If any darts player wants any advice on how to deal with a baying crowd at the Paddy Power PDC World Championship, Peter Manley should be their first port of call.
The three-time PDC Worlds runner-up was regularly taunted with boos and abuse during his career, partly due to his run-ins with Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis. Rather than be cowed by it though, Manley embraced it, becoming the pantomime villain of the sport.
He says playing at the World Championship’s former home, the iconic but cramped Circus Tavern, helped him cope with any negative words later in his career. The tournament was played at the Purfleet venue between 1994 and 2007 before moving to more spacious Alexandra Palace.
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“It was because of the closeness and the pressure it put on you – you felt like you were in the game more than you did at these big arenas like Ally Pally,” Manley tells Daily Star Sport.
“They were on top of you. You could hear the obscenities being called out to you. It was great to be part of that and then going into thousands of people booing you at Ally Pally. Because [at Ally Pally] you only heard one noise. The booing never put me off at places like the Ally Pally or in the Premier League.”
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Back at the Circus Tavern, it wasn’t just obscenities players had to try and ignore, but hopeful punters too, as Manley explains.
“The betting companies at the time used to allow bets on whatever the colour the double finish was going to be,” recalls Manley, 61, nicknamed One Dart. “One time, I wanted double 16, which is green, and there were a couple of guys I could hear.
“They were saying ‘it’s going to be green, oh no, it’s going to be red’. Talk about off-putting! You don’t know which one to hit because they’re both shouting out different colours. In the end, you’d forget what you’re actually throwing for. But your concentration is gone because, if you were concentrating, you couldn’t have heard them.”
Gerwyn Price and Alan Soutar were among the players to be barracked at the 2023 Worlds, with the former infamously donning a pair of massive ear defenders for a set in response.
“A lot of it is brought on from the past and players take it a little bit too much to heart,” reckons Manley, who is chairman of the Professional Darts Players Association (PDPA). “It’s something that’s there, it’s part of the game, it’s going to happen from time to time.
“Hopefully it doesn’t happen all the time because someone like Gerwyn Price has produced some fantastic darts and it’s why he has become a world champion. It’s a testament to his ability on the darts board.
“It’s very hard. I remember at my last World Championship, everyone was singing ‘there’s only one Christmas tree’. I turned round and there was a guy at the top of the tiers dressed as a Christmas tree. They were more interested in the Christmas tree than the darts on the stage.
“People probably aren’t even looking at the player they’re jeering or booing. But the bits they write on social media are totally unnecessary. They’re ignorant people who don’t realise the stress and strain the players are under.”
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Manley is relishing what is to come at Ally Pally over the festive period and says it is almost impossible to pick a winner due to the incredible standard at the top of the sport.
“You just need a pin [to pick a winner],” he says. “That’s what it’s like now, the standard has risen so much. In my day, it was Phil Taylor who could reach a level no other player could.
“Now, there are about 50 players who can reach that level. So it’s a tough old call, anyone can win.”
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