Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Sport Long Read - Ma­jor Hon­ours: BDO World Mas­ters win­ner 2002, PDC World Match­day run­ner-up 2004, PDC World Cham­pi­onships run­ner-up 2005

be­ing beaten by the all-con­quer­ing Tay­lor.

Later that year he took part in his first PDC World Cham­pi­onships, over­com­ing John Part and Beaton again, be­fore be­ing ousted at the quar­ter-fi­nal stage by Kevin Pain­ter.

By now he had the taste for the big stage, and 12 months on he was back for an­other as­sault at the com­pe­ti­tion’s show­piece tour­na­ment.

Dud­bridge beat Richie Bur­nett and Part, be­fore over­com­ing his close friend Den­nis Ovens in the quar­ter­fi­nals. He added: “I turned over th­ese sea­soned pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing Wayne Mar­dle in the semi-fi­nals, when I wasn’t re­ally given a chance with the book­ies.

“That set me up to face Phil again (in the fi­nal). He was in the peak of his pow­ers back then. I re­mem­ber ev­ery­one used to turn up at events and look for what side of the draw they were on. If you weren’t on Tay­lor’s side, you at least had a hope of reach­ing the fi­nal.

“Sky Sports of­ten re­play the 2005 fi­nal so I’ve seen it back a few times – I still think I’m go­ing to win. I had a dart to go 3-1 up in sets, but I didn’t take it. At 6-3 down, they started bring­ing the tro­phy to the side of the stage and I got quite an­gry, jab­bing my fin­ger and telling him ‘this isn’t over’. I won the next set, but he clinched it 7-4.”

Dud­bridge, nick­named Flash, has a glint in his eye as he re­calls a tale from the morn­ing of his one and only World fi­nal ap­pear­ance.

“I had to do some me­dia stuff with Phil for Sky Sports and we were sat along­side each other in the back of a limo, be­ing driven around Lon­don by Eric Bristow,” he grins.

“Phil be­ing Phil, he called time on it early say­ing he needed to go and pre­pare for the fi­nal. I was en­joy­ing my­self and said to Phil ‘you ought to en­joy this, it might be your last fi­nal!’ Since then he’s taken part in seven, win­ning five of them, and that one re­mains the only one I took part in.”

Dud­bridge hit head­lines lo­cally af­ter reach­ing the fi­nal, with a lo­cal ra­dio and writ­ten jour­nal­ists vis­it­ing his place of work to in­ter­view him do­ing his ‘day job’ as a brick­layer. But with an­other £30,000 in prize money burn­ing a hole in his back pocket the Bris­to­lian knew he had a big de­ci­sion to make.

“I qual­i­fied for the Premier League and I de­cided it was the time to be­come a pro­fes­sional,” he said.

How­ever, the next part of the story gives an in­sight into the rea­son be­hind why Dud­bridge has com­peted in eight World Cham­pi­onships since with­out sur­pass­ing the third round.

“I knew I needed to do things prop­erly so I joined the lo­cal gym,” he said. “I got up at half seven, drove down to the gym and sat in the car park, be­fore think­ing ‘sod that’ and headed home again. I never went!

“It’s an in­di­vid­ual sport and you prob­a­bly need some­one push­ing you. Lots of play­ers have man­agers th­ese days but I didn’t have any­one.

“I was quite lax on the prac­tice and train­ing side. I could have ap­plied my­self bet­ter. I could have kept my­self fit­ter, but the in­juries didn’t help; I had op­er­a­tions on my el­bow and my shoul­der and it spi­raled from there.

“I could only play for ten or 15 min­utes be­fore it started aching. I couldn’t throw my darts straight. I fell down the rank­ings fol­low­ing the in­juries and it’s been a strug­gle ever since. I was still in the pro tour and I was get­ting beaten all the time. It

Pic­ture: Michael Lloyd

Mark Dud­bridge at Bar 501 in Sta­ple Hill

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