Darts Fans: Alan Towe

‘Darts Fans’ – the feature where we chat to lovers of the sport – is back, and with an excellent guest. Alan Towe may be a familiar name to some from many a byline, and if he isn’t, you have almost certainly read one of his articles. Alan is a regular contributor to the Birmingham Mail, Red Dragon Darts and Darts World on the game and, more specifically, county darts. As well as a writer, Towe also had a successful time playing the game, at one time reaching joint 17th placing in the Winmau World Masters and winning the Warwickshire Open, as well as being a county regular for West Midlands.

Alan began by telling me how it all began, “I became interested in darts when my Mom and Dad took over the Fir Tree pub in Dudley, West Midlands in 1961. Up to that point I had never played darts but then went on to play until 1999.”

All darts fans will have soft spots for certain players, and curious as to which players Alan had enjoyed watching over the year, I asked him if he had any favourites, “I suppose my all-time favourite player was Eric Bristow, a charismatic player that brought darts to the forefront and attracted many young players to take up the sport. I got to know Eric very well as he was heavily involved in our Highgate / Tennents pub challenge matches taking on ten of our man of the match winners in numerous final nights. Also when I lost in the Winmau World Masters in 1983 it was Eric who took me out, I was down to a double every leg and Eric, as he regularly did in those days, checked out with big finishes. After the game he came up to me and said, ‘You were the last person I wanted to play in the floor games before the TV covered stage finals.” High praise indeed from a darts legend sorely missed.

Alan is a regular contributor to a number of publications on darts, particularly the amateur game

On the topic of Eric, Alan also imparted a very interesting story about an ailment which famously affected Bristow, dartitis. “I believe I was probably the first player to make dartitis known as in the early seventies I suffered with the problem and actually appeared on BBC’s 6.00 o’clock Midland News a couple of times, the story also going out on both local and national radio. The person informing the BBC was Black Country poet the late Harry Harrison who actually did a Black Country dialect poet about me and the problem. A so called faith healer at Okehampton, Devon saw me on TV and contacted me asking me to go down to see him as he believed he could cure the problem. Cutting a long story short I went to see him but with no happy conclusion. I finally got back to playing through my own means spending many hours just throwing at the dartboard until I could let the darts go naturally once again. I had the problem another couple of times and did exactly the same again to get back to playing. I later realised it was a mental issue not physical as whenever it happened to me I could relate it to something traumatic that had happened in my life.”

As I described at the beginning of this article, Alan’s is a name which can often be found in darts news bylines as he provides excellent insight on the amateur game. But how did this side of Alan’s life and love of the game begin? “I suppose really my writing was a twist of fate as late one Sunday night in July 1973 I was on my way to bed when the phone rang. I answered it and to my surprise found it was Bob Blackburn of
the then Sandwell Evening Mail (part of the Birmingham Post and Mail Group). Bob said he had
contacted me to ask if I would write a weekly darts column for the paper. I explained that I had
never done anything like that before and was not sure I could guarantee material every week to
make up a darts column. Bob said because of me regularly being on the darts scene he suggested we
see what information I could get, take it to him in the office the following week and see how it goes.”

“I took what copy I had managed to collate into Bob that following week and the “Alan Towe’s the
Line” darts column was on its way. However as they say about small acorns my first column was
just a couple of paragraphs but eventually grew into what became a full weekly page of copy plus a
full page of results and updated league tables in the Birmingham Mail. The two pages continued until like all newspapers and magazines the inevitable cut backs had to be made and at that time was reduced to a full page of copy only.”

“Around this time I had begun to write on Red Dragon Darts web site and it was agreed we would
post the weekly results plus the copy on Red Dragon’s site as well as my own web site with just the
reports being printed in the Birmingham Mail.”

‘You were the last person I wanted to play in the floor games before the TV covered stage finals’ – the words of Eric Bristow to Alan after defeating him at the 1983 World Masters (both are pictured here)

Towe has also enjoyed a long association with Darts World, for which he remains a contributor. “It was July 1984 when I began writing for Darts World, the then editor Tony Wood inviting me to do a monthly column, which like the Mail column over the years has grown and grown. With regards to me writing mainly about the amateur game it’s because that was the scene I was heavily involved in myself, playing some seven nights and Sunday lunch times in addition to County, Super League, knockouts, competitions and exhibitions around the country, plus I also wanted the everyday amateur player to get a mention for his six darts game, his 180 or any other achievement as he or she may never get another mention in their darting life and the report, their name in print, would be something they could treasure forever. Also the Mail wanted a darts
column to cover their distribution area and there was more amateur than professional games to
cover each week and so much more to write about.” Alan has really carved out a special space for amateur darts reporting through his work.

“Until the Coronavirus interruption,” he continued, “I had not missed a column in all of my 48 years of writing, either for the Mail or Darts World. On the rare occasions we took a holiday I would take my laptop with
me and write the reports up, even when we went on a couple of cruises abroad I did the same and
then e-mailed them to wherever they had to go.”

Alan is cautiously optimistic about the amateur game’s return post-Covid, not just after the hellish year caused by the pandemic but also after the saga of the BDO’s demise. “Coronavirus permitting I do believe we will get back, if not to 100% full playing as we did, back to some form of normality in the sport and with the introduction of the newly formed United Kingdom Darts Association (UKDA) I believe the future looks very promising with lots of opportunities for both the professionals and up-and-coming amateur players alike.”

Image Credits: Alan Towe

Thanks to Alan Towe

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