There’s a similarity about Scotsmen who recently conquered the world in their respective sports. The Murray brothers in tennis and Gary Anderson in darts have another thing in common. All three support Hibernian Football Club.
Given the location of their upbringing, Dunblane for the winning tennis duo and originally Musselburgh for the darts champion, it is not surprising, indeed reassuring, that the hitherto nicknamed Dreamboy, now The Flying Scotsman, 45-year-old Gary Anderson, has his football leanings towards the Edinburgh side which justifiably could be construed as his local team. The location of the Murrays’ home town gives them more room for manoeuvre but as youngsters they opted for Hibs presumably influenced by their grandfather, Roy Erskine, who signed for the Edinburgh club as a teenager and whose own promising tennis future was constrained by bureaucracy because he was a professional footballer. I’m sure that the current Easter Road manager, Alan Stubbs, would be delighted if his charges could attain a fraction of the success gained by these sporting icons.
It may be an apocryphal story but it has been suggested that one bookmaker is already giving odds appropriate odds against Gary’s third son, three-year-old Tai, winning the World Championship sometime in the future. The price offered? 180-1 of course! The talented prodigy apparently plays darts from morning till night and surely the magnificent performance of his dad the first week of this year in winning back-to-back Professional Darts Corporation (CPD) Championships, 2015 and 2016, to add to his 30+ other tournament successes, will signify that there is every likelihood of hereditary ability.
In at least two other sports there are significant precedents of parental and pals’ confidence in their offspring and friends. Lewis Hamilton’s father, Anthony, and other associates placed an efficacious bet when Lewis was only nine years old that he would win the Formula 1 Championship. Gerry McIlroy, and three of his friends, in July 2014 had the perspicacity to place decade-lasting bets that his son, Rory, would win the Open within 10 years. When he won it with three weeks of the wager time limit remaining, their reputed earnings were £180,000. Yes, '180’ – thousand!
Not since the late Jocky Wilson, the mercurial genius from Fife, has Scotland had such an outstanding and worthy darts champion. Unlike Jocky, who had a penchant for a 'refreshment’ before, during and after matches, and who once threw a punch at an official, teetotaller Gary has been justifiably described by a number of competitors as the most sporting opponent they have ever encountered.
In a career which was relatively late in starting, Gary’s earnings in that relatively short time are around £2,500,000, with £300,000 of that total acquired in the first few days of this year when he successfully defended his PDC World Championship. The event took place on the 'Ally Pally’ stage, the supposed nickname by Gracie Fields for the Alexandra Palace, London, where his opponent, Adrian Lewis graciously acknowledged that Gary was 'the best player in the tournament and deserved it'. Indeed, apart from Anderson, only Lewis, Eric Bristow and Raymond Van Barneveld have successfully defended their first world title.
Next on the agenda, again organised by the charismatic, highly intelligent and hugely successful Barry Hearn – a man who caused ructions last year by criticising the Scottish Professional Football League administration for ineptitude at not having a sponsor – is the Darts Premier League competition. The top 10 darts players in the world will compete in this lucrative event. Joining such luminaries of the sport as Michael Van Gerwen, Raymond Van Barneveld, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis are not only Gary Anderson but Ayrshire’s Robert Thornton.
Thornton, from Stevenston, Ayrshire, is another Scotsman with a growing reputation having won three of the darts’ majors: the World Masters in 2007, the UK Open in 2012 and the World Grand Prix in 2015. To be ranked number six in the world, along with Anderson, surprisingly still at number two behind Van Gerwen in spite of his stunning 2016 World Championship success, gives Scotland a formidable presence at the top level in this sport.
Like most top sportsmen, and thanks to his popular appeal and his resourceful manager, Tommy Gilmour, the world champion is substantially sponsored. On his match shirt with its significant tartan left sleeve, in addition to the event sponsors, William Hill and Sky Sports for the PDC event, there four main endorsements: Unicorn, Rix Motors, Arthur McKay and Car Finance 247. His personally promoted darts, Unicorn Maestro Premium, puts him up there with Phil Taylor's Silverlight and Eric Bristow's Silver Arrows. As in other sports these endorsements can massively enhance the players’ profile and income. In cricket Alastair Cook uses a Gray Nicolls bat, Ian Bell Kookaburra and Kevin Pietersen, following the demise of Woodworm, favours Adidas. Golfers can’t fail to see Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy using and wearing Nike equipment, and don’t many aspiring young footballers want to emulate Messi by wearing his Nike boots?