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