Darts: Jaws too hungry for Prince of Wales

Essex crowd goes wild as local boy reaches world darts semi-finals
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Top darts players need two things. One, obviously, is a set of darts. Otherwise, despite having everything in terms of technique and mental toughness, they would not be able to score any points at all. But the second ­ no, it's not nine pints of lager, it's not a treble vodka and 180 Rothmans ­ the second is a nickname.

The claim of the Skol World Darts Championship, currently under way in the raucous environs of Purfleet's Circus Tavern, to be the one true world championship ­ as opposed to the establishment's Embassy version, which will be televised on BBC from Sunday onwards ­ is strong indeed.

No less a figure than John Lowe, who won world titles in three successive decades, described the field gathered for a ninth successive year at this Essex watering hole as the best he had ever seen. (It certainly proved too strong for the 56-year-old Lowe, who departed in the second round.)

But I submit that the tournament, which comes to a shuddering climax on Sky TV tomorrow night, is not beyond criticism for two reasons ­ its 31st seed, Paul Williams, and qualifier, Matt Chapman. No nicknames, the pair of them.

Needless to say, both made the earliest available exit at the hands of, respectively, Phil "The Power'' Taylor, in search of his eighth title in the last nine years, and Dennis "The Menace'' Priestley, whose own interest in this year's event finished yesterday when he was beaten 6-2 in his quarter-final by Dave Askew. "Diamond'' Dave Askew, that is.

Askew's resilience was saluted by a packed bar-full that lived up to all the requirements demanded by the cameras that roved through the gathering.

The accent at this year's Purfleet fashion week was on head gear. As in every other year. A woman in a cowboy hat edged with green tinsel, displayed a sign extolling the virtues of the Diamond Geezer with tireless energy. A group of characters in gigantic chequerboard Beatle caps drank in the atmosphere alongside another group sporting Tommy Cooper-style red fezzes. Beneath multicoloured lights, which chased each other across the ceiling, the tables heaved with ­ to borrow a phrase of the esteemed commentator Sid Waddell ­ something yellow in tall glasses, and I don't mean daffodils.

Yes, the scene was set. And the man who stole it on day six was an Essex boy, Colchester-born and bred Colin Lloyd, who followed up his first round defeat of the world No 1, Alan Warriner ­ sorry, Alan "Iceman'' Warriner ­ by defeating the 1995 Embassy world champion, Richie Burnett, 6-4 in a dramatically fluctuating match.

At one stage, Lloyd, joint youngest in the tournament at 27, was 5-0 up and facing a double to win. But after missing it, he allowed Burnett ­ who is one of a number of leading players to switch from the establishment bastion at Frimley Green ­ to pull back to 5-4 before rediscovering his nerve to earn a place in the last four. It was another startling flourish from the man who began the week 18th in the world. "Colin needs some self-confidence and some sleep as he still juggles a day job and a pro life!" the programme notes exclaimed.

How much sleep a man who spends his other working life putting up fences and laying cables has had recently is unclear, but his confidence levels are clearly soaring. "After getting two bashings here in the last two years, I came here to do some damage,'' Lloyd said. "I've done some already and I want to do a little bit more.''

Part of the collateral damage of his quarter-final effort involved his mother, Diane, who was present to witness a glorious victory in company with her husband, Michael, as well as Lloyd's auntie and uncle, Janet and Tony, and his girlfriend, Deta, once the top-ranked female darts player.

For Lloyd's mum, the process of watching the youngest of her five children going to the brink of victory before drawing back and then returning was a punishing one. With her boy 5-0 up, she had had to leave the main arena for the relative calm of the VIP bar upstairs. "I couldn't stand it,'' she said. "I was so...'' she ended the sentence with a shudder. "But when it was 5-4, I thought: 'I've got to be back there'. So I went down again. Excuse my voice, I'm hoarse from shouting...''

In truth, Lloyd's win offered a timely lift for his clan. "We had three deaths in the family recently,'' his mother said. "And my husband was made redundant yesterday, but I'm so proud of my baby, I really am. He's 'Mummy's Little Soldier'.''

Mrs Lloyd was mistaken on that point. Colin Lloyd is Colin "Jaws'' Lloyd. Although, come to think of it, "Mummy's Little Soldier'' might be a better moniker ­ especially if he marches on today.

* Phil Taylor, who averaged more than 100, moved into the semi-finals of the World Championship with a 6-0 win over John Part last night.