Priestley, aged 43, is expected to dominate world darts over the next year and his progress was essential to the legitimacy of the tournament, set up in competition to the Embassy World Championships which began yesterday at the traditional mecca of darts, the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green. But all the big names - apart from Bobby George, who won his first- round match 3-0 yesterday - have forsaken leafy Surrey for a rather grim stretch of the A13 which, nevertheless, will go down as the site of the darts revolution.
Priestley, who emphasises his nickname of Dennis the Menace by wearing black and red hoops, will meet Phil Taylor, the No 6 seed who disposed of the American Steve Brown 5-0, in today's final.
The schism in the darts world has been bitter and public. The mandarins of the establishment British Darts Organisation, whose fiefdom is the Embassy championships and which stands accused by the players of moribund management of the game, has launched outspoken attacks on darts' three most famous names - Eric Bristow, John Lowe and Jocky Wilson - accusing them and their fellow rebels of being motivated by greed. Bristow, a BDO official said, 'hasn't won anything for years', while, he added, 'no one wanted to watch Wilson any more'. More startlingly, the official claimed that Lowe, the kindly uncle figure of darts, 'has always been rebellious'.
Despite their apparent vindication, competitors will no doubt have cast forlorn glances westwards towards the Lakeside, whose hospitality is legendary. The players' lounge saw darts stars such as Bristow and Wilson turn up every night to hold court even if they had been eliminated in the earlier rounds (which, admittedly, they usually had been in recent years).
Although it is Bristow, Lowe and Wilson who have been in the headlines over the controversy, equally important to the players' breakaway has been Bob Anderson, the No 3 seed from Swindon, dubbed the 'Limestone Cowboy' because of his penchant for country and western clothes.
Dressed in a red shirt with gold lame trim, drain-pipe jeans and moccasins, Anderson said: 'I've put my neck on the block the same as everyone else. If 30 people had shown for the first session we would have been worried men. But the final is already sold out. The players refuse to be swept under the carpet. They say we are greedy but the prize-money here is half as much as at the Embassy. We are in this for ourselves but also for the players of the future.'
After winning his two earlier matches 3-0, Anderson was confident of his chances in yesterday's quarter-final against Phil Taylor from Stoke, known as the 'Crafty Potter' as he is the protege of Bristow, long nicknamed the 'Crafty Cockney'.
'I haven't started playing yet,' Anderson said before the match. 'Today I start.' Normally a steely eyed and cool character, Anderson permitted himself a smile as the commentator of the match before his remarked of a player: 'And here comes Harrington, famous for his ties. You may remember Eric Bristow christening one of them with a jug of water on Thursday.'
Anderson added: 'I was disillusioned with the way the game was being run, but now I am refreshed. It's a question of marketing.' In the case of Anderson and Taylor, this meant approaching the oche through a cloud of dry ice. Anderson enacted Tyson-like neck rolls, but sadly it was not to be his day. Although Anderson attempted to motivate himself with mutterings of 'pick it up' through clenched teeth, Taylor beat him by four sets to two.
Back in the players' lounge after the match, beneath colour portraits of Jim Davidson, the Three Degrees, Hale and Pace and Freddie Starr, Anderson remained confident about his own and darts' revolutionary future, without, characteristically, being over-confident. 'I wear cowboy shirts and Indian shoes so if I get captured by either side I've still got half a chance,' he said.Reuse content