fair play to him for telling me to go to bed.”
Allix’s advice would pay off as Evison would progress through the next two nights to make the final, where he would play Dennis Priestley, the second seed, and a runner-up in Blackpool in 1994 and 1995. After seeing his 14-11 lead disappear, as Priestley ran off three straight legs to level at 14-14, Evison got over the winning line with two world-class legs. The Fen Tiger held throw in 13 darts and then checked out 96 for a 12 darter against throw to win 16-14, enough to finish the final with his second 100+ average of the week.
“I just knew I had to pull out something special if I wanted to win,” Evison recalls. “You’ve got to dig deep and it came down to who wanted it the most. Thankfully the 96 finish went in. It’s a bit of a shock really that it’s been 25 years now, but they’re memories that I’ll never forget.”
Words: Alex Moss, Image: Darts World Magazine
Listen to the full interview on the Weekly Dartscast’s Darts Legends series.
Available at weeklydartscast.com and all good podcast providers.
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