Thumbs up for the darts: Andrew ‘Goldfinger’ Gilding aiming for the very best

Andrew Gilding celebrates a 180 against Michael van Gerwen in the UK Open

Andrew Gilding celebrates a 180 against Michael van Gerwen in the UK Open - Credit: LAWRENCE LUSTIG

He took the nation by storm with an unforgettable appearance on television last month, and now Suffolk darts player Andrew Gilding is setting his sights even higher.

The Bungay-based player, nicknamed ‘Goldfinger’, made his name and customary ‘thumbs up’ celebration known with an inspirational performance at the UK Open finals in Minehead a little more than three weeks ago – a tournament that lifted him into the world’s top 32 on the Order of Merit for the first time.

Taking home a career-best of £17,000 prize money live on the ITV cameras, Gilding advanced into the semi-final of the competition, pushing world number one Michael van Gerwen all the way in an impressive display that saw him win many admirers.

Gilding opened his challenge with a 9-0 whitewash of fellow Suffolk-based player Kevin Painter and then defeated well-known trio Jelle Klaasen, James Wade and Mensur Sulijovic, before nearly toppling MVG in an epic semi-final that will live long in the memory books.

‘Goldfinger’, who says his Facebook and Twitter accounts have been inundated with messages since the match, hit ten 180s, a ten-dart finish and averaged 108.37, yet still lost 10-8 to the Dutchman, who went on to beat fellow Suffolk darts player Peter Wright 11-5 in the final.

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“I really enjoyed it (against van Gerwen),” said Gilding, who has been dubbed ‘AVG’ by some of his fans. “I had nothing to lose, while Michael had everything to lose.

“I really enjoyed it, and it has been a great start to the year for me.”

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After emerging onto the world darts scene a little over a year ago, Gilding, who only started playing the game around six years ago when he joined his local pub team at the Earsham Queens Head, has made huge steps of late, as proven by his current world ranking of 30th.

Whitewashed 10-0 by Adrian Lewis in front of the nation, live on TV at the World Matchplay in July 2014, he has progressed rapidly on the big stage recently, adding: “It’s been a steep learning curve for me.

“Playing on the television is a completely different experience, I always feel really comfortable on the practice floors but I’m really enjoying the big stage now.

“People have said how pleased they are to see me up there enjoying it and I really am loving it.”

Loving it indeed, Gilding did not look fazed in the slightest in the biggest match of his career so far against van Gerwen, smiling when the crowd ironically jeered him when he just missed out on hitting a nine-darter.

And it was in this match where he developed his trademark ‘thumbs up’ celebration (when he hits a 180) as he did 10 times against van Gerwen.

“I didn’t pre-plan the thumbs up celebration,” laughed Gilding.

“It all just kicked off, Facebook and Twitter have gone nuts, and I must say thank you to Pete Dyos for coming up with my AVG tag which seems to have caught on.”

A Twitter account – ‘Gildings Thumbs Up’ – has since been created and ‘Goldfinger’ is only looking to keep impressing and add to his growing fan-base in the future.

“My aim is to just simply keep on going,” said Golding, who was out of work and on the dole before he took up competitive darts full-time.

“The target I set for myself at the start of the year was to crack the top 32 so I’m ahead of schedule already.

“I’ve still got to qualify for the World Championships, which I’d love to do, and I want to get back on TV and please my new fans.”

Gilding’s next tournament is the German Darts Masters in Munich this weekend.

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