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   Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 11:18 GMT
The biggest man in darts
Take it to the max - Martin Fitzmaurice
Take it to the max - Martin Fitzmaurice

Voice of the oche Martin Fitzmaurice claims to be the biggest man in darts... and you only have look at his impressive bulk to know just what he is referring to.

You may not instantly recognise the name, but he is the man behind that familiar Embassy bellow of: "'One hundred and eeeeighty'" - and of course: "Let's play daaarts!"

It is a curious level of fame he has created for himself, but his journey into darts started innocently enough, on a night down at his local.

He said: "When I moved from Colchester to London, the highlight in the local pub was the darts night. I started to play and then packed up for business reasons.

"Then, when I came back a few years later, I started to referee and went from there."

He soon found that he had, for a variety of reasons, a gift for the job of compere.

Natural ability

"I was actually brought up in Wales, but I've always had this cockney accent and it just seems to work. I learnt in my early days with Bobby George that you've got put a bit of effort into it all and get a style.

"I'm a great admirer of Michael Buffer, the boxing announcer. He has that "Lets get ready to rumble" line and I thought it would be nice to have something like that in darts.

"And it just happened one night, when I walked onto the stage and said: 'Lets play darts!'

"I've been lucky - it's all natural ability."

Like anyone who has a set of catchphrases, Fitzmaurice is frequently asked to deliver his signature lines and it is something he has trouble with.

"It doesn't work when its cold. It's got to be done in the context of the game. If someone puts a microphone in front of me, I won't do it."

He is very modest about his own darts' prowess, saying that he could play to Superleague level, but believed he had a better chance at making a living as a referee.

Having watched the very best players for the last 20 years, he is quite clear about who was the greatest.

Mistakes

"I've got a lot of favourites, but the best player I ever saw was Eric Bristow. Eric won a lot of tournaments."

"My favourite player was Bobby George, because he gave me my start in darts and I've never forgotten that. He took me under contract for five years and we had some great times and that's where I learnt my trade."

Every referee's nightmare situation is making a mistake with numbers. Martin has his 'O' level in maths, but says errors are a part of his trade that he just has to accept.

"It's easy to make a mistake but the hard part is forgetting it and putting it out of your mind."

He remembers one incident with Dennis Priestley where he called the score wrongly twice, but still managed to have a laugh with the crowd afterwards.

Fitzmaurice's only disappointing moment at the tournament came in 2001.

"I was sitting out the back when the streaker came on, so I didn't see it," he laughed.

Embassy World Darts Championship

Barneveld's title

Photo galleries

Bobby's Kingdom

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Links to more World Darts Championship 2003 stories are at the foot of the page.


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