Welcome back to ‘Dartsweb’ as we make our return from a short hiatus and welcome to another edition of ‘Darts Fans’, the feature where I chat to committed darts devotees about the sport and why they love it. In the hot-seat this time is sports writer and journalist Joshua Gorton, better known for running the darts blog ‘Josh’s Dartistry’. I asked Josh to tell us a little bit about himself, “I’ve always been interested in writing from a very young age and I love sport; particularly football, cricket & obviously darts. Having graduated from university with a first in journalism a couple of years ago, I’ve had work experience at TalkSPORT, Arsenal Publications Department and most recently, I was a Court Reporter in Central London for around two months – which was certainly an eye-opener! However, I’m now working for an up-and-coming sports betting company whilst also working as a freelancer for Sky Sports.”
“My first experience of watching darts was the 2006 PDC World Championship, where Phil Taylor defeated Peter Manley 7-0 in the final at the Circus Tavern. I also recall watching the BDO World Championship a few weeks later; when Jelle Klaasen stunned Raymond van Barneveld to win the Lakeside title.”
“We’re so fortunate now with the sheer number of events on the darting calendar – there is virtually one every weekend and the Pro Tours and European Tours are also available to watch at our fingertips. I’m a fan of all darts – irrespective of the code, but I have to say, the PDC are constantly finding ways to evolve and improve the game from a fans perspective, and it’s a fantastic period to be involved with the sport,” Josh said.
Gorton also spoke of his earliest darting memories, “One of my earliest and fondest memories of watching darts was that iconic 2007 World Championship final between Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor. I remember being transfixed throughout the game and in awe of both players producing such incredible darts under pressure. I was only 11 at the time and I don’t think I truly appreciated the significance of that match until a number of years later.”
“With Van Barneveld coming over from the BDO and defeating Taylor to win the PDC title at the first attempt, it was fairytale stuff. For me, that will always be the greatest game of darts ever seen two of the games greats slugging it out for the world title in a sudden-death shootout. We may never see that again. Having said that, I was stage-side for the game between Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen at the recent World Championship and that was something very special, a match I will never ever forget.” It’s a match I most certainly won’t forget in a hurry!
Everyone fancies themselves as a dab hand at the arrows at some point but Josh claims a career in professional darts, for him, is and always will be a pipe dream, “I enjoy playing darts myself, although I’ve never joined a team or played competitively. When I was at university, I practised quite regularly but I only ever played against family or friends really. I’ve hit 11 180’s in my life which isn’t too bad, but that’s usually followed with a hugely underwhelming 26 or 45! My best ever leg is a 13-darter and I’ve taken out a 161 before, but I think it’s fair to say I’m better placed reporting on darts than I am playing!”
As I previously mentioned, Josh is also a keen darts blogger and has become a familiar name in the darts writers community with his blog ‘Josh’s Dartistry’. Josh told me a little bit about how the blog came about, “I actually started my blog as part of a university project for my journalism degree. As part of an online journalism module, we had to create a blog based on a niche topic and as the vast majority chose football, I opted to go with darts. I wanted to maintain my site after the module finished because I loved doing it. It didn’t feel like a chore; it was a passion.”
“I didn’t expect my site to grow to the extent it has and I’ve now had over 2,350,000 views which I’m incredibly proud of. There have been so many individuals who have been so supportive and helpful in terms of sharing my content which I’m so grateful for. I’ve had the chance to speak to the world’s very best players and they’re all so approachable and I think that’s largely because a lot of the players coming from working-class backgrounds who are very appreciative of the position they’re in. It’s what makes the sport of darts so special in my eyes.”
“It has opened up so many fantastic opportunities for me. I produced the BDO’s match reports for the 2016 and 2017 World Championships and have also attended the last three PDC World Championships at the Ally Pally as media. I’ve been star-struck meeting the likes of Taylor, Barney and MvG and at first it’s really tough to maintain that sense of professionalism! I’ve met some fantastic people and made great friendships along the way and most recently, my blog has also seen me become part of Sky Sports’ Darts coverage on a freelance basis, which is an absolutely incredible opportunity that I’m loving at the moment.”
Followers of Josh’s wonderful blog will be aware he is an ardent Raymond van Barneveld fan. I asked if this has ever impeded on his work and how he balances this with his writing, “As I said earlier, I first began watching Darts in 2006, and I remember watching Raymond play Jelle in the 2006 Lakeside Final. I knew nothing of the players at that time, but everybody was routing for Jelle as he was the underdog- the pretender to RvB’s crown. I felt for Barney after he lost that final and then a few days later, it was announced that Van Barneveld would be making the switch to the PDC.”
“As I didn’t follow a player at that point, I chose to support RvB as he began his journey in the PDC and I think I chose wisely! As fate turned out, Raymond was my first ever interview on my blog and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet him on a number of occasions at PDC events when I was working in a media capacity. He is such an interesting character to interview and an absolute gentleman of the game, although I have to say virtually all of the players I’ve come across have been fantastic.”
“I don’t find it difficult in terms of my reporting. When I’m watching at home I want to see Raymond win and do well. I will always be a huge fan of his, but that doesn’t influence my writing or content. I think the vast majority of Football Journalists will have a favourite football team but that shouldn’t affect their work and I try to adopt the same philosophy. I like to jest on twitter but you’ve got to put emotion aside and analyse the game objectively and I think I’m able to do that. At least I hope so!”
Finally, as I always ask my ‘Darts Fans’ guests, I asked Josh to make one prediction about the future of darts, and here it is, “This really is a tough one as there are so many possibilities with the way darts is heading at present. The PDC is conquering the German market at the moment and the Premier League events in Rotterdam have been a massive success. I think 10,000 tickets were sold out in about eight minutes which is just ridiculous! I would say in the not too distant future, the PDC could host a major tournament in Holland because you’ve got Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld at the pinnacle of the game, with the likes of Van de Pas, De Zwaan amongst others coming through. There’s just a conveyor belt of Dutch talent on both the PDC and BDO circuits right now.”
“I’m also going to stick my neck out and say that Michael Smith will win a major TV title in the next two years. We’ve always known that he’s had the talent, but he seems to have matured so much over the past six months or so. As well as posting ridiculous averages, he’s also started to grind out victories and win when he’s not at his best, which is an essential quality to have. There’s so much strength in depth which makes winning a major so difficult, but Michael is making all the right noises and I think he’ll deliver. (I’ve jinxed you now; sorry Michael!)”
Thanks to Joshua Gorton