Unsung Heroes – Tony Brown
For the revamped darts world debut edition we needed a special player, who has not had the credit they deserve, a follower suggested Tony Brown. We were then delighted when his daughter popped up in enthusiastic support.
Tony claimed the first Dart World KO Cup in Oldham during 1977 and retained it the following year. It seems fitting that Darts World acknowledged him in the first of their new editions (Issue 570)!
MEMORIES, good days, bad days. They’ll be with me always.” The famous lyrics of ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, the biggest No.1 hit of 1977. It was the year that Abba dominated the music charts. Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny, and Björn were the biggest smash. But, in sporting terms, a new hero was born.
In a smoky, stuffy studio in Leeds, the now legendary Indoor League uncovered a winning star in Tony Brown. It was the stuff of arrows folklore. TV commentating gurus Dave Lanning and Sid Waddell calling the shots and producing a show fronted by Fred Trueman. This show had a notably northern, working-class focus, and featured pub games such as darts, bar billiards, shove ha’penny, skittles, and arm-wrestling. Trueman anchored the program with a pint of bitter and his pipe to hand, and signed off each week with his catchphrase, “Ah’ll sithee”. In that year of ’77, Brown saw ‘em all off as the Indoor League champion…and a fabulous career was off and running.
Born in Dover just as World War II was in its last throes of bitter battle, Brown was the original bridesmaid of the board, so close but so far to glory in a glittering period in the limelight. Not surprisingly in an era of huge characters with the likes of Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Alan Evans, Jocky Wilson, and Leighton Rees, that he didn’t manage to steal the biggest headlines. But he got very near to. Now, 75, Brown made a huge contribution in dart’s first glorious era. In the late 70s and early 80s, he competed with the greats of the time and often vested them. Tony claimed the first darts World KO Cup in Oldham during 1977, it was a tough event with county play-off s producing half the last 16 who then played off against an invited eight ‘star’ names.
As you can see from the June 1979 Darts World story Brown defeated John Lowe in that first final, remarkably retaining his title the following year. On an individual level, Brown claimed the Indoor League and British Open titles in 1977 and ’79 respectively. He was placed third in the World Championships in 1979 and 1980 as well as being World Masters Runner up in the former. Darting contemporary Linda Duffy remembers him fondly stating:
“What a great player, too often overshadowed by Eric and John.”
Unusually, it was in multiplayer or Team events where Brown really showed his real talent. Winning the World Pairs, Europe Cup, and World Cup as part of a very strong England team. But, in no way was Brown a weaker member of such an illustrious outfit. He won the Europe Cup singles event and was third in the World Cup equivalent.
Brown could also entertain, according to Doug McCarthy he was one of only two players who could stand at the oche with a dart in each hand, throw them simultaneously and get them both within the treble ring. A useful pub party piece not doubt! Brown was one of the founders, along with Dave Whitcombe and Lowey, of the PDPA and as such played a role in the establishment of the WDC/PDC that plays such a strong role in the modern game. After stepping back from the playing circuit in the mid80s Tony reappeared 25 years later, then aged 64, in the Dover Darts League singles. He reached the semi-finals, losing to the eventual winner.
Tony was also spotted, according to many darting archives, making a one-off appearance in the PDC in 2010 at the Australian Players Championship, however, this may be an urban myth. His daughter assures us that her father did not feature in such an event. She should know, after all, she has been with her dad in many great darting moments including the lovely one of the ‘Darts Family Brown’ featured in our 92nd Issue in July 1980.
“I am still Kelly Brown, the baby in the photo (above) except I’m now 40! “My dad is now a grandad to six and a great grandad to one. He lives in Dover and has a lovely partner, Carol.
“His favourite player now is Michael Smith because his style and natural ability remind him of how he used to play. “Until recently he played in the local league but does not play any darts now.
“It’s really great to be able to read about my dad’s darts history as I was only a baby at the time so have no memories of my own. It’s good to see him recognised for his talent.”
In a sport littered by legends, Brown is right up there with the greatest, just a tad more unsung than those giants. He wasn’t quite, as Abba stated, Winner, Takes It All.
But he won our hearts and respect.
Featured images: Darts World 570
Body text image: Darts World archive