Civic honours for Robbie Williams something we can all agree on

Robbie Williams on stage in Leeds.

Robbie Williams on stage in Leeds.

Today The Sentinel celebrates the achievements of a local lad done good.

It’s a story that will please many but doubtless cause a vocal minority to reach for their keyboards or pens to condemn the council, The Sentinel and probably the bloke in question too.

It was as recently as November 15 that I suggested through this column that our city should do something to honour Robbie Williams’s achievements – both in terms of his career in music and his charity work.

This was on the back of plans for RWFanFest – a celebration led by fans being planned here in Stoke-on-Trent to mark Rob’s 40th birthday and to raise much-needed funds for the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice (DLCH).

My contention was that it was about time the city did something to acknowledge one of its most famous sons – i.e. Robert Peter Williams, formerly of Take That, who has for some time been the UK’s most popular solo music artist.

This is because, until now, there has been nothing here in the Potteries to say that a bloke who has sold more than 70 million records and won more BRIT Awards than any other artist comes from our neck of the woods.

The statistics of his career to date are impressive enough in terms of concert tickets and albums sold, but when you add to that his charity endeavours then surely no-one would dispute that his home city can rightly be proud of the man known to millions as Robbie.

With his mate Jonny Wilkes he created the bi-annual Soccer Aid football match which has so far raised more than £11 million for children’s charity UNICEF.

Perhaps more pertinently Robbie has given away £5 million of his own money through his Give It Sum charity to worthy causes here in North Staffordshire and, let’s not forget, bought £250,000 worth of shares in his beloved Port Vale which, at the time, saved the club from going bust.

He has a Staffordshire knot tattoo on the back of his hand and constantly references both his birthplace and his football club through his music lyrics and when on stage in front of millions.

Robbie may not live in the ST postcode area anymore but no-one could accuse him of forgetting his roots – unlike many celebrities drawn to the bright lights of London or Los Angeles.

Today we announce that the city council has decided to create various legacy projects which not only honour Robbie for his achievements to date but also tap into the potential of brand RW for the benefit of the city in terms of raising its profile and helping to bring in tourists and visitors.

This is something which, I believe, Robbie himself would approve of and I’m sure he’s as chuffed as his mum and dad are that very soon there will be a tourist trail, streets named in honour of his music, a ‘Robbie Day’ in schools and a photographic and memorabilia exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG).

Hopefully, one day soon, (and inevitably incognito) he will arrive in Stoke-on-Trent to have a look for himself at the legacy work being done in his name.

When initiatives like this are undertaken critics often argue that the recipient of the honour isn’t worthy or cannot be compared to other famous names who have been paid similar tributes.

In the case of Stoke-on-Trent we are talking about the likes of Spitfire designer Reginald Mitchell CBE and Sir Stanley Matthews CBE who have statues here in the Potteries and who have been honoured with street names and exhibitions.

Of course, to compare them with each other would be like comparing apples and pears. Both were sublime in their respective fields and I suspect both would be gracious enough to acknowledge a recording artist with the stature of Robbie Williams as someone worthy of recognition by his home city.

Another thing critics of initiatives such as those announced today often pick up on is the cost to council taxpayers so let’s nail that one now.

The cost for all the projects unveiled today is minuscule – primarily because they represent a partnership between the local authority, this newspaper, the DLCH, private firms, members of the community and individuals like Robbie’s mum and dad.

In my opinion spending a few thousand pounds on an exhibition at PMAG and creating a tourist trail (the other projects are cost neutral) is well worth the initial modest outlay when you think about the potential benefits.

This money wouldn’t have saved jobs or prevented a council-run facility from closing but it will definitely help brighten up our city and increase our ‘offer’, as they say in tourist-speak, to visitors to Stoke-on-Trent. Having a Robbie Day in schools sounds brilliant in terms of engaging children through music and art. Why not?

Naming streets with a nod to the bloke’s tunes costs nowt. It’s just a nice gesture so I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with that – unless they want to pick fault with the names, that is. I guess someone’s bound to.

I’d like to think that down the line our temporary Robbie exhibition leads to a permanent one somewhere here in the Potteries – hopefully including items donated by the man himself.

The council and this newspaper are constantly criticised for being too negative about the city. Hopefully today will be one of those rare occasions where everyone can agree that the announcements represent a win/win for all concerned – especially, of course, a charity close to Robbie’s heart.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

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It’s time our city honoured Robbie Williams

Fans waiting outside the home of Robbie Williams in 1994.

Fans waiting outside the home of Robbie Williams in 1994.

When I was a cub reporter in the early 1990s I was regularly sent out to Greenbank Road in Tunstall – and various other places across the Potteries – where groups of teenage girls would gather, hoping for a glimpse of their idol.

He was never there, of course, but that didn’t stop disciples of a certain Robert Peter Williams from congregating.

They travelled from all over the UK, and some from even further afield, snapping up Port Vale home shirts to take to concerts around the country in the hope the cheeky chappie from Tunstall would spot them in the crowd.

Take That were at the height of their powers back then, and our Robbie was young, single and extremely eligible.

Fast forward 20 years and much has changed. Robbie, as his fans know him, broke a million hearts by leaving the boy band which made him famous.

He enjoyed his time with numerous celebrity girlfriends, faced down his personal demons, launched a hugely successful solo career, amassed an eye-popping personal fortune, raised millions of pounds for charity, fell in love, got married and became a dad. Oh, and he saved the Vale along the way.

Everything has changed in two decades – except the fact that Rob has some of the most loyal fans of any star on the planet and it seems that a fair few of them will be heading to the Potteries in the New Year.

To mark the singer’s 40th birthday on February 13, the RWFanFest is being staged here in Rob’s home city with the twin aims of acknowledging the man’s remarkable achievements while raising money for the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice (DLCH) at Trentham Lakes – a charity close to his heart.

Organisers are planning guided bus tours around Rob’s old stomping ground, along with a charity concert and auction and a fans’ art exhibition which is being shipped over from Milan to the Burslem School of Art. (Rob’s fans on the continent – in Italy and Germany especially – are second to none. See the Diario Italiano di Robbie Williams website if you don’t believe me).

Pottery firm Wade has offered to produce souvenir ware and Port Vale staff will be holding collections for DLCH at the home game against Swindon.

Your truly will also be getting together next week with Pete Conway to plan another exhibition involving pictures and cuttings from The Sentinel’s archive along with personal mementoes and memorabilia which Rob’s dad has been collecting over the years.

It’s an exciting prospect and one which I believe affords us a great opportunity to honour one of Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous sons while raising the city’s profile.

You see, as I was listening to plans for the festival it occurred to me that we really are missing a trick.

I can’t help but think that if Rob had originated from Liverpool or Manchester or Birmingham they‘d already have a tourist trail in his name and a statue of him taking pride of place in the city centre.

I’m convinced they’d have plaques on the walls of every building he’d ever lived in and a permanent display of memorabilia at a museum somewhere.

But the sad truth is that, after 20 years of staggering success, there’s absolutely nothing here in Stoke-on-Trent to indicate to visitors that the man who is one of the UK’s biggest ever solo artists grew up here.

I think this is a crying shame and I find it somewhat baffling that our city has not yet honoured Rob in some way.

There will always, of course, be the nay-sayers. Those who don’t like the bloke or his music. Those who will point to the fact that he has lived in Los Angeles for a decade or more and who will argue that his links with the Potteries are tenuous at best. Others still will say that he’s ‘just a pop star’ and that his achievements don’t merit civic recognition. I guess it’s a bit like saying Sir Stanley Matthews CBE was ‘just a footballer’.

If you haven’t seen Robbie live I would simply say that, in my opinion, he’s one of the most charismatic and versatile entertainers this country has ever produced and the closest thing we now have to the late, great Freddie Mercury.

I think we should be incredibly proud of the fact that someone who has used his God-given talents to entertain tens of millions of people around the world hails from our neck of the woods.

If you don’t agree with me then perhaps simple statistics will persuade you.
Rob has thus far accumulated album sales of more than 70 million, had seven UK number one singles and collected 17 Brit Awards (the most of any artist). I don’t have enough room on this page to list his other awards and firsts, or his successes overseas.

Suffice to say people all over the world think he can sing a bit.

Let’s also not forget the day in 2006, two years after he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, when Rob entered the Guinness Book of World records for selling 1.6 million tickets for his tour… in just one day.

Then there’s Rob’s charity work. His biannual Soccer Aid venture – for which another Potteries star, Rob’s mate Jonny Wilkes, should also receive enormous credit – has to date raised more than £6.5 million for children’s charity UNICEF.

Robbie’s own charity Give It Sum, overseen by his mum Jan, has distributed more than £5 million to worthy causes here in his native North Staffordshire.

Now tell me that Robbie Williams doesn’t deserve a little acknowledgement from his home city.

If it were up to me I’d be giving him the freedom of Stoke-on-Trent in February, asking permission to create a permanent exhibition about him at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and perhaps even putting up a statue or naming something or somewhere in his honour.

I’d certainly rather see that than some pointless piece of art.

I’d also be putting up plaques around the city, telling visitors that our Rob once lived/was taught/bought an oatcake here.

If none of this happens then I’d simply ask that on February 13 you raise a glass to our Rob.

By anyone’s estimations, the boy done good.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

Please help us to find and reward Our Heroes

Actress Rachel Shenton with Child of Courage nominee Billy Heslop.

Actress Rachel Shenton with Child of Courage nominee Billy Heslop.

Yesterday The Sentinel launched this year’s search for unsung heroes from across its patch.

I am, of course, referring to the Our Heroes community awards campaign where this newspaper and its partner organisation – the Aspire Group – seek to highlight the lives and work of special individuals and organisations.

Categories range from Child of Courage and Bright Young Thing to Adult Carer Of the Year and Charity Champion/Fund-raiser Of The Year through to School Star and Hero Of The NHS.

We honour members of the emergency services and the Armed Forces as well as community groups whose efforts make such a difference to people’s lives.

The Sentinel publishes their stories then our panel of independent judges convenes to choose three individuals or groups from each category who will attend a glitzy, celebrity gala night.

That’s when the likes of Nick Hancock, Jonny Wilkes, Anthea Turner, Wendy Turner-Webster, Rachel Shenton, Gordon Banks, OBE, Mark Bright, Imran Sherwani, John Rudge, Peter Coates – among others – are only too happy to give the applause rather than to receive it.

They turn out each year on the red carpet to pay tribute to ordinary folk from across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire who have rather extraordinary stories to tell.

We’ve already had more than a dozen nominations but we’re going to need an awful lot more.
That’s where you come in.

Over the next three months The Sentinel will publish around 120 heart-warming stories which put paid to the myth that newspapers are all doom, gloom and negativity.

Remarkably, the biggest challenge when organising an awards event on this scale isn’t arranging the seating plan, shooting 30-plus videos, selecting a menu, or chasing up the VIPs.

It’s actually persuading Sentinel readers to vote for their friends, relatives and colleagues in one of the nine award categories.

You see, the problem is that round here people are rather backward in coming forward – precisely because they don’t believe that what the people they know do, day-in, day-out, is out of the ordinary.

They view their lives very much as the hand they’ve been dealt and just get on with it – whether that means caring for a relative round-the-clock, 365 days a year or coping with tragedy or illness.

Others devote their time to helping those less fortunate than themselves or making their neighbourhoods better places in which to live.

This is the eighth year of the Our Heroes awards and I can honestly say, hand on heart, it is one of the highlights of my year.

Anyone who has ever attended one of the ceremonies will tell you that they are truly inspirational occasions which showcase the triumphs of the human spirit.

They remind you just how lucky you are when you see the adversity others face and overcome and, put quite simply, make you want to be a better person when you see the selflessness and generosity of others.

Over the years The Sentinel has published more than 1,000 inspirational stories of people who have enriched the lives of those around them. People like Edward Dyster who came up with the idea of cycling 150 miles to raise money for the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice at the age of just six.

People like Dylan Kelsall, aged nine, from Longton, who has a muscle-wasting disease which means he faces surgery every six months.

People like Stephen Allerton, from Meir, who gave up his job as an engineer to care for his mother, father and brother.

People like cancer drug campaigner Dot Griffiths and Dougie Mac’s record fund-raiser John Leese, AKA the ‘Tin Can Man’, who have both sadly passed away since receiving their Our Heroes awards.

People like Ralph Johnson, from Biddulph, formerly a teacher at my old school – Holden Lane High – who spent more than 50 years helping to rescue people who got stuck in caves.

People like Colour Sergeant Gary Golbey, originally from Kidsgrove, who won the Beyond The Call Of Duty category after battling back from a brain tumour to complete the full 22 years’ service in the Army.

People like paramedic Rita Davies who tackled a knife-wielding patient who tried to attack a colleague.

People like Graham and Pat Bourne, from May Bank, who have devoted more than 100 years to enriching the lives of youngsters through the Scouting movement.

Each story is unique. Each award recipient extremely deserving. Crucially, each story worth the telling.

On September 19 this year’s unassuming yet amazing nominees will gather for another night to remember.

If you know someone worthy of recognition please don’t hesitate to contact The Sentinel and help us to make them feel special.

*To nominate someone for an Our Heroes award simply email: martin.tideswell@thesentinel.co.uk

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday

Cycle pioneer Brian is still making tracks at 73

It’s Christmas Day in the early Eighties and the boys of Stoke-on-Trent are heading downstairs hoping that Santa Claus has done the business.

I’m one of them and sure enough, next to my Santa sack filled with presents, stands a gleaming new, light blue Raleigh Grifter.

Back then it was a fairly straight choice for boys of a certain age: Grifter or Chopper.

One of Santa’s little helpers who made dreams come true for generations of Potteries children was making that choice was Brian Rourke.

The 73-year-old’s name is synonymous with cycling in the city and remembers only too well the days when Raleigh’s bikes were household names.

He said: “Those were the bikes that started me off, really. The Choppers, Grifters, Tomahawks and Budgies.

“We sold a hell of a lot of them back when it was manic in the run up to Christmas and then fairly quiet for the rest of the year.”

Brian borrowed £200 from a friendly bank manager to start his business in Waterloo Road, Burslem, in 1972.

By then he was a 33-year-old veteran cyclist, a winner of numerous races and someone with enough experience and expertise to turn his passion into a business.

Brian actually came to cycling quite late.

He explained: “I never owned a bike until after I left school. It would have been the mid-1950s and my dad had refused to buy me one because he thought there was too much traffic on the roads. I suppose it’s a good job he’s not around now!

“I think perhaps because I’d been denied cycling when I was younger I wanted it all the more when I finally got my own bike.”

Brian added: “My love of cycling was actually fuelled by the fact that I wasn’t able to follow my dream to become a professional footballer. I played for Stoke-on-Trent schoolboys twice but that came to an end because they wouldn’t let me play wearing my thick glasses. There was, of course, no such thing as contact lenses in those days. I was devastated and so turned my attenton to cycling.

“At first it was just about me and my mates riding to see other friends up Packmoor way. Then we would cycle a bit further to places likes Congleton.

“Over time we would go further and further to places like Macclesfield. Looking back it’s amazing how far we travelled on the bikes we had.”

In the early Sixties, after he had completed his National Service, Brian began to race competitively.

He went on to ride all over the UK and abroad – taking part in three Tour of Britain rides with his close friend Les West, another Potteries cycling legend.

Brian said: “Back then the tour was about 1,600 miles – not the 900-or-so it is today and we did it with our feet strapped on to the pedals. I remember the straps used to leave marks.

“Everything has changed so much over the years. Bike technology has advanced incredibly. These days and all the gear is made for speed and comfort and is so much lighter.”

Brian is thrilled that cycling is enjoying such a renaissance – thanks in no small part to British riders such as Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish enjoying success at the Tour De France and London 2012.

Stoke-on-Trent has been quick to seize the initiative – cultivating a reputation as a ‘cycling city’.

On September 13 the fifth stage of this year’s Tour of Britain comes to the Potteries – followed 10 days later by the Tour Ride where ordinary people and charity fund-raisers can follow in the tracks of the world’s top riders.

Brian said: “It’s great for the city. Cycling tends to go through phases – with different types of cycling enjoying popularity.

“At the moment it’s the road racers who are riding high – which is good for my business – but BMX and mountain bikes have had their moments too.”

Brian recently drew on his five decades of experience to coach celebrity riders including Stoke City manager Tony Pulis and comedian Nick Hancock who took part in a charity cycle ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End in aid of the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice.

He said: “None of them were really riders but they showed what anyone can do with proper advice, preparation and the right gear. At the end of the day, when you boil it down, it’s just one person and the bike they are riding.”

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

Celebrities saddle up for mammoth bike ride in aid of Donna Louise Children’s Hospice

If my Sentinel colleague Martin Spinks’ masterplan is to pull a hamstring at Fort William in the hope that I will be his substitute then he is sadly mistaken.

The last time yours truly sat on a bike it was 1984 and that bike was a Raleigh Grifter.

Sitting on a bike these days is an alien concept to me. Riding 960 miles is clearly madness.

But that’s what a bunch of celebrities and media types have volunteered to do in aid of our very own Donna Louise Children’s Hospice at Trentham Lakes.

They’re an odd bunch – and I mean that in a nice way – who have been thrown together for a mighty challenge to ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

We’ve got stalwart Donna Louise supporters Nick Hancock and Tony Pulis, Tony’s daughter Steph, fashion guru Jeff Banks, actor Dean Andrews, BBC Radio Five Live’s Mark ‘Chappers’ Chapman, BBC Midlands Today’s Dan Pallett and, of course, our Spinksy.

You learn a lot about someone when you are stuck in a confined space for several days.

So what have I learned so far in between sleeping on tiny bunks on our tour bus which is following the riders as they take turns, in pairs, to ride four to six hour shifts?

Well, I’ve learned that Tony Pulis likes Green Tea and hates Twitter.

I’ve learned that it’s best not to be around Dean Andrews when he’s had curry, baked beans or energy supplements.

I’ve found out that Jeff Banks smokes big Cuban cigars and has a penchant for embellishing the truth.

I’ve also learned that there are two types of celebrity. The ones who talk and the ones who do.

There’s been no moaning from any of the riders despite a nine-hour unscheduled stop at Lancaster services on the M6 when our tyre blew out.

There’s been no belly-aching about the lack of sleep, the cramped conditions and the camp-style food being served on trestle tables as we inch slowly south.

They’ve all given up their time for a brilliant local charity which is close to the hearts of so many people in North Staffordshire.

Over the next few days they will eat carbohydrates until they come out of their ears, be woken in the dead of night and be riding in all weathers for hours on end.

Give them you’re support please. They’re a great bunch and they’re earning it – and massive respect.

*Anyone wishing to make a donation should log on to: http://www.onyerbike2012.org and click on Sponsor The Riders

My wish-list to give our city a happy and prosperous 2011

Being so busy over the next few days, it’s unlikely that Father Christmas will deliver the presents I want for Stoke-on-Trent.
So here’s my wish-list to give our city a happy and prosperous 2011…
I hope that the families living on deprived neighbourhoods are not left to their fate with the winding down of Renew North Staffordshire at the end of March.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has worked hand in glove with the regeneration agency that was given hundreds of millions of pounds of public money to transform the Potteries.
Estates such as Cobridge must not simply be abandoned to inexorable decline. It is the responsibility of local politicians to champion their areas.
I hope that work will finally (finally!) commence on building a new bus station for Hanley.
This project, which has been on the drawing board since before yours truly was sitting his GCSEs, is vital to the ultimate renaissance of the city centre. Please can everyone make a note in their diaries on March 28 so that if we don’t see men with hard hats wandering around we can kick up an almighty fuss.
I hope the much-vaunted Local Enterprise Partnership or LEP becomes more than just a talking shop for men in suits – we’ve had too many of these in recent years.
The effectiveness of this body should be assessed on a regular basis by the amount of funding it is able to bring to North Staffordshire.
I hope that a decision can be taken as soon as possible to close the great white elephant that is Ceramica and find a new use for this iconic building. Burslem’s beautiful Grade II-listed Town Hall deserves better than a continuing depreciation in value and a trickle of visitors at this ill thought-ought carbuncle which loses money year after year.
I hope that we don’t all forget about the Staffordshire Hoard. We’ve got a unique tourist attraction – up at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. It’s all gone rather quiet, however. Let’s start marketing ourselves as the home of the hoard, build a great big statue of a Saxon warrior overlooking the M6 to brand our city as such, and start raising the money to have these breathtaking exhibits properly displayed.
I hope the wonderful Donna Louise Children’s Hospice – which is a credit to Stoke-on-Trent – is finally on a sound enough financial footing to be able to open its doors seven days a week.
I hope the project to build stronger links with Lidice in the Czech Republic is a roaring success. If ever a local campaign deserved to succeed – this is it – as it shows the people of the Potteries in their best, most selfless light.
The role our city played in breathing new life into a village which Hitler tried to wipe off the map must never be forgotten.
I’d like my beloved Port Vale to win automatic promotion, retain the services of Micky Adams and earn the kind of investment which secures the long-term future of the club. This would enable the current board of directors to step down with heads held high – rather than being hounded down Hamil Road by disaffected fans.
I wish Stoke City would make it into Europe – even if it’s in that Mickey Mouse competition that Liverpool are in this season.
As well as giving the Potteries more exposure, perhaps then the Match Of The Day crew would at last give Tony Pulis’s team their due and find alternative adjectives to ‘hard-working’, ‘physical’ and ‘well-organised’.
I’d like Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor to finally get the recognition he deserves and win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. Failing that, can we not give the bloke the Freedom of the City?
To round off the year I’d like my mate Jonny Wilkes to bring Paddy McGuinness and their adult pantomime to The Regent theatre. You never know, it may even shut up the critics who for years have slated Jonny for putting bums on seats at our premier theatre.
“Oh no it won’t…”

We’ve seen plenty of ‘The Power’… but what about the glory?

I’m rubbish at darts – as anyone who has taken cover while I’ve slung a few arrows in the Sneyd Arms will testify too.
This is despite the fact that I have an old set of Phil Taylor’s practice darts.
All of this just goes to show that blood doesn’t always run true because I’m told my dad was a bit special in his day.
Some fellas who know about these things tell me that, had he not been working away a lot when I was little, he could easily have played at county level and possibly above.
The multitude of trophies and 180 medals in the cardboard box at the bottom of his wardrobe backs up what they say.
But me? I think I’ll stick to playing pool.
Darts is one of those games that looks unfathomably easy, but is actually really difficult to be good at without practising ’til the cows come home.
And right now, we are fortunate to have in our midst, a world champion at the peak of his Powers (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Phil Taylor is a freak. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that.
The bloke is a machine. Untouchable. Relentless.
Even people like me, who don’t follow darts, watch in awe as he racks up victory after victory – title after title.
Yet because we see so much of him here in the Potteries, because he’s one of our own, I wonder if we perhaps just take him for granted.
If Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor had come from Liverpool they’d have no doubt based the Capital of Culture celebrations around him and had him singing on stage with Paul McCartney.
There would have been a statue of him erected within spitting distance of the Liver Birds by now and they’d have renamed the Albert Dock Taylor’s Oche.
You wouldn’t be able to turn on the radio without a Scouse voice blathering on about ‘ar Phil’.
As it is, despite his achievements, one of the world’s greatest sportsmen has again failed to make the shortlist for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards which is nothing short of a scandal. On their website, Phil is mentioned in passing as having had another ‘incredible year’.
Auntie Beeb ought to wake up and smell the skinny latte.
Phil’s been having ‘incredible years’ for a decade now and it’s about time they were recognised.
I can’t help, but think there’s an element of snobbery behind this apathy towards our darts maestro. After all, some would say, darts isn’t a sport – it’s a pub game.
No. It’s a sport played by millions – so get over it.
And, dare I say it, there are a damn sight more people interested in Phil Taylor’s exploits than a Royal equestrian, an F1 driver or many of Team GB’s Olympic hopefuls.
Fifteen years ago darts was about as sexy as sink full of dirty dishes.
But clever television executives and a certain prolific player from our neck of woods have transformed the sport into a global phenomenon, which now names top celebrities among its fans.
Let’s for a second set aside Phil Taylor’s charity work for the likes of the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice and numerous other worthy causes.
Let’s not focus on the fact that, despite his considerable wealth, he still lives a dart’s throw away from his beloved Stoke-on-Trent.
Let’s ignore the fact that, on impulse, he paid thousands of pounds for Aaron and Andrew Corden – two young lads from Abbey Hulton who came runner-up in Stoke’s Top Talent – to go to dance college and follow their dreams of a career in musical theatre.
Let’s just focus on the sportsman.
I reckon that, in 40 years’ time, people will look back and say: “Hey, that Phil Taylor – 17 (or whatever it will be by then) world titles. What a player he must have been.”
And old fogies like me will answer: “Yeah. I saw him once. He was incredible. Made it look effortless. No-one could live with him.”
Because that’s how good he is.
Sadly, just like all great sportsmen and women, one day he will be shown up to be human. But, right now, he’s the undisputed heavyweight champion of the oche and no-one can touch him.
Thankfully, Phil Taylor’s immortality is assured and long may he continue to entertain and inspire millions with nine-dart finishes, bullseyes and 180s.
More Power to his elbow, I say.