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Misunderstood Master Contemplating Retirement

When thinking about the most successful teams across the Plymouth leagues in the last twenty-five years, one name pops up in the majority of rosters. That name is Andy Bates.

After first competing for the Rose and Crown in Yealmpton and winning everything there is to win in the South Devon League, Bates darting journey moved onto Plymouth.

Since that first outing for a Plymouth side in the 90s under the stewardship of the great Steve Chapman and his future wife Margaret at the First and Last, Bates has been constant fixture in some of the most dominant teams to date.

Bates first Plymouth league title came in that very venue before claiming more honours at the Woodside under George and Gloria Rosevear and the Melbourne for Tommy Griffiths.

Bates had twelve successful years turning out for the Compton Inn before in 2004, he joined the Brookside to play alongside some of the greatest players to ever compete in Plymouth, and maybe the best ever Super League team.

The likes of Jim Pitkin, Al Brunton, Glyn Wells, Tug Wilson and John Goves saw the value that Bates' undoubted talent could provide to an already stacked line up, and the league titles continued to roll in.

After that super team disbanded, Bates had a stint in the Plymouth and District Friday Darts League with the late duo of Gary Phillips and Graham Jones.

Bates picked up that league's individual title for three seasons to go with league titles secured for the Brookside who dominated the format for many a year.

In more recent times, Bates was a lynchpin in a Porters team that claimed multiple titles in both the Top 20 501 League and Plymouth City Super League; moving with the team first to the Brewery Tap, and then onto the King Billy.

The likes of John Mann, Malcolm Johns and Antony Hayman together with Bates made up two thirds of an unstoppable outfit, before the pandemic curtailed the collective success of arguably the four best local league players of the period.

Nowadays, Bates competes for the Tradesmans who have won the Monday Premier League for the last two seasons and are currently twenty-four clear at the top after just thirteen games.

In the Steve Chapman 501 League, Bates has setup camp in Greenbank where his Fawn B team, littered with county players, are still winning leagues; Bates providing an integral component to that success.

Bates had the briefest of stints playing for Cornwall; crossing the Tamar in the 2000/01 County season after playing in the 2000 Cornwall Super League.

Bates, like so many Plymouth based players of the era and his generation, had wanted to play for Devon but made the switch due to being frozen out by the selectors at the time.

He got his points in the much more cut throat Cornwall Super League and made the Duchy squad; gaining selection for the final four fixtures, securing one stage win before bowing out of contention the following season.

The one accolade that has eluded Bates throughout his illustrious career is the Champion of Champions having been the perennial bridesmaid in the tournament.

An unrivalled record of fifteen appearances at Final's Night have all ended in eventual defeat; a best run coming when he made the Final but lost out to future teammate John Goves.

Bates has wandered up and down many an oche for the last forty-seven years after first picking up a dart when he was nine years of age, but his future might lie away from the darting scene.

Bates is considering packing up his darts case for the final time in the not too distant future but is not 100% convinced: "I know what will happen. I won't sign for anyone and the Mrs will say 'go to darts!'"

Regardless of how he is perceived in the court of public opinion - most of which is completely unjustified and largely based on rumour rather than fact - a well known saying is more than apt when talking about Bates.

'The cream will always rise to the top' sums up his career to date having made multiple moves to multiple different venues but still ending up on top of whichever tree he perches.

The biggest compliment his fellow marksman have paid to his abilities throughout his career is the fact that the best players have always wanted to play with him, and rarely against.


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