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Thte Power : My Autobiography by Phil Taylor

Release date: 18th May, 2004
Publisher: Collins Willow

List Price: 17.99 (HB) 7.99 (PB)
Our Price: 12.59 (HB) 6.39 (PB)
You Save: 5.4 (30%)
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The Power: My Autobiography
By Phil Taylor with Sid Waddell
Collins Willow price: £12.59 (HB) £6.39 (PB) (rrp £17.99)

Darts has never had a particularly good public image, something which has a lot to do with two factors. First, the environment in which the amateur player intermittently chucks the arrows is one generally associated with beer and cigarettes. Nothing wrong with that, but as a consequence, darts has never shed its image of a pub game.

Second, when professional darts first came to prominence through the ubiquitous medium of television, the players on show were hardly hewn from the Brad Pitt block of sparkling marble. Few still are - in fact in this occasionally funny and often opinionated autobiography, Taylor refers to his previously youthful supply of 'puppy fat' as being 'doggy fat' nowadays.

It is evident that a fierce competitive streak has made Taylor a world champion on no fewer than ten occasions and although the reader may expect him to start taking it easy after 14 years at the top, the man from the Potteries will have none of it. One line sums up Taylor's approach to darts when he is reflecting on life towards the end of the book: "In my exhibition [matches], I still play to hammer people." The comment is common to people who reach the top in any walk of life - they absolutely hate losing.

Taylor's start was auspicious - he could beat county standard players at the age of 17 and teamed up with a Staffordshire star, Kenny Massey, to play opponents for £50. Massey fronted the pair's stake and would slip Taylor £5 when the invariably won. "Had I stuck to serious darts at 17 instead of waiting until I was 25, I would have been a millionaire years ago" he reflects, ruefully.

Yet Taylor had no obvious burning ambition to become a professional player - he could simply beat anyone he played. However, by the time he was selected for the Staffordshire A team in 1987, he began to realise that he was capable of making a living from the game. Enter Eric Bristow, the 'Crafty Cockney' himself, the world champion who had moved to Staffordshire and opened a club trading under the same nickname.

In 1988, Bristow offered to sponsor Taylor, handing him the opportunity to play darts professionally. Taylor needed little invitation. He took voluntary redundancy and signed on the dole, an odd move, although Taylor explains that up until his first world title in 1990 when he won £24,000, most of his earnings went straight to Bristow.

Unlike some other high profile sportsmen, the author has not sought to sever his local roots and describes with great pride the congratulations he received from the locals who had backed him at 125/1 to lift the world crown. The same people comforted him several years later when, having been found guilty of indecent assault, the MBE he was in line to receive was withdrawn.

But Taylor's dark hours have been offset by good times - his was the first live televised nine dart finish (for which he won £100,000) and he has embraced the sparkle and glitz which Sky has brought to the game.

In conclusion, it's hardly a surprise to read Taylor's additional thoughts to a philosophy outlined for him by a friend: professional sportsmen, he was told, have to be good all the time and brilliant some of the time. Taylor's innate competitiveness results in a footnote which sums up his approach: he believes that he should strive to push the balance in favour of the brilliant all of the time.

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