SHEFFIELD’S John ‘Boy’ Walton will be looking to turn back the clock in next week’s BDO World Championships at Surrey’s Lakeside club.
The 51 year-old upset the odds back in 2001 when lifting the prestigious trophy after beating Ted ‘The Count’ Hankey - despite starting out as a 50-1 outsider - and believes he can do so again.
Although it would represent a new BDO record in terms of time between title wins were he to do so, Walton points out that people such as John Lowe (eight years), Jocky Wilson (seven) and Hankey (nine) have won the title many years apart. Although Bradford-born Walton had only once previously qualified for the televised finals before his 2001 win, many within the sport will probably have been tempted to have a flutter at such generous odds given the fact that he had won the Winmau World Masters several months earlier.
Not only did Walton become only the fourth man to win both titles in the same season, but he became the first man to win a world crown wearing glasses.
Subsequent visits to the Lakeside have proved nowhere near as fruitful for Walton, who recorded the first televised nine-darter in 17 in the 2007 Winmau World Masters, with his best performance since coming in 2009 where he reached the last eight. Walton will go into Sunday’s first round tie against Leeds-based Martin Atkins in much better form than in recent years.
“I’ve been having a good season and that’s why I’m seeded seventh,” said Walton, who will start favourite to beat his doubles partner.
“We travel all over the country together and we both know each other’s games inside out, and though we’ll have a drink afterwards you’ve got no friends up there; you are there to do a job.”
Although a lot of top BDO players have moved over to the PDC in recent years, Walton says he has no plans to join them.
“I’m happy doing what I do,” he said. “I love playing for my country (he’s made 51 appearances for England) and I love playing for my county (173 appearances for Yorkshire).”
Walton captained Yorkshire for seven years in succession - the honour going to the player with the best average the year before - but Conisbrough’s Dean Winstanley is the current captain.
Last year’s beaten finalist, third seed Winstanley is tipped by many to go one better this time around, but Walton said: “There will be more expectation this year because of what he did last year
“Although a lot of people watching at home might not have heard of Dean before the start of the tournament the rest of the darts players had.
“He’s No 1 in the world at the moment - though it’s fairly early days and we’ve only had 10 or 12 ranking tournaments - but he’s doing really well in that. But because it’s all happened so quickly he lacks the experience of a lot of the other top players at this level and on any particular day an experienced player could probably run rings around him.”
“It also depends on how he handles the pressure at the Lakeside. It’s a special place and we always say that it will make you or break you.
“Having said that it doesn’t bother me and I love playing there. The hair on the back of my neck always stands up whenever I drive down there.”
Although confident of clearing the first round hurdle, though he admits the seeds are more vulnerable in the first two rounds, Walton is not looking any further.
He says he will know what to expect were he to meet the likes of Hankey - still one of the jewels in the BDO crown.
“You know exactly what you are going to get if you play Ted. He’s a very volatile character and who gets the crowd going and you’ve just to ignore what’s going on and just try and concentrate on your own game.
“He doesn’t try and put you off your game apart from either slowing the game down or speeding it up, both of which are in the rules, and off the stage he’s a really good mate.”