One Shot: Barney’s Bow

FEBRUARY 2006, a mere 10 days after the official announcement that Raymond Van Barneveld would be joining the PDC circuit, the great MC John McDonald strode onto the stage at Blackburn’s St.George’s Hall and announced the names for that year’s Premier League.

As he called the name of the great Dutch player who for so long had been a stalwart of the rival BDO, a chorus of boos rang out from sections of the crowd.

At that moment the doyen of MCs that John McDonald is, took the situation by the scruff of the neck and quelled the hecklers as he told them how courageous Raymond had been in crossing the divide and that he had done it to challenge the best.

As the jeers turned to cheers and his debut turned into a one-sided 8-1 defeat of Ronnie Baxter, the Barney Army was born. 

By 2019, Raymond had achieved all he could in the game and started to struggle with form. He had previously announced his intention to retire at the end of the season.

 Already eliminated from the league, Raymond had one last match, against his great friend, rival and fellow Dutchman, Michael van Gerwen and it was in a packed Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam where it seemed that all but a few were wearing Orange shirts, the majority adorned with the name Barney.

I knew this was a special moment, one where I needed to show Barney with his Army. I got onto the back edge of the stage*, out of TV camera shot as the arena darkened and the orange spotlights, like searchlights in the night sky danced around the venue. 

Then a spine-tingling roar, as a single white light picked out Raymond waiting at the end of the walkway, “Eye of the Tiger” started blasting out through the PA system, only to be drowned out by the crowd singing “ Barney Army”.

Up the steps, the great man came with a smile and a nod in my direction, then onto the centre of the stage in front of an adoring crowd.

 “Please, please Ray don’t just salute them, do the full Barney, back arched, arms outstretched above your head” I was saying to myself.

 A moment’s pause, and then as if he had heard me, he did his trademark celebration and I and 14,000 others will have a moment we will never forget.

Van Barneveld bids farewell to Rotterdam ( LAWRENCE LUSTIG)

Unfortunately for Raymond, his last game in the Premier League was not to have that fairytale ending, as Michael put any sentiment and friendship aside, to produce a thoroughly professional performance and win 7-1.

Raymond always wears his heart on his sleeve and in his sky interview after the match,he announced his immediate retirement, which he later reversed.

 *For the technically minded I used a Canon 1dx MK11 at 1600 ISO at 400th of a second at f 3.5 on a 16mm lens to show the whole scene and balance the bright lights of the stage and the duller lighting of the crowd

The Images That Captured Modern Darts:

Lawrence Lustig is a former PDC Official photographer who had a ringside seat at almost every major darts event during recent decades. His knowledge of and love for our sport is unsurpassed.

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Words: Lawrence Lustig

Images: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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