Phil Taylor: The path to sporting greatness

By Lawrence BarrettoBBC Sport
'The Power' on loving the challenge

Victory in Tuesday's PDC World Championship final gave Phil "The Power" Taylor a 16th title, to consolidate his place as the greatest ever darts player with a record that few other sportspeople can rival in their respective discipline.

Taylor, 52, needed every ounce of the mental strength which has seen him crush opponents on the way to 193 career titles to beat Dutchman Michael van Gerwen at Alexandra Palace on New Year's Day.

The triumph brings a 16th success in 25 years, which compares favourably to other greats such as Michael Schumacher's record of seven Formula 1 wins in 19 years and Kelly Slater's 11 world surfing titles.

It's an impressive achievement considering Van Gerwen, 29 years his junior, had won their last two encounters and been the form player in this year's showpiece event.

Meanwhile, Taylor, who has taken the sport to new levels with long hours of practice that forced opponents into heavy scoring which required greater accuracy, had not won the world title since 2010, and his powers appeared to be declining with age.

During the last two years, he has experimented with glasses as his sight deteriorated and ditched his trusty darts for a new weighty set as he tried to reclaim his grip on the sport.

Taylor built a gym in his house so that he could train every day, took up swimming to aid weight loss and ensured he practised at least four hours a day, every day, before tucking himself up in bed by nine.

He even tried using a sports psychologist before coming to the conclusion that "you can't teach people to win, it's in you. You have either got it or you haven't".

The hard work paid off and the 52-year-old has successfully reinvented himself.

Born in Stoke, Taylor's supreme work ethic was clear to see early on. In his youth, he would spend hours pinging a golf ball up against the garden wall to improve his hand-eye coordination.

When he was old enough to get a job, the Port Vale fan would work in a factory crafting ceramic toilet holders during the day, pull pints in the evening and if there was any spare time left, he would turn his hand to repairing cars.

Taylor did not throw a dart until he was 26. On a night out with his wife Yvonne, he challenged a local lad who had recently qualified for an event on TV to a game in his local pub, owned by five-time world champion Eric Bristow, and won.

From there, he began to play more regularly and Bristow soon convinced him to take the game up full-time, even sponsoring him £10,000 so that he could quit his other jobs and completely dedicate himself to the game. Taylor did just that.

"He's superb, he's very dedicated and puts a lot of time into his sport," Bristow told BBC Radio 5 live. "He plays four, five or six hours a day, even now, thirty years on, so he's just a very dedicated player."

The man from Stoke won his first title - the Canadian Open - in his debut season in 1988 and picked up his first BDO world title two years later.

Another world championship followed before he moved to the PDC series and won 14 of the next 20 titles, including an unbeaten run between 1995 and 2002.

Taylor has said he lives, breathes and even dreams the sport, adding that he often wakes himself up twitching and throwing darts in his sleep.

And his refusal to entertain the thought of defeat - he came back from 2-0 and 4-2 down in Tuesday's final to become the oldest winner of the tournament - has seen him dominate the sport for the last two decades.

When he was asked what his secret was, Taylor replied: "Get four kids, it focuses your mind. You've got to provide for them and it's in that moment that you either win or lose."

It is that kind of mental focus which saw him offer his services to Fabio Capello when the Italian was in charge of the national football team. Taylor said: "So much of sport is that mental attitude. I would tell them what goes through my mind when it comes to lifting the title."

Taylor says he will return to defend his title in December, but Bristow thinks a record of 20 titles is out of reach.

"No, he won't get to 20 but there's most likely to be another one in him," said Bristow. "He is getting on a bit now. Van Gerwen is going to win a few. I think we have seen the newcomer coming through who's going to take over from Phil, but not yet."

Taylor disagrees, telling BBC Radio 5 live: "Could I get to 20? I'll try. I'll be back on the practice board tomorrow getting ready for next season.

"It is catching up with me, you do feel it, but as long as I keep myself fit, I can keep going."

Whether he wins another title or not, Taylor's record speaks for itself.


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