Eric Bristow (second left) shares a pint with Phil Taylor (far right) in 1997. Peter Evison and Dennis Priestley …
Phil Taylor revelled in an astonishing three-dart average of 104.38 in overcoming Justin Pipe in the quarter-finals of the World Matchplay at Blackpool's Winter Gardens on Thursday night. He faces James Wade in the semi-finals on Saturday.
He is only two wins away from winning one of the biggest tournaments on the professional circuit for a sixth straight year amid a total haul of 14 at the Blackpool event.
This all comes only seven months after he fended off a young Dutch upstart in the form of Michael van Gerwen to win the World Championship for a 16th time.
At the age of 52, a multi-millionaire and with just over £750,000 won this season alone, the darts world and everything that is in it continues to belong to Stoke's tungsten titan Taylor. Which makes the grainy - some will say grimy - footage emanating from Gibraltar earlier this week and shot last month all the more baffling to comprehend.
Phil 'The Power' Taylor has been confronting battles on two fronts this week: one just off the beaches of Blackpool, and the more intriguing one far from the madding crowd.
Footage clearly shows Taylor missing double 12 in a match against Dean Winstanley, but the referee Russ Bray incredibly also misses Taylor's no-scoring dart.
Rather than alerting the referee to the error of his ways, Taylor stops at the board, waits for the referee to make his call before skipping back to begin the next leg.
Taylor progressed to win the match 6-1 before claiming the Gibraltar Trophy and a cheque for £20,000 with a 6-1 win over Jamie Lewis in the final.
Taylor has offered to replay the match, a prospect the PDC have dismissed under their rules, but the furore has hardly bounced out of the board.
Taylor's honesty has been called into question by Eric Bristow, a world champion several times over, who famously lent Taylor money to launch his career as a darts professional.
The story goes that Bristow handed Taylor £10,000 when 'The Crafty Cockney' was top of the darts world in the 1980s. "I had to pay him back. He didn't give me a penny," Taylor told me in an interview a few years ago. In 1990, Taylor, then a qualifier, walloped Bristow 6-1 in the BDO world final at Frimley Green.
Being at the elite levels of the sport for so long, you can understand Bristow's point regarding what he saw from Gibraltar. It does not look too clever for Taylor, whatever else is said about it.
"The player knows if it’s not in and has to declare it" Bristow told The Sun. "You don’t want cheats."
It is even more difficult to accept that Taylor did not know the dart was high of the mark because he paused at the board before the referee awarded him the leg.
Having spoken to Taylor at length, he is a very decent chap, but this was an act of folly, something that was well and truly beneath him.
It was similar to his refusal to shake hands with Raymond van Barneveld after he had won their World Championship semi-final back in January.
Taylor's will to win is what has made the greatest to play his game, but he became lost in a moment that he will probably regret behind the scenes. Almost like some schoolboy getting away with something naughty.
"I offered to forfeit the game," said Taylor explaining his position. "I said if it wasn't right I would forfeit the game and give my prize money to Dean, or I'll replay the game altogether, because I would never cheat. Never in a million years.
"Then certain people come out and say certain things - it's very hurtful."
This onlooker would never suggest Taylor is a cheat, but it is difficult to argue that he did not take leave of his senses. One can also not berate anybody who concludes that Taylor did cheat. He has left himself open to that accusation with some damning footage.
Sometimes that voracious appetite for success can cloud the senses. And then mud sticks.
"I want to get to 20 world titles before I retire as I don't think that will ever be matched. I want to win every event I enter, be it a Players Championship in the UK somewhere, the Las Vegas Desert Classic, or the World Championship," Taylor once told me.
It was an error by the referee, but the footage below also slightly taints the Taylor legacy which is the most disappointing aspect of it all. That is perhaps more discouraging than the missed dart.
Taylor is too majestic a darts player to become embroiled in such shenanigans. He is one of the true greats of any sport.
He will get over this, but his reputation has taken a buffeting. Quite needlessly.
- Sports & Recreation