FRIENDS of new darts world champion Gary Anderson have told how they knew the former fireplace fitter was a “star” from his early days honing his skills in a Musselburgh social club.
Anderson – nicknamed The Flying Scotsman – narrowly defeated 16-time world champion Phil Taylor in the PDC World Championship final on Sunday at London’s Alexandra Palace, walking away with the £250,000 first prize.
The glitz of a world championship final may have felt a world away from the Store Club, in North High Street, Musselburgh, where Anderson first stepped up to the oche.
The 44-year-old, who now lives in Somerset with his partner, Rachel, hails from the East Lothian town and started his working life as a heating installer for a now-defunct firm in Portobello.
Former teammate Willie Ebbs said the bar players always knew Anderson oozed star quality and described him as “one of the nicest guys you would ever meet”.
Mr Ebbs, now a key figure in the Musselburgh and District Darts League, said: “I played darts with him for years, probably until about 12 years ago.
“He would drive up after work from Eyemouth, where he moved later, to come and play.
“He is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He is so chilled out and fun to be around.
Mr Ebbs, who lives in Craigentinny, said: “He was always a tremendous darts player. I think we all knew he was going to be a star.”
The 55-year-old was glued to the television for Sunday night’s nail-biting final and said many of Anderson’s former teammates were rooting for him.
He added: “I still see him from time to time although it now costs a lot more to watch him play.”
His old haunt, The Store Club, would be open to the idea of a plaque or memento in honour of Anderson, said club steward Andrew McBrearty.
Mr McBrearty said: “I remember watching him play when he first started there about 20 years ago.
“I would never dare to challenge him even then – I don’t think any of us ever would.
“He was just a normal guy though, really down to earth and just one of the boys really.
“We didn’t know he was going to get so far but we did know he had something special.”
Before he became a professional darts player, Anderson, who is a Hibs fan, was known for his snooker skills as he used to often play at the now-defunct Hayweights Snooker Club in Musselburgh.