Darts professionals take on residents at Ilford pub

“Throw your hand at where you want to aim,” I was told as I tried to rediscover my university darts form which saw me dominate the pub scene.

The advice came from professional Paul Nicholson, who is ranked ninth in the world and came to the Lord Napier pub in Green Lane, Goodmayes, as part of a tour called Legends in Your Local.

I joined in a warm-up session with Paul and fellow pro Tony O’Shea prior to their exhibition in which they took on eight members of the public each.

Using Paul’s guidance and his darts, which he kindly lent me, my play started to improve and I was able to hit a few treble 20s as well as the bullseye.

The 32-year-old has ruffled a few feathers since bursting on to the Professional Darts Corporation circuit in 2008 by adopting a “bad boy” persona which has seen him in spats with 13-time world champion Phil Taylor.

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But it was clear during our chat the persona was reserved for pro events in a bid to “take the game forward”.

“I’m quite a shy person but when I get on stage I come alive,” he said. “The game has got to a point and it’s up to the characters to take it forward.

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“I want to give this game something a bit different and I am starting to do that.

“I firmly believe this is an entertainment sport and when you put entertainment and serious play together you have an opportunity to create something exciting and engaging.”

One of Paul’s opponents on the night was barmaid Trudi Levis who along with other members of staff donned a specially made darts T-shirt complete with nickname.

The 19-year-old, who was playing the sport for just the second time, said: “He tried his best to make himself lose and even took the flights off his darts.

“But he still managed to hit the board while I couldn’t do that with the flights on!”

She added: “Paul and Tony were both really nice and stayed afterwards to chat for a little while. It was a really fun night and regulars said they want us to do it again.”

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