After my retirement from The Grapevine FC, both as player/manager and overweight central defender I needed to turn my attentions to another sporting activity more akin to my fitness and age levels.
One Saturday as I was participating in an afternoon of armchair sports, the next sport on was World Darts from Lakeside in Frimley Green, Surrey. Then it hit me. I jumped up from the sofa - OK, slowly pulled myself up from the slumped position - spilling the packet of crisps on the floor as I did and went into the bathroom. As I stood sideways in front of the mirror I realized I had the perfect body and lifestyle of a pro-darts player - perfect ballast (no six-pack this, more a party 7), I like a beer, height advantage bringing me closer to the board and not a bad aim. That was it, Alick "3-in-a-Bed" Howard was born. (Sit down, ladies, it's a darts term!)
The forthcoming "dardos" season promises to be a bit different as inter-bar rivalries are starting to emerge, as have been hinted at previously in the pages of this very mag. Just as in the football pre-season we have seen player transfers taking place between teams, teams dropping out of the league as well as new ‘projects' appearing, just like the Manchester City FC transformation.
As from September, Tuesday nights will see gladiatorial darts matches in various bars around Cómpeta, Canillas de Albaida and Archez. To give you a flavour of the teams involved here is a brief description of each of them and their Key Players:-
Albaida ‘A' - Finished a very close 3rd last season after a play-off for runners up against their local rivals, Esperilla. Player to watch is their captain, Jo Stewart. The fiery Scot has been known not only to throw good darts at the board but also all three of them on the floor when things don't go to plan. A few new ‘signings' from the now defunct Esperilla team strengthens their chances.
Albaida ‘B' - Never underestimate the strength of a woman. This team is an all female team, and the team no self-respecting Alpha Male wants to lose to. Take nothing for granted. They can throw darts like they throw a rolling pin when you stagger in late after a night with your mates. Player to watch? All of them; don't turn your back for a minute.
Alicat - Unfortunately, this team has been broken up somewhat as pre-season transfer activity has seen much or their team go elsewhere. Tony Sawyer is one to watch. If they don't get anybody else on board he might be the only one to watch, unless Ali Dunne can get from behind the bar.
Casona - The team on the Plaza. Brother and sister duo Aden and Sofia Penn (captain) are ones to watch. The team is a lethal mixture of Spanish and English players, with Sergio, bar owner, an addition for mainly home matches.
Cataollas - One of the teams playing out of La Peña bar in Archez, but don't tell them they're La Peña second team or else! With players with names like Butch Hooker and Grace Kelly they're a team with a lethal mix of brawn and grace. Player to watch is the captain, Paul "Hotspur" Burgin.
Fernan - Playing out of Bar Fernan, they are the team at the administrative centre of Cómpeta under the ayuntamiento. An all Spanish team, no red tape, paper pushers these boys. With nicknames like ‘Pompa' (Pomp, splendour) and ‘Lobo' (wolf), difficult to know what to expect.
Gemelas - The outsiders bet to challenge for the title this season, perhaps. Well I have to say that, it's my team. With fancy new team polos adorned with players names such as "Ruthless", "La Maquina", "Power" and "Rocket", they are looking to improve on their mid-table finish last season. Pre-season matches have gone well with victories against Cataollas and a new team of wannabes, La Vendimia. Player to watch is the capitano, Steve Napier who throws a "ton-for-fun".
Pavo Real - League winners last season by a good margin, this season will be different as they have been decimated by transfers out losing key players to one of the newly formed teams. However, with a strong customer base they'll still be competing hard with a few points to prove to lost players.
La Peña - A team with a respectable top half finish last season but have lost their captain and key player to one of the newly formed teams. Husband and wife pairing of Maggi and Alex ones to watch but a good Spanish contingent give a mix of Anglo Saxon aggression and Latin flair.
Piscina Bar - Playing out of Canillas de Albaida municipal pool (not literally), they pulled out of the league last year but following new ownership, they will re-form. An unknown entity at this stage but expect to see some novice players.
Roca ‘A' - La Rocas first team with a daunting home venue for some. The venue is adorned with an Aladdin´s cave of darts trophies but perhaps from a bygone time. Another mixture of Spanish and English players with their captain, Aurelio Perez and Peter Burke ones to watch. Luis Fernando Potaje is worth watching if only for the different forms of tobacco he smokes during a match - stogey to pipe to cigarettes then back to the Clint Eastwood stogey.
Roca Athletic - The second team playing out of La Roca. Again a mixture of Spanish and English players, with some young blood Spanish mixing with the more mature English. Flair and calm rolled into one.
Venta de Palma - Despite being one of the new teams, the core is made up of Phil Stockton, ex captain of Pavo Real, Colin Time and David Ruiz Salido, ex captain of La Peña. Arguably, favourites to win the league as Phil Stockton walked off with most of the individual trophies for his performance for last year and Colin Time can hit the numbers as well. David is no slouch when it comes to dardos so probably the team to beat.
La Vendimia - The team of mainly newbies but have a core of players with league experience. Dave "Dark Destroyer" Dawson (on the evidence, however, he could be prosecuted under the Misrepresentation of Persons Act) once of Albaida ‘A' with Jim Penman and Peter (surname unknown) "Man of Mystery", ex Alicat. The new wannabes include Steve "Treble 20" Twiselton, Andy "Corner Shop" Wilkes and Andy "Hairdo" Da Beba. An unsurpassed rivalry is building between their nearest rivals (in distance between the bars not ability, you understand), Las Gemelas. Expect sparks to fly when these two go head-to-head, especially as an ex Las Gemelas player, Phil "Old Stokey" Hares, has also succumbed to the Manchester City effect and a promise of big things.
So there you have it, it's all set for another exciting season of darts. Catch all the action in a bar near you every Tuesday from 9pm. As they say at the start of the Lakeside World Championship Darts, "LETS PLAY DARTS!"
Sponsored by tiendadedardos.es