1976 was a different milestone year for the young sport of darts. Instead of one huge event or a single dominant personality, a combination of jigsaw pieces saw the whole picture comes into view.
Over the course of the year, Darts World paid tribute to some of the game’s important characters while looking forward to big events yet to come.
DW even noticed the ever-growing importance of women, though not always in ways acceptable today, in every aspect of the rapidly growing game.
One of the first of Champions featured in a series about the secrets to their success was the remarkable Billy Lennard. Perhaps the last of the old-school players Billy had an outstanding year during which he would claim the News of The World, The British Matchplay, and the Swedish Open:
IT’S NOT for nothing that Bill Lennard, the current News of The World Champion,has earned himself the nickname of Mr. Consistency.
As Bill himself will amidst he’s had a long time to think about the kind of success he is currently enjoying in big-time darts.
Knowing the way he has built his successful darts career on firm foundations of experience and hard work, there would be few enthusiasts to take a wager that he won’t be at the top for a long time to come.
Bill’s career starred, at the age of 18, in the local Whitbread Manchester league using a log end board. His pub, The Cotton Tree, had a long post-war darts tradition and it was no surprise to Bill and his teammates that their first entry into the NODOR Fours in 1961 won them the national title. This was in spite of having to change over to the national trebles board.
Bill’s serious approach to the game in those days meant two or three hours practice a night. In that time he developed a confident, easy style that has stood him in good stead. His classic, right-handed throw, is from eye level. His darts grip regular forefinger and thumb just behind the centre of balance. In his stance at the hockey [sic.] his right foot is side on to the line.
Bill’s first visit to Alexandra Palace was in 1968 as regional champion and he lost to the West Midlands champion. This year Bill was 8 years wiser and even a 12,000 crowd and a multi-million television audience couldn’t shake his confidence. After registering a 14-dart game ( 100, 140, 100, 137, 24 game shot) Bill had a 50-minute wait for the final games. It says much for his philosophy that he went on to win the title in fine style.
Nerves and crowds do not worry Bill, but he will relax before a match with a cigarette. If nerves were a worry to him then the game would no longer be enjoyable. And enjoyment is the keynote of his success.
“I thoroughly enjoy playing darts and entering competitions,” he says “and if I didn’t then it just wouldn’t be worth carrying on. Players who complain about losing form and worry themselves sick over it just don’t seem to realise that what they have lost is interest in the game. It’s the same with players changing their darts whenever they lose. One thing I never do is blame my darts”
Bill’s experience in the world of darts is not confined to playing. For eight years he ran the News of the World competition, in the Manchester area and was also the N.D.A secretary in the area.
After his success at Alexandra Palace Bill turned professional soon after and his business affairs are now looked after by Ken Stanley, who has other darts and sporting personalities on his books, including Alan Evans and Harry Heenan.
Bill is in constant demand, playing at least three exhibitions a week. This autumn he will be appearing for England in the Home International and also travelling to Sweden. Then his sights will firmly set on the World Masters in London and trying to emulate Tom Barrett by taking The News of The World crown for the second year.
Surprisingly, given the confidence of our writers early assertion, Billy peaked in 1976 and, although flashes of success, including being part of England’s World Cup winning team in 1979, remained until 1980, that news of the World crown was his only major triumph. Speaking of World Cups….
Maureen Makes the Cover
1976 also saw a major event in Women’s darts. Maureen Flowers began her competitive career in the National League (winning the Women’s Pairs) and swiftly became both a star of and a fierce advocate for, the female game.
Issue 48 saw Maureen as the cover star and noted her fast-filling professional diary:
“ A BUSY Season ahead for Maureen Flowers, the Stoke-On-Trent and Midlands darts champion who has been selected to join the stars in the T.V. Times Pro-Am darts tournament to be televised just before Christmas. Maureen will also be appearing at the national darts show “DW 48 1976
With individual, team and Women’s darts all at least embryonic the pieces of the darts jigsaw were tentatively put in place.
The Darts World 50
Very few publications can lay claim to being “The Official Voice” of their sport. But then not many are almost 50 years old and have coexisted side by side with the object of their affection throughout the swings and roundabouts of two golden eras and at least one near collapse.
In the early 1970s, a handful of ingredients were coming together to form the recipe for the massive success of the hitherto lesser-known pub game. Darts World Magazine was one of those ingredients.
Editor, proprietor, and instigator, Tony Wood, welcomed readers to the new Darts World magazine for our November/December 1972 debut (Issue 1). The ingredients mentioned above could all be seen within those first 36 pages and then in every issue that followed.
DW has chronicled the ups and downs, the major events, and the minutiae while championing the game at every opportunity.
The Darts World 50 offers 50 highlights selected direct from our pages during what must now be thought of as the ‘Golden Age/s of Darts’.
Images: Darts World
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