Darts World’s regular look at those players whose career or contribution to the sport of darts may have been overlooked, under-credited or faded with time.
In the current era of professional darts, we often take it for granted that players at the top of the game are privileged to earn a very good living. However, that wasn’t always the case; many top players from the past have had the tricky task of juggling top level darts with maintaining other professions.
The man who lays claim to have been the first professional is the late Alan Evans, or ‘Evans the Arrow’ as he was affectionately known. A natural showman, Evans made a living from the exhibition tour and by taking on all-comers for big money in the working men’s clubs of South Wales.
Those readers with long memories or YouTube addictions will recall seeing the diminutive Welshman in gripping, not always friendly, struggles with some of the legendary names in darts across the ’70s and ’80s. However, most will not be aware of the sustained contribution made to the game by this fiercely competitive and highly talented player.
Amongst Evans’ playing achievements were appearances in the finals of The News of the World (1972) and The Indoor League (1973 and 1974). These were amongst the first televised events on ITV, whilst Evans also made the final of the first event to be screened on the BBC, The 1975 British Open. During that same year, he claimed the World Masters title, arguably the most prestigious title in darts at the time. Evans was also an integral part of the Welsh Team that won both the team championship and overall championship at the inaugural Darts World Cup in 1977.
Unfortunately for Evans, these tremendous results arrived in the years just prior to the beginning of darts’ first golden era; he may well have peaked a little too soon. Evans was twice defeated at the semi-final stage of the World Championships, firstly 3-1 by his compatriot Leighton Rees in 1979. Just a few months later, Evans was to receive a 12-month ban from the BDO for allegedly assaulting an official; this robbed him of the chance to win tournaments when he was at or near his peak. After his suspension, Evans seemed to play a secondary role on the biggest stages and never quite hit the very highest level again. However, he did manage to roll back the years with another run to the World Championship semi-finals in 1987, where ‘Rhonnda Legend’ was soundly beaten 5-0 by Eric Bristow.
Evans has a few other claims to fame, he scored 401 in 9 darts (doubled to £802 for charity) in the television show Bullseye’s guest professional round. Nobody ever scored higher. It was also reported and witnessed that, at an exhibition event in Scotland, Evans hit 8 separate 150 checkouts going the 3 x bullseye route. Evans even played Muhammed Ali in a special “World Championship” match.
Evans was a serious competitor and, at his best, a sensational player. It is a shame that television viewers did not have the chance to witness his best over a sustained period. His contribution to our game should not be underestimated. Perhaps the best indication of his impact on audiences were the tributes paid by the late, great commentator Sid Waddell. Waddell would refer to the “Alan Evans Shot” if a player needed 150 to finish a leg and would often use him to illustrate fighting qualities or sudden spells of blistering form. Waddell had seen players come and go for decades yet very rarely awarded players this type of acclaim. When Evans tragically passed away in 1999 at the age of just 49, Waddell wrote a glowing tribute.
Phrases including “the balance of Nureyev” are not often equated with darts players but perhaps only the combination of Waddell and ‘Evans the Arrow’ could produce them with sincerity.
Like many unsung heroes, Alan Evans didn’t enjoy the full rewards of what he helped to create, but his role should always be remembered.
First submitted for Darts World Magazine (Print/Digital) – March 2020. JEGL