Mervyn King has paid tribute to the late Andy Fordham and thanked the former world champion for providing countless laughs and smiles on the darts circuit.
It was confirmed on Thursday the 59-year-old had died following a long battle with his health stretching back to his BDO World Championship win in 2004.
King was Fordham’s opponent in the final at Lakeside on a night which proved to be the highlight of The Viking’s career in the sport.
“I will remember Andy in so many ways, I have so many memories,” King told the PA news agency. “He would always make me laugh and smile, bless him.
“He just loved the sport and even when he was not playing at his best, he would still manage to get a win out of something because he loved darts.”
For more than a decade King and Fordham were rivals on the British Darts Organisation circuit and their most significant match occurred 17 years ago.
It was the Viking who would triumph 6-3 at Lakeside Country Club and in the process write his name up in lights after four previous semi-final defeats at the Championships in Frimley Green.
“I always said to him he was lucky I let him win,” King joked with a laugh. “It was great to play Andy in the final, being a good friend.
“We had been friends for a lot of years and it was one of those things you hope for but never think will happen. The game itself, I can’t really remember a great deal about it apart from the 101 checkout I had and his winning dart where he hit the double to win.”
Even though the match details from that night on January 11 in 2004 are not too clear, King has fonder memories of what happened later that evening.
The 55-year-old recalled: “We had the champions dinner where the majority of players and wives went along with sponsors and the BDO.
“It was a great night and the only thing that would have made it a little better for me was if I had won the title but that went to Andy and he did his acceptance speech in the Andy Fordham way with a few f-words slipped in there.
“I can remember it well. His first words were ‘you all know me, I swear a bit so the chances of that happening during this speech are quite high’ and sure enough one or two expletives were mentioned.
“But I knew how much it meant to him and Andy was Andy. What you saw was what you got. It certainly didn’t change him or when he did his acceptance speech!”
Fordham and King were not always battling against each other with plenty of memorable times with England at WDF World Cups where The Viking was the “life and soul of the party” during trips to Durban, Kuala Lumpur, Epinal and Perth as the duo helped their country claim three titles at the biennial event.
In addition to his 2004 World Championship win, the Bristol-born thrower also tasted success at the World Masters in 1999 and it was at the same tournament five years earlier where his friendship with King would begin with a round of 32 encounter at Earls Court.
And ahead of his first-round appearance at the World Matchplay on Monday at Winter Gardens, the Professional Darts Corporation player will have his old mate at the forefront of his thoughts.
“It has hit a lot of people hard and I can’t imagine how his wife Jenny is feeling because it has not hit any of us as hard as it has hit his family,” King admitted.
“There are a lot of players, spectators and friends who have been walloped for six by this.
“I can still remember the first World Masters I played in when I lost to Andy. We hit it off right from there and he was just good to be around.
“He was a nice guy and I never heard him say anything nasty about anyone. If he ever thought it, he would have kept it to himself. He will be sorely missed.”