Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld have expressed their shock and sadness at the death of the legendary Eric Bristow, who passed away at the age of 60 following a heart attack on Thursday evening.
Bristow had been at Liverpool’s Echo Arena attending a corporate function ahead of Premier League Judgement Night, before he collapsed and tragically passed away later that night.
The news of his death filtered through to fans and players at the Echo Arena during the evening’s final match between Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright, with Snakebite leaving the stage in tears at the conclusion of his game. The crowd also paid their touching tribute with a poignant rendition of ‘There’s only one Eric Bristow’.
Bristow enjoyed an astonishing career and was arguably darts’ first real superstar. He won five World Championship titles between 1980-1986 and also added five World Masters crowns to his collection. He remarkably overcame dartitis to regain his world number one ranking and was undoubtedly the sport’s most vibrant personality.
Only Taylor and Van Barneveld have bettered or matched Bristow’s haul of world titles in the men’s game, and both paid their respects to ‘The Crafty Cockney’, admitting that his death will leave a huge void in the sport.
Taylor retired from professional competition in January, but the 16-time world champion is indebted to Bristow for sponsoring and mentoring him during the early stages of his career, claiming he was ‘like a brother’ to him.
Speaking to The Sun Newspaper, ‘The Power’ emotionally stated: “Eric was like a brother to me. A brother from another mother. I loved him. I’m obviously gutted more than words can describe.
“Quite simply I owe him everything. I wouldn’t have achieved what I did without him being a mentor and sponsoring me in the early days. I couldn’t afford to go to Rhyl let alone Canada or Las Vegas to play darts.”
“I would ring him up and say I’d made the semi-final or lost the final and he’d shout at me “Only ring me when you’ve won” – and then slam the phone down. But that gave me the drive and hunger to succeed and I needed that at the time. That mentality is his legacy. He started it, made me like it and now the standard will continue to go up because of him.
“He was the first superstar of darts, he started the success it is today. Everybody knew who Eric was and they still do; the biggest name in the sport. To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in that he’s gone. I’m still in a bit of shock. I am worried that it will hit me at some stage. I will miss him so much,” Taylor added.
Van Barneveld, who is tied with Bristow on five world titles, also revealed his shock at the death of darts’ first real icon, telling Sky Sports: “Because of him, I start playing darts. I was always a big fan of Eric Bristow because he was the best at that moment- a five-time world champion.
“When we were practicing, me and my friends, I always wanted to be Eric Bristow, because he was the best. I started using his material. I used the same darts. To me, Eric is so important for the rest of my career. I still can’t believe it; only 60 years of age. It’s still a massive shock, not only for myself, for the whole world of darts.
“In his years he was the best, always rivalling with good old Jocky Wilson, John Lowe and Dave Whitcombe, but he was simply the best. I think Phil Taylor only started his career because of Eric Bristow. I cannot express words; I still can’t believe it. He was an unbelievably good player; five-times world champion.”
“I always had the dream to be as good as him and when I won my fifth world title I was on equal with Eric. We always have a lot of good times, we always had a laugh and respect for each other. Great guy, and he will be sorely missed by everyone in this sport.
“Sometimes it makes you sad and you think to yourself hold on, I’m 50. How long do I have? It says to yourself enjoy life. Those were the last two words Eric said to me; ‘Enjoy life and don’t care about the rest; do the things you want to do.”
Photo Credit: PhotoSport