‘It’s a massive loss’ - Ipswich’s Keith Deller pays tribute after death of darts legend Eric Bristow

Keith Deller and his friend Eric Bristow. Picture: TWITTER/KEITH DELLER

Keith Deller and his friend Eric Bristow. Picture: TWITTER/KEITH DELLER - Credit: Archant

Keith Deller, the former darts champion from Ipswich has paid tribute to his old rival and friend Eric Bristow, the five-time world champion, whose death was announced last night.

Deller, who shocked the darts world when he beat Bristow in the 1982 BDO World Championship final, said he was “devastated” by the news.

Bristow’s death, at the age of 60, was announced by the Professional Darts Corporation at last night’s Premier League event at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Known as the ‘Crafty Cockney’, Bristow was the biggest name in darts throughout the 1980s - the beginning of the sport’s television boom.

Deller and Bristow were old rivals but later worked together during their time at Sky Sports.

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In 2016, the pair teamed up for the inaugural Bristow/Deller Open Pairs Darts Tournament at Mildenhall Sports Centre in Ipswich.

Deller told Sky Sports: “I am devastated. Me and Eric were together all the time.

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“What he has done for our game, I mean if it wasn’t for Eric nobody would be here tonight.

“It is a massive loss to our sport. He said what he thought and it was his honest opinion. Everyone loved Eric for that.

“When he was playing darts, in our day, he had the self belief to win every tournament.

“It was a long time ago when I won the World Championship. To beat Eric in the final, it could not have been any better for me.

“If you look at the stars we have had in Britain, Eric Bristow would be at the top.

“It is a very sad night. He is one of the best friends I have ever had in my life.”

Former player Wayne Mardle, who is now a commentator, said Bristow was the reason why he took up the game.

“I would never have picked up a dart without Eric Bristow,” Mardle said.

“Eric will go down like an absolute superstar of sport. From all walks of life, people know who Eric Bristow was.

“He had that star quality. Not many people had that. They can show off and think they had it, but Eric had it.”

A whole host of current and former players paid tribute to Bristow on Twitter.

Like PDC chairman Barry Hearn, two-time world champion Michael van Gerwen described Bristow as a “legend”.

The Dutchman tweeted: “Just heard the latest horrible news that Eric Bristow has passed away. My thought are with his family at this sad time. True legend in the game! £RIPEric £legend”

Bristow had a big impact on Raymond van Barneveld, who tweeted: “Eric Bristow died tonight.... I am lost for words and really devastated !! He was darts he meant so much to me, cannot believe it !! My thoughts go out to his wife and family.”

Andy Fordham, BDO world champion in 2004, tweeted: “Can’t believe my hero has gone my thoughts are with his family R.I.P Eric”

Dennis Priestley, who beat Bristow in the 1991 BDO World Championship final, tweeted: “Absolutely devestated (sic) to be told earlier that my good friend Eric Bristow has passed away. We shared some great times together and I’m so saddened that we won’t get to share anymore. Rest in peace old friend”

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