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‘I don't miss it one bit’

Wednesday, 27th February, 2019 3:20pm

It's been just over a year since darts legend Phil 'The Power' Taylor retired from the professional scene, departing on the back of a World Championship title loss to Rob Smith.

In a career that spanned over three decades, Taylor win an unrivaled 16 world championship titles, and left his sport in a far healthier state than when he arrived on the scene.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Taylor reminisced on his darts career, insisting he has “no regrets” on retiring last year.

Taylor, who is set to return to Leeside in the coming months for a darting exhibition at the Rochestown Park Hotel, is a hard man to pin down for an interview. Gone are the days of spending hours upon hours at the oche, perfecting his skills; instead Taylor is far fonder these days of taking life easy, while exercise has become a staple part of his daily routine.

In fact such is his penchant for exercise, this interview had to be postponed while Taylor completed his daily swim – a far cry from his days on the world stage, pinging dart after dart with incredible precision. So, with such a lifestyle change in the last year, how is Taylor enjoying his new routine?

“I'm loving it – there's no pressure, I still work (at exhibitions) so I'm not fully retired. It's nice to meet the people that have been fans of yours over the years. It's different now, I can relax and enjoy it. There's no pressure whatsoever. I took to it straight away. I've never regretted retiring, I don't miss it one bit cause it was too much for me, it was seven days a week, I'm getting too old for that now!”

Taylor qualified for his first World Championships in 1990, at the time there was just one darts governing body, the British Darts Organisation (BDO) before a split in 1993, when the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) was formed.

Taylor began his first world championships tournament as a 125-1 outsider but overcame the odds, as well as his mentor Eric Bristow in the final, to win the the title on his début.

15 titles have followed in the 28 years up until his retirement, and at Christmas, Taylor found himself watching the annual PDC World Championship from the comfort of his living room, rather then the oche at Alexandra Palace. Did he miss being there?

“Not at all,” says Taylor. “And I'm not really a watcher, I'm a bit of flicker so I'll flick the scores on and have a look. I'm not really a watcher of darts, I'm a player. I watch the football and I love the rugby, I love the Six Nations but I'm a flicker when it comes to darts, so I'll flick it on and off and then go watch something else! I love the boxing, love the football...I'm a Port Vale fan but I watch all the big teams. I'm dead proud of Liverpool, I hope they win the league, I really do, and I love Jurgen Klopp. I wanted to get him for Port Vale!”

To the onlooker, a darts professional may appear to have a simple lifestyle, but as any insider will tell you, it's far from it. A seven day a week training schedule, along with constant travelling and competing, the demands of being a fulltime player for over 30 years, eventually started to take its toll on Taylor.

“It all started to catch up on me, I was getting older, I had aches and pains. I was feeling tired all the time, that was the worst part, and that was both the work that went in to it and the travel.

“You'd go to Australia, and you'd be coming back from there after a few weeks and you'd be straight in to another tournament in Blackpool. My body couldn't take it any more, I was absolutely shattered all the time and I thought,'I can't live like this'. I didn't want to retire and be too old to enjoy it.

“Now it's totally different, I get up in the morning and I do a bit of exercise, I've got a little gym in my house. I potter about, do what I have to do, then I go to the gym in the afternoon and I do a bit of swimming then. I build it up nice and slow – I'm not going hell for leather anymore, I take my time now and I do it properly. You're not hurting yourself that way. Before, when I was younger, I used to go in like a maniac – you can't do that when you're my age!”

With his various different rivalries well documented, Taylor terrorised his fellow players for years, beating Dennis Priestly in four finals. Peter Manley lost three finals to Taylor while no player has beaten Taylor more than once in a final.

It was over the course of the last decade, however, that his greatest rivalry developed. When asked the player he most liked to beat, Taylor doesn't skip a beat with his response: “Barney! He was the player I enjoyed beating the most,” referring, of course, to four-time champion and crowd favourite, Raymond Van Barneveld.

“I work a lot with Raymond now, we've a very good relationship, it's different when you're not competing,” says Taylor. “He's finishing next year and I don't think Gary Anderson will be long behind him either. I also enjoyed playing Dennis Priestly over the years, we had some great games.

“I'm lucky cause I played all the best, I've had three generations of players. It's all different now, youngsters haven't got the respect any more, it's changed. That frustrated me as well towards the end, there was a few times I'd to bite my lip!”

With 16 titles won, it would be easy to assume that Taylor's career highlight was perhaps his first title won that year he was the 125/1 outsider, or perhaps his 7-0 thrashings of John Part and Peter Manley in 2001 and 2002. Not the case though, for Taylor.

“My highlight? The last one, when I won my 16th, 'cause I hadn't won it for a few years and I think everyone was saying that I was too old and I wouldn't win again and that Michael Van Gerwen would smash me but he didn't. That was probably one of my favourite ones. I've had a few 7-0 and 7-1 results but that was my best moment.

“I've enjoyed what I did and it was the right time to go. I've got a good life – I've a nice little holiday home up the road and I'm up there all the time. Regrets? Not really, I think I did everything I could do.”

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