His eccentricities, mass appeal and one fantastic Top of the Pops mix-up involving Dexy’s Midnight Runners meant the obituaries written about Jocky Wilson painted a picture of an entertaining and larger than life character. That’s undoubtedly true, but behind the anecdotes and kind words about a troubled yet genuinely warm man, there was also one hell of a talented player. If you, as many people do, take the view that darts is currently enjoying a renaissance on the verge of perhaps eclipsing it’s heyday of a couple of decades ago, then Jocky does at least deserve some of the credit for the raising of standards.
He made his World Championship debut in 1979 and his victory in the event arrived not long after in 1982. He won it again in 1989, but his achievement of reaching the Last 8 or better in a stretch running from 1979 through to 1991 is a greater tribute to his talent and consistency. Along with that, he managed three British Professional titles and one British Open.
The anecdotes are also unavoidable however with his penchant for boiled sweets and grandmother’s distrust of the English water supply combining to leave him requiring dentures at the age of 28. Phil Taylor, arguably the player who has benefitted most(at least financially) from the seeds of mainstream popularity sown by Jocky and his contemporaries focussed on the humour when paying tribute to the Kirkcaldy native. “He was such a good laugh to be with. People talk about the great characters in darts and he’s one of the greatest. Jocky had false teeth, and I remember playing snooker with him. He asked someone to clean the white ball and took his teeth out to mark the ball. He’d always be doing things like that, and he’d have a great little grin on his face,” he said. It’s charming, but Raymond van Barneveld’s trip to the well of nostalgia is a more a fitting way to remember him. “It was a shame he wasn’t involved in darts anymore because he was such a hero. I remember playing him in my first Europe Cup event in Great Yarmouth in 1988. The Scotland team manager got him fired up and he beat me 4-0,” explained the Dutchman with the focus rightly on Jocky’s talent.
RIP Jocky Wilson 1950-2012