SGB editor Alex Fordham spoke to Darts legend Phil Taylor about his recent switch to Target Darts.
After a relationship with Unicorn spanning more than two decades, Phil Taylor’s switch to Target Darts has been the most highly anticipated story within the darts trade for several years. SGB spoke to Taylor to find out the reason behind the switch
As a man approaching his mid-fifties, you would think that retirement would be beckoning for a man who is a 16-time world champion and without doubt the greatest to have ever thrown a piece of tungsten. As late Sid Waddell famously quipped, “If we’d had Phil Taylor at Hastings against the Normans, they’d have gone home.”
But this is no mere-mortal we are talking about. This is Phil Taylor- undoubtedly box office material to a sport now reportedly the second most watched on Sky Sports and a multi-million pound industry. During February of this year, the worst kept secret in darts was finally announced when Taylor ended his long-term sponsorship deal with Unicorn after a deal was agreed for him to represent Harlow-based darts manufacturer Target Darts. The deal, reportedly to be worth £3 million over a five-year period, is said to be the largest deal in the history of the game. Why though, in arguably his twilight years, has Taylor decided to make the change?
“I had a good kick up the backside in the World Championship and I felt it was time to make a change, “ commented Taylor. “I’m never too old to learn and improve.
“I couldn’t sleep last night as I’m excited which is unusual at my age but I’m determined to alter my lifestyle and do whatever I can to make sure I improve.
“I have been working closely with Gary (Gary Plummer, Target managing director) and together we have devised a completely different dart.
“The shape is different to my old darts but the grip is entirely different. Gary calls it something like a pixel grip which drills out of the darts so when the darts hit against each other there is no chipping which darts traditionally tend to do.”
After a shock defeat to rookie Michael Smith in the second-round of the World Championships, it forced Taylor to take stock of the situation and it left him with two options really- look to retire or seek new methods to reclaim his place at the top of the World Rankings.
“To be honest I went into the World Championships thinking that this was going to be easy,” said Taylor. I was playing the best darts of my life but something just didn’t click during the week.
“This game is about getting prepared properly and if you don’t, these days the quality is so strong that you will get beat.
“I say God bless the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson; they are making me enjoy my career again. I could retire but I don’t want to do that.
“I want to reclaim my place as number one in the world again.”
The darts are only a small part of the jigsaw however. With an emphasis on getting both his mental and physical state in a positive place so he can attack the hectic PDC schedule with vigour, at the launch of the new sponsorship deal with Target, an optimistic Taylor was looking at his slimmest for a number of years after losing weight during a three-week health retreat in Portugal.
“I feel like I have a real new lease of life at the moment, I really do. I visited a retreat in Portugal for three weeks miles from anywhere. I was walking 10 miles a day, swimming, juicing- I was treating it like how a boxer treats his training camp.
“It was a chance to recuperate and get myself right. I’m 53 now; I have to think about what I’m doing. Not only for my game but my overall health which is more important.
“As you can tell I’m absolutely buzzing and in the best shape of my life.”
For some, the change from Unicorn to Target is a huge gamble. This is perhaps a concern considering the slow start that Taylor has shown in the Premier League. However, class is undoubtedly permanent and when quizzed, Taylor was insistent that the deal wasn’t about money and there is years left in the Taylor tank.
“Of course it is a gamble- life is a gamble. The deal with Target is for five years and I will be seeing the contract out.
“If the PDC want me to carry on after that then they will have to put a stairlift in!
“My life is darts. What else would I want to be doing?”