Jocky Wilson was a one-off that made a nation smile
There was a time in the 1980s when Jocky Wilson made an entire nation smile. Short, tubby and all gums, it felt impossible not to warm to the engaging wee Scot who, on a diet of 100 fags and a gallon of vodka and Coke, could somehow still throw darts of outrageous brilliance.
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By Ian Chadband
11:00PM BST 25 Mar 2012
Physically, it seemed impossible for him. How can you fling arrows out of chunky hams while jerking on the oche like Jack Douglas in a Carry On film and still be the best in the world? Jocky could. Jocky could win a match and fall off the stage straight after it. It made him both unmissable TV and one of the most recognisable sportsmen in the land.
A nation savoured him because his vulnerability and frailty were framed starkly alongside the virtuosity. His arch rival Eric Bristow was the cocky Cockney prince of darts but it always felt gloriously comical to see him downed by the funny, toothless Kirkcaldy kid who had worked his way out of a fish processing plant to become champion of the world.
That is why, for a generation who grew up watching him, the news of Jocky’s death at 62 on Saturday — he had been suffering with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease — just feels so sad.
It is poignant too that there will be a new generation, hooked by Sky’s glitzy new packaging of Phil the Power-led darts, who will not recall Jocky at all as, for the last 17 years, he never played a competitive match and effectively became a recluse, poor in health and living off incapacity benefit.
I was among the many journalists who beat a path to his Kirkcaldy council flat door, seeking an interview after his retirement, but to no avail. He had neither the health nor inclination, just as he refused every lucrative offer to play again.