He is one of darts shining lights, one of the sport’s true characters and he’s already a big winner of one of darts ‘TV Major’ tournaments.
Quite simply, the brash, bold and enigmatic Paul Nicholson has come a long way in just a short time in the world of the Professional Darts Corporation.
And In January 2010, Nicholson made darting history, when he joined an elite band of players to beat Phil Taylor and then go on to win a ‘Major’
Sunday January 31, 2010 is a day that will be etched in Nicholson’s memory forever.
At the iconic Circus Tavern in Purfleet, the man simply known as ‘The Asset’ enjoyed the day of his life as he hit the jackpot against Adrian Lewis, switched off ‘The Power’ and dethroned ‘The King’ to prove that darting dreams really do come true!
Nicholson swept to victory at the Players Championship Finals, won £60,000, sprung up to No.16 in the world and guaranteed himself a spot at the Grand Slam of Darts for 2010 and 2011 – not bad for a day’s work!
“Even now, it’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “I always knew that I would experience a day like that but it came along sooner than I thought. It’s not being big-headed but I have always had self-belief and it was reward for all the hard work that’s gone in over several months.”
The 30-year-old produced some golden tungsten on a golden day and was a worthy winner as he catapulted himself into the darting elite
There’s no doubt that he is a breath of fresh air to the sport with the now trademark dark glasses and waistcoat and tie combination.
He had fashioned out a ‘bad boy’ image to rival Peter Manley but the boos and jeers turned to cheers and applause as he won his first big ‘TV Major’
At the world famous Circus Tavern, where darting heroes have been made over the last two decades, Nicholson joined the elite band after an energy-sapping victory.
After beating former World Champions Dennis Priestley and Steve Beaton in the opening two rounds, it was all about one day, staying focused and winning three high pressure matches.
Nicholson saw off Adrian Lewis 9-7 in the quarter-finals to set up a mouth-watering semi-final against Taylor. “I was very focused, not at all bothered by his reputation. I certainly wasn’t frightened, because I knew that if I played well, I could beat him.”
And Nicholson didn’t just play well, he produced the performance of his life, that in the end, stunned Taylor into submission!
He won four of his first five legs with ton plus finishes! A 104 was followed by 121 and 130 on the bull and just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, he produced a 170 check-out when Taylor was sat on 32! At one stage Nicholson was 7/7 on his doubles.
A first 180 helped him to a 9-7 lead….Taylor pulled one leg back but Nicholson threw for the match and as the tension reached fever pitch, he missed two darts at D20 for the match and Taylor levelled to set up the decider.
Even though Taylor had the throw, Nicholson kept his cool and after missing D20 and D10, he finally nailed D5 to secure a famous victory.
So often in the past, players just can’t follow-up after beating Taylor, but Nicholson then displayed great mental strength to back-up and 20 minutes later he was on the stage in the final against Mervyn King.
He really had to dig deep and from 9-7 down, Nicholson found that extra gear to go on and win the final by 13 legs to 11.
“Now I have to build on that during 2010, 2011 and beyond,” he said. “This victory in a ‘TV Major’ will always be very special to me, but if I don’t kick on and win some more, I will be very, very disappointed.”
The day after his triumph, disaster struck at Kings Cross Station in London. While he was having his ticket checked before boarding his train to London, a woman knocked over and smashed his prized Players Championship trophy.
Thankfully though, the PDC quickly stepped in to provide Nicholson with an exact replica of the trophy that means so much to him.
“I have so much that I want to achieve,” he said. “This big win has given me the impetus and confidence and now it’s up to me to get out there and succeed.”
Nicholson won his first PDC title in August 2009, when headed back Down Under to win the Australian Open Players Championship, beating Robert Thornton 6-1 in the final and gaining revenge for losing to the Scot in the Aussie Final in 2008!
He has also become well known for his meticulous preparation before matches and puts in hours of practice. His dedication to the sport can never be questioned, that’s for sure.
It was 2008 that he first shot to prominence, when he was virtually unbeatable on the Australian Grand Prix circuit after becoming a naturalised Aussie and settling in Melbourne and that success Down Under earned him a spot at the Grand Slam of Darts II and the World Championship at the Alexandra Palace.
He won 15 titles on the Australian circuit, including the Australian Matchplay for a second time and arrived back in England with a point to prove. The Geordie certainly did just that!
Back in November 2008, Nicholson was a virtual unknown to British darts fans but that all changed in half-an-hour on the big stage at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, when he made his debut at the Grand Slam of Darts – live on ITV4 – against the then BDO No.1 Gary Anderson.
It was an experience he will never forget and it was a match that marked down the name and reputation of Paul Nicholson.
He walked on stage wearing the now trademark dark glasses and the crowd started chanting: “who are you” at Nicholson…..he immediately hit a 180 with his first three darts of the match, turned to the crowd, put his finger to his lips to tell them to “shush” and that was that…..Paul Nicholson was a player on the big stage in the world of darts!
“I really enjoyed it if truth be known,” he said. “Putting my finger to my mouth was just a reaction – it wasn’t planned – and now it’s stuck with me but I’m not complaining!”
He went on to beat Anderson in one of the shocks of the tournament and in the end, was unlucky to miss out on the knock-out stages after losing a last leg decider in his final group match to Kevin Painter.
But a star had been born and we all witnessed that shortly afterwards at the 2009 World Championship.
In his first match, he was brilliant in whitewashing Adrian Gray by three sets to nil. In fact, Nicholson won all nine legs with a 97 average. He had put down a marker.
And the reputation grew in the 2nd Round with a stunning victory over Adrian Lewis. Nicholson came from 3-2 down to win 4-3, as the deciding set went to a tie-break….at four legs apiece in that tie-break, he produced two brilliant finishes of 129 and 121 to snatch victory….and it took his total of ton plus finishes in the game to six!
And Nicholson wasn’t finished yet. In the 3rd Round, he demolished former World Champion Dennis Priestley. After a slow start, Nicholson found himself two sets down before it all clicked. He won four sets on the spin, dropping only three legs in the process to book his spot in the quarter-finals.
But that was where the journey came to an end. In a poor quality match, with both players averaging a little over 80, Nicholson was beaten 5-3 by James Wade.
Nicholson though, had certainly announced his arrival in style and the £20,000 prize money would give him the impetus and courage to completely change his life, move back to his beloved North East and give the sport of darts a real go.
He did though suffer disappointment at the 2010 World Championship, losing a thriller 3-2 to Terry Jenkins in the 1st Round, when he was forced to walk three miles to the arena because of heavy snow which threatened the night’s action.
He now lives in North Shields after his marriage ended and he went through a particularly difficult time, which clearly affected his darts for a while.
“It was tough for a time. It’s always difficult when a relationship breaks down and I had really settled in Melbourne, was working for the government in Victoria and I was really enjoying my darts. Then I made the decision to move back to the North East and there was a lot of upheaval. But it has all been worth it.”
Originally, he hails from Blyth and back in the day, played county darts for Northumberland before he found that new life in Australia and would you believe, he actually gave up the tungsten for a while.
At the 2009 UK Open Finals in Bolton, Nicholson again showcased his talents with a fantastic victory over Gary Anderson, only to miss a stack of chances and suffer defeat in the next round against qualifier Ken Mather.
Also in 2009, he qualified for both the World Grand Prix and European Championships but suffered first round exits at the hands of Wayne Jones and Colin Osborne respectively.
He also reached three further semi-finals on the PDC Pro Tour, including the prestigious German Darts Championship, where he lost to Taylor.
But my, revenge was sweet for Nicholson at the Circus Tavern in January and with the backing of Unicorn, the future for ‘The Asset’ in the elite of world darts is well and truly secure.
Paul Nicholson is a winner and watch him go over the next few years!