OFTEN over the years, I have been asked the question: "Who is the best player to have played darts in Plymouth?
I always answer that to single out any one individual would be inappropriate.
There are three though, that arguably have been the best and I had the privilege to play against all three, at varying times, when the Plymouth darts scene was enjoying its first purple patch throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Cliff “Ticker” Inglis, the first man to win the Winmau World Masters in 1974 and Fred Pritchard, the South West Area News of the World champion no fewer than 15 times are two.
The third player to make up my illustrious trio is Tim Green.
He was brash, he was flamboyant . . . but he had charisma like no other.
He first graced the oche’s of the city’s darting venues in 1966, playing in the now defunct Ind Coope League at the James St Vaults, but two seasons later was turning out for The Mermaid.
It was at that Eggbuckland establishment that he first met another great player of his generation Des Stabb and in 1969, the two of them became members of the famous side which won all before them at the Longroom Inn, at Stonehouse, under the tenancy of Bill Puddicombe.
Another great side from that era was based at the Chester Cup and this was probably the last time that one brewery league boasted such high-calibre players attached to two separate sides.
FORMIDABLE: Tim Green photographed in his later years, but the formidable pose on the oche never changed.
To pick just one of their highly-charged contests from February 1971, Green was drawn against another of Plymouth’s greats, Kevin O’Connor.
Sadly, Kevin never had the chance to fulfil his potential as he died of leukaemia in his early 20s.
Back in those days, a darts match consisted of nine players playing one of leg of 501 with a fixed double start, the double being drawn from a bag.
Throwing first, Green started with double 20 with the third dart of his opening throw followed by 140, 100, 180 before checking out from 41 to win in 14 darts.
O’Connor, for the Chester Cup, was not disgraced, having hit 100, 140 and 180 and was also on a going-out shot when Green finished.
The 1970-71 season saw Longroom win the treble, the first time that the feat had been achieved in the Courage PB League which, at the time, was the biggest brewery league in the country, boasting no fewer than eight divisions of 14 teams.
The treble was made up of the league title, Knockout Cup and Johnstone Trophy.
It was also in this year that Green lifted the Devon County Mixed Pairs title with Hazel Hendry who also sadly died just days after Tim.
The following year Longroom clinched the treble once again and had the captain’s winner in Geoff Gunning, the secretaries’ winner in Des Stabb and Green became the individual champion for the first time.
The early Seventies saw the birth of the county set-up under the guidance of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) and in 1973, Green became Devon Super League individual champion for the first time, claiming the crown again in 1974 and 1976.
In April 1973, Devon entertained a strong Swedish side, which included Stefan Lord, at the Blue Circle Recreational Club.
Five years later, Lord became the first overseas winner of the News of the World title . . . and the youngest . . . at the age of 24. The Swede took the title again in 1980.
The highlight of the Blue Circle fixture was a mid-interval challenge match between Tim Green and the best darts player of his generation, Tommy O’Regan.
O’Regan was a jovial Irishman who moved to London and won the national title of England and Wales in 1970, 1971 and 1972, the only player ever to have won the title in three successive years.
The year before O’Regan’s first victory in 1969, the title was won by Paul Gosling, representing the William IV Hotel in Truro, when the Cornishman defeated Rotherham’s Alf Clare.
There were no long drawn out sets in those days, just the best of three legs of 501 and O’Regan was never beaten in three years . . . what a record.
The Irish legend defeated Green over one leg of 3001, registering 17 tons to Green’s 10.
In his second challenge of the day, against Stefan Lord, O’Regan recorded 10 throws of a ton or more in 10 consecutive visits. Six darts later the Irishman had also thrown back to back 180s, such was the ability of the great man.
The season of 1973-74 saw the birth of the BDO Inter-County Championships and Devon were one of just 10 teams who took part in the inaugural competition. The other nine being Cheshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, London, Somerset, Surrey, Thames Valley and the West of England (later to become Avon).
Green was a valued member of the Devon side that won for the first time in 1973 when they defeated Cheshire, under the captaincy of Torbay’s Bill Miller.
The Devon side consisted of no fewer than seven Plymouth players, namely John “Taff” Griffiths, Tim Green, Fred Pritchard, Paul Romanski, Cliff “Ticker” Inglis, Mike Boaden and Ralph Lancasater.
Lancashire became the inaugural BDO county champions, winning eight of their nine matches.
On October 7, 1973, in what was reported at the time as “one of the greatest matches you will ever see”, Devon entertained London at the Top Rank Suite, Plymouth.
The visiting team consisted of such illustrious names at the time as Tony Bell, Ronnie Church, Alan Glazier, O’Regan and the great Willie Etherington, who Green defeated 2-1.
These players from the Capital were not only county standard, they were also seasoned English internationals. The match ended 6-6, despite Devon having a 3-0 lead.
Devon’s winners on the day were Cliff Inglis, John “Taff” Griffiths, John Dawson, Trevor Toghill, Tim Green and lastly George Murphy who earned Devon the draw with a 2-1 win against Dave Pithouse after they trailed 6-5.
The following year, 1974, George Murphy was to win the North American Open doubles title partnered with Welshman Terry James, who hailed from Pontypridd.
It was a different story though a year later in the county championship when London entertained Devon at The Royal, Tottenham, over the weekend of October 12/13.
The London B side, which included a 17-year-old Eric Bristow, won 12-0 and London A defeated Devon A 10-2, the only winners for the visitors being Norman Spier and Owen Trick.
CHAMPIONS: The Hyde Park team from 1975 who won the National Super League crown. Back row (left to right) Fred Pritchard, Tom McIntyre, George Ashley, Graham Bryce, Jeff Fugler, Paddy Johnson. Front row (left to right) Danny Johns, John Donnison, Tim Green, Tim McCoy, Brian Williams, Ralph Lancaster.
In 1975, Green played for another prolific Plymouth side which resided at the Hyde Park.
This outfit played in the Devon Super League and went on to win the national team championships when beating a team from Scotland in the grand-final.
Timmy met up with O’Regan again in 1976 when a newly-formed darts body, The United Kingdom Darts Federation (UKDF) hosted a challenge match between Wales and the rest of Great Britian.
Green, who was ranked number eight in Great Britain at the time, had the honour to be chosen as vice-captain under the captaincy of O’Regan.
The UKDF was an organisation initially aimed at providing additional opportunities for good players to compete against those in other areas of the country in free and open competition.
It’s chairman at the time was Plymouth publican George Ashley, but the organisation never got the full backing of the “big boys” in London and failed to flourish against the still successful BDO.
Arguably the greatest day of Green’s darting life came on Sunday, March 28, 1976, at the Top Rank Suite in Plymouth.
Tim had won through to the final of the national individual darts championship, sponsored by Golden Games.
In front of a capacity crowd and the cameras of Westward Television, only one man stood between Green and the national crown and that was an up-and-coming young Londoner by the name of . . . Eric Bristow.
The partisan crowd were in raptures when Green beat Bristow 2-0. In the best of three legs of 1001 final, the Plymothian won the £500 prize money with legs in 31 and 29 respectively, for a three-dart average of 100.10.
The then President of Devon Darts Organisation, John Owen, was so impressed by Green’s performance that he put up a wager of £1,000 to anybody in the world who could beat the Devonport marksman over 21 games of 1001 . . . there were no takers.
Tim Green won 27 of his 37 matches whilst representing Devon and was still successful in the Plymouth Leagues.
He followed up his initial singles success of the 1972-73 season when he regained the Courage PB individual title in 1976-77 and 1977-78.
He was only denied becoming the first player to win an unprecedented hat-trick of titles the following season when he was beaten in the 1978-79 final by one of his Longroom compatriots, Tom McIntyre.
Like all great champions, life at the top is very short and it was around 1980 that Green’s game started to decline.
The family moved to the Devonport area of the city and Green played his final matches on the dartboards of local hostelries Kings Arms, Half Moon, Ker St Social Club, Lord Beresford and Crown and Column.
Tim sadly passed away in February 2015.
One story that really sums up the personality of Timmy Green was reported long ago in a South Devon publication and told the tale of a young man, who one night walked into the Kings Arms at Ivybridge.
He took out his darts and began slotting them into treble 20. Unknown to the locals, he challenged them for a pint over legs of 1001 and despite giving them all a 300-point start, was never beaten.
Someone remarked: “He’s played this game before!”
He had, he was Timmy Green and at the time was Western Area champion.
He won several legs in under 30 darts but still insisted he was off-form.
On leaving, Green told his admirers: “Some people call me big-headed, but I can’t be – I think I’m only half as good as I really am".