Category Archives: Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes – Kirk Shepherd

Kirk’s run in 2008 was remarkable, those who knock it are fools, yet it could have been even better! If Kirk had done nothing else he would warrant a place amongst our ‘Unsung Heroes‘.

In most any other sports Kirk Shepherd’s run to the final of the World Championship of 2008 would be fondly remembered as a beacon of possibility and a wonderful fairy tale story. Yet in darts, it’s almost a dirty little secret, whenever you hear it referred to in commentary, or amongst players, the words you will hear most include ‘lucky’, ‘good draw’ and ‘missed opportunities’.

Yet Kirk was only 21 years old and making his debut appearance, at darts’ biggest event after coming through the qualifiers. It was also the debut year of the Alexandra Palace as the venue making it even more imposing than normal. Surely, this should be regarded as almost Boris Becker like?

For a young man, Kirk had already had a decent record in competitive darts. He was twice British Teenage Champion, and a World Youth Master, between 2003 and 2006. He had not yet made much headway on the PDC Pro Tour, but his form in Open events was very good indeed and this is a better guide to current form. In addition, he had form in previous big events including smashing Gary Anderson with ease on more than one occasion. A brief look back confirms that he had previously defeated some of those who would remove from Ally Pally.

In the weeks running up to the event, Kirk determined that he was going to give a decent account of himself. He arranged for a local county player to visit him regularly and they practiced every evening for the proceeding weeks. By the time came for Shepherd to take his bow versus Terry Jenkins most of those who knew him thought he would do well. He did better than that! Kirk removed the multi-major finalist 3 sets to 2, playing superbly in patches and, piling the pressure onto Terry. It was a pattern that Sheperd was to repeat and others seemed powerless to prevent.

When you hear the traditional running down of Kirk’s effort, try switching the situation in your mind. “Everyone had darts to beat him” you will hear or “they missed a lot of doubles” or even “his averages were only in the 80’s“. These remarks totally miss the point. How on earth did a 21-year-old qualifier generate the nerves and pressure that caused highly ranked and highly senior players to allow him to be so close and to keep fluffing their lines?

It is not unusual for an unknown player to have a small run at the World Champs but it is seriously rare for them to get past the last 16 or Quarterfinals, how did Kirk do it, and especially how did he do it whilst appearing to not be performing above the expected level. This is the real key to a remarkable run and something that every new, unknown, or underdog player should think about and study.

Rob Cross’s remarkable run of 2018 can be simply explained. He outplayed and or outlasted his opponent in every round. He is a superb player, lesser-known at this level, who had been settling rapidly into PDC life. He was also 29 years old with a family and support network. In short the perfect combination of talent and timing. It is not easy for any other player to replicate such an effort.

Kirk is a very expressive man. But he held these emotions in tight check during every game. Until it was won!

However, Kirk’s run was different, from that sensible early preparation and the seriously focussed temperament, especially visible against McGowen and Mardle, any player capable of qualifying is capable of emulating Kirk.

Against Jenkins and McGowen Kirk had the advantage of knowing he had defeated them before and had to simple perform again. Thus the stage and the occasion had to be relegated to the background. This also ensured that Kirk did not feel like the underdog and, more importantly, did not act like one. Watch the games carefully, at no point does Shepherd look subservient or like the new boy in school. He knows he is playing well. He is winning legs in superb style and hitting very big shots when needed. The less good efforts are quickly dismissed and he is on to the next throw.

Belief is a major factor that cannot be overestimated. Watch closely and you will see that whenever Kirk’s opponent had darts to win an important leg/set or even the match, Kirk is right behind him with the same attitude he would have had on any other throw. He simply believes he is going to get another throw and he must be ready for it.

The final ingredient in Kirk’s superb run was a refusal to be intimidated. Watch closely, especially against Wayne Mardle, and you will see all the tactics, totally fair, used by a senior or highly successful player against one they regard as a junior. Kirk stands for none of it. Refusing to change attitude, pace, style or manner.

The end result is that senior players are changing their own games or concentrating on Kirk’s instead of their own. Mardle, for example, plays at least three different paces during the match. This plan fails completely and Kirk gets time to settle in and get his own game going. Once he is in full swing Mardle cannot find a way to both get himself up to 100% and impact Shepherd long enough to fully swing the game in his favour. He comes close but Kirks attitude and the lead he had gained ensured he had enough to get over the line. This was a semi-final of a world championship and the senior player had effectively bowed to the junior. But of course, it was “just lucky really”.

It is not fully known but the story could have been even more glorious. Kirk is not one for whining or making excuses, I suspect he has heard enough of those from others, but his performance in the final was hampered by a surprising source, SKY TV!

Kirk had been suffering from the effects of a mild cold for a couple of days around his Semi-Final. After reaching the final, however, there was much to do in terms of media and promotion for the final. This is normal and accepted by all players. However, in this case, it was above and beyond! Kirk was kept waiting around until very late at night, in a very cold venue, and with fake mist/ice to create an effect for one of the promotional trailers. A few of those closest to Kirk note that his cold deteriorated badly and he played the final in a very poor state of health.

Much of the credit for Kirk not getting going in the final must be given to John Part. He did the opposite of the others, who had fallen victim to Kirk, and imposed himself very early and treated Kirk as just another obstacle in his path to a third World title. But maybe, just maybe, a fully fit Kirk would have enjoined the battle earlier and returned the pressure we may then have been in for a real treat and a fitting finale to one of the great underdog runs!


P.s. Don’t write off the “Martial Dartist”! He is only 33 and has retained or regained his tour card three times already. In 2017 he reached the last 32 of the UK Open and had shown flashes on the Pro Tour in recent times. Perhaps a fairytale return is not out of the question.

Unsung Heroes – Alan Glazier.

The ‘Man in Black’, is a traditional figure in sport and many other areas of pop culture. He is often the villain of the piece or the one who is difficult to like. Nothing could be less true of darts’ own ‘Man in Black’ Alan Glazier.

Alan Glazier in action & in black!

Glazier, who died on November 12th 2020, was hugely popular with fans and fellow players alike and was in the vanguard of those who made the game in Darts’ early professional days. In addition, he was an inspiration to many left handed players of the generation which followed.

Although Alan’s trophy cabinet was not as stocked as some of that era’s iconic figures he was a fine player in his own right and somewhat unfortunate to pay in the shadow of such luminaries as Bristow, Lowe , Lennard and Bobby George. He came to prominence in 1975 reaching the final of the British Open, losing out to Alan Evans. 

Glazier reached the semi finals of the World Championships in 1986 as well as the final of The News of The World event, missing out to Bobby George, as early as 1979. Glazier triumphed in the Swedish and North American Opens during the late 1970s.

On his 1986 Lakeside run he had this to say:

“I had three hard games to get to the semi-finals,” Glazier recalls. “I was 3-0 up on Terry and won 4-3 in the end and it finished at 1 o’clock in the morning! The next day I played Eric and my arm was killing me. It gradually wore off, but I was 3-0 down and fought back (eventually losing 5-3). I thought that was going to be my year, but never mind.” (Weekly Dartscast 2020)

Along the way he picked up an additional moniker ‘The Ton Machine’, any watcher would soon see why. Glazier was hugely consisitent and did indeed appear to secure almost constant cries of “One Hundred” from the match scorers.

Alan had a very steady, calm throw with the darts tending to lean left on entry. He signature dart has been manufactured by both Winmau and later McKicks. The dart is an excellent starting point for many different styles of throw and the 21g example, used by the man himself, is perfectly balanced.

Glazier was also a fine team and international player who represented England twenty-seven times up until 1988. He retired from competitive BDO darts in 1989 but continued to play exhibitions and entertaining the darting public for many more years.

“The exhibitions went on for the rest of my career. I was doing more exhibitions than I was playing in tournaments! I was on the road six days a week. I was the first professional. I was doing exhibitions, which nobody else did…..” (Weekly Dartscast 2020)

As with many trailblazers, as new starts are born and new eras made, his career began to fade from the memory. Fortunately, for all darts fans Glazier, approaching 80, was spotted playing in a local open, simply for fun, a couple of years ago. Social media did its thing and within days reviews of Alan’s career, along with classic and modern photos, began to appear. An excellent appearance on The Weekly Dartscast during the first 2020 lockdown was perhaps the best of these.

Whether you remember him as ‘The Ton Machine’, ‘The Man in Black’ or as the best lefty of his generation, darts was the better for having Glazier in it and is poorer for his departure.

Alan Glazier (January 21, 1939 – November 12, 2020)

Unsung heroes – Alan Evans

Unsung Heroes – ‘Evans the Arrow’. 

In the modern era of ‘Professional’ darts, we take it for granted that the players at the very top of the game enjoy at least ‘a good living’ from the game. Alan Evans, ‘Evans the Arrow’ has a claim to have been the first Professional dart player. During the mid-seventies, he was driven from venue to venue taking on all comers sometimes for £1000’s. 

Those of you will longer memories, or YouTube addictions, may recall seeing the diminutive Welshman in gripping, not exactly friendly, struggles with some of the legendary figures in darts.  But most will not be aware of the efforts and contribution made by the fiercely competitive and highly talented player. 

Amongst his playing achievements were finals of The News of the World & The Indoor League events.  These were amongst the first televised events, Evans also made the final of the first event to be screened on the BBC, The 1975 British Open. During that same year, he claimed the World Masters title. The Welsh Team, of which Evans was a member, cleaned up the titles at the initial World Cup in 1977. 

These tremendous results happened in the few years prior to the beginning of darts first golden era. Evans may well have peaked a little too soon. He was twice defeated at the semi-final stage of the World Championships by Leighton Rees and even banned for a year by the BDO. Sadly, Evans seemed to play a secondary role on the biggest stages and never quite hit the very highest level again. Although a superb 1987 run to the World Championship Semi almost provided a fairytale for the Rhonnda Legend’. 

Evans has a few other claims to fame, he scored once 401 in 9 darts (doubled to £802 for charity) in TV’s Bullseye’s guest professional round. No one ever scored higher. It was reported and witnessed that, during a Scottish exhibition night, Evans hit the 8 separate 150 checkouts going the 3 x Bullseye route. Alan even played Muhammed Ali in a special “World Championship” match. 

Evans was a serious competitor and, at his best, a sensational player. It is a shame that TV did not witness him at his sustained best. His contribution to our game should not be underestimated. Perhaps the best indication of his impact on audiences was the tributes paid by Sid Waddell. Sid would refer to the “Alan Evans Shot” if a player needed 150 to finish a leg and would often use him to illustrate fighting qualities or sudden spells of blistering form. Waddell had seen players come and go for decades with very few being awarded this type of accolade. When Evans passed away in 1999 at the age of 49, it was Sid wrote the tribute.  

Phrases including “the balance of Nureyev” are not often equated with darters but perhaps only the combination of Sid & ‘Evans the Arrow’ could produce them with sincerity. 

Like many unsung heroes, Alan Evans didn’t enjoy the full rewards of what he helped to create but his role was in creating them should be remembered. 


A version of this article appeared in Darts World magazine 2020.

Words: JR Lott

Unsung Heroes – Paul Cook

To those supposedly ‘in the know’ Bobby George is the only person to win The News of the World event without dropping a leg. Swindon locals, quite a few darters from around the country, and the friends of Paul Cook will tell you differently.

My Darts Journey - Trying to make it in the World of Darts!: Interview with  the Last News Of The World Darts Championship Winner: Paul Cook

Cookie, as he is known, won the News of the World title in 1990, defeating Steve Hudson 2-0 in the final. For many years it was assumed that Paul would be remembered as the last ever winner. Indeed many consider him to be just that. The 1997 reboot lasted one year and was certainly not a continuation of great run  1948 – 1990.

Friends testify that he often puts down his darts after a game or event and does not pick them up again until the next event. Sometimes this appears to be a ten-year wait! Not many would be able to contemplate this, let alone have the confidence to carry it out.

It is quite shocking, but typical of Cookie, that his record (on dartsdatabase.com) begins with that major triumph. He seems to appear from thin air and disappear just as quickly! So far his career is 27 years long and runs to just one page of event results. Following his sensational 1990 win, there is a six-year gap where he appears not to have thrown a competitive dart!

Cookie resurfaces at the 1996 Antwerp Open and reaches the last 16. The 8 players who reached the qtr finals were basically the best in the world including the winner Bob Anderson, and others including Dennis Priestley, so it seems safe to assume Cookie was again in superb nick. In the next fifteen months Cookie reached the last 40 of the World Matchplay twice and the last eight of the world pairs with longtime friend Dennis Smith. Late in 1997 Cook disappeared again.

A decade later in 2007 Paul reappeared in the qualifying stages of the Las Vegas Classic and a handful of other events. He managed to qualify for the UK Open in 2009, Cookie was defeated by Mark Lawrence who reached the Qtr finals. For the next few years, only a few Open events are recorded with mixed results.

Paul Cook (Right)

Randomly again in 2015 up pops Paul again with a win in the Plymouth Open.  Attempts at a higher level appear to fail after a few attempts at BDO qualifications. Not to be written off Paul entered Q School in 2017. After taking a while to settle he embarked on a thrilling run on the final day. He finally bowed out in the last 16 after being defeated by Paul Nicholson who gained his tour card by winning his next game.

I certainly hope we have not seen or heard the last of Cookie, perhaps the most unsung major champion of them all. He is a truly lovely man and an incredibly talented player.  If you’re lucky enough to bump into him ask him to tell you the tale of what happened when they came looking to reclaim his News of the World Trophy.

Look out for sightings at Opens in the South West or just about any other event, you never know where he will pop up next!


Unsung Heroes Appeared in Darts World Magazine from 2019

Words: JR Lott

Unsung heroes – Nick FullWell

Nick Fullwell was already known to many people involved in darts. 2019 witnessed him become known to a lot more. Hopefully, he is not finished yet! 

Nick Fullwell (left) collects another Challenge Tour title. (Pic: PDC) 

Nick has been playing professional darts for almost fifteen years. The last twelve months have seen him step up a level, in terms of results. TV appearances, at the recent World Masters, was followed by immediate qualification for the 2020 World Championships. Nick  joined the band of dual-code World Championship contestants after playing in the PDC version in 2009. 

It is, perhaps, at the level just below such rarity that the former Pro Tour finalist and West Midlands County player has improved strongly. Once again, he claimed a Challenge Tour (PDC) title but was not quite consistent enough to challenge in the Order of Merit. Yet, having begun to enter more and more BDO events, he started to pick up other titles and register strong performances. 

He has claimed the Torremelinos Classic and a clutch of finals, including the difficult Lincolnshire Open, the last year. In, what was to prove, a telltale sign Nick reached the semi-finals of the English Nationals in June as his run of success kicked on. 

All this was after finding himself in a tough spot during 2015. In April of that year, Nick had had enough. A poor run of results had resulted in no earnings/ranking points, on the Challenge Tour, with things seeming to go from bad to worse. Not one to give in easily, as his kickboxing black belt should signal, Nick sought out some assistance ‘on the oche’. For the next twelve months or so, he dramatically increased his practice and worked with a coach/mentor to see if he could put things right. 

The UK Open saw Nick again reach a major event.

A change of darts was initiated and, together with a stronger mindset and hard work, it began to pay off. Just over a year on, from his worst performances, Fullwell claimed his first PDC title winning a Challenge tour in May 2016.  Meanwhile he was showing superb form in Open events and, together with his ‘partner in crime’ Ian ‘Whippet’ Jones, winning or reaching the later stages of almost every one he entered. 

Tragedy, however, was imminent. At the same time, as this superb turnaround was taking place, Nick’s wife, and childhood sweetheart, Sharon was diagnosed with Cancer. Showing remarkable courage, the couple managed Sharon’s illness as best as they could, while raising money for Cancer charities, while ensuring that their two children were spared as much trauma as possible. Ultimately, after a courageous and lengthy fight, Sharon passed away. 

Nick’s focus and energies were then devoted to ensuring that his children were comforted and helped through school, college and more of life’s journeys. When time allowed Nick picked his darts and played for the sheer enjoyment of playing. Local events, a few county matches and a memorial event in honour of his wife. But family came first and darts was put in its proper perspective. 

Slowly, over the next few years, Nick has built up the next stage of his life and put his efforts back into the game he loves. He plays his county darts for Lincolnshire and has been playing more BDO events combined with the Challenge Tour. The rewards started to come in 2019, Nick began winning big events, and major opens again. He qualified for the World Masters and was unlucky to draw Scott Waites early on. 

A few years back Nick was encouraged to be aggressive and almost angry when he played, it was thought that this might get the best out of him. Nick and others resisted this and instead tried to be as relaxed as possible and enjoy the game. In short, he refused to be who he was not and remained true to himself. 

His reward was a place a place in the recent BDO World Championship. Finally, Mr Fullwell began to show us what he can really do. A very good performance in Rd 1 saw the back of David Cameron and Nick was unlucky not to go further missing out, against the up and coming David Evans, after missing a bull shot for the match. 

So, when you see Nick Fullwell play at this year’s events, spare a thought and perhaps a cheer, for one of the nicest people in the game of darts. Few have worked as hard, suffered such misfortune or deserve success more than he.