Darts devotees whipped up a wall of noise as the seventh Grand Slam of Darts began.
Dressed in their daftest outfits, they roared in support as 32 players, including Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, battled it out for a place in the second round. Around 12,000 tickets have been snapped up for the contest, with most sessions sold out well in advance, including Sunday’s final.
Making sure of their seats at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Saturday night were Chris and Karen Whitfield, of Torfield, Pendeford. Chris, aged 39, was the first person in the ticket queue when the box office opened this year. “I was there at 7.30am to make sure,” he said. “We’ve been coming here every year for the past six years.”
The couple’s dartboard specs raised a lot of chuckles. Karen, 49, bought them on ebay for £2.99. She said: “People have been borrowing them for photos.”
A group of friends drove almost 400 miles for the tournament. Dressed in Where’s Wally? outfits, they travelled from Dunbar, near Edinburgh, and found themselves staying in the same hotel as some of the players. Cement worker Jamie Cooney, 25, said: “We like to travel to at least one tournament every year, and the atmosphere here is very good.”
The group had their picture taken with Andy ‘The Hammer’ Hamilton, who is also staying at Wolverhampton’s Premier Inn.
Neighbours from Coseley – Dianne and Steve Millard, Sherol and Mark Gripton, and Claire Price – had packed a large bag full of silly wigs and masks to wear. Dianne said: “We do the same thing every year.”
Phil Taylor fan Laura Butler was hoping to catch the eye of her favourite player to claim a memento.Wearing a ‘The Power’ T-shirt, with ‘Taylorette’ on the back, the 29-year-old from Cannock, who runs her own cleaning business, held up a sign pleading ‘Phil Taylor, give me your board.’ She said: “I’ve been following him since I was 13.”
Child care workers Vicky Goff, from Halesowen, and Nicola Pulle, of Telford, got into the spirit of the evening in nun outfits.
“Why have we come dressed as nuns? Why not?” said Vicky.
Teacher Becky Pugh, of Tangere Close, Perton, showed she was no slouch either when it came to dressing up by donning Harry Potter specs and a Hogwarts uniform.
The 26-year-old, who works at a Tipton primary school, said: “I’ve worn this to school. The children love it.”