NOT a wisp of cigarette smoke, not a pint of beer in view, no beer bellies, no unkempt facial furniture or a Jackie Lunn’s pie in sight.
That had been my expectations when popping along to the Pheasant Restaurant and Bar in Jedburgh on Saturday morning to hook up with the local darts team for this week’s feature, but hey, I was raised in the era of Jocky Wilson and Eric Bristow, what else can you expect?
On March 25, 2005, after much tub-thumping from both the BDO and the PDC, Sport England, at last, recognised darts as a sport.
And in the Borders, they take their sport seriously. A fact that the guys and girls of the Jedburgh darts fraternity were only too happy to put me right on.
“We still enjoy meeting up socially and having a few drinks together but it’s the darts we are all here for,” said Jedburgh Super League team captain Stean Paterson.
“Every member of this team loves the game and the standard of play in Jedburgh and the Borders has risen as people take it more seriously now than ever before.”
Jedburgh itself has eight teams taking part in their own league, from which 12 players are selected for the Super League squad, sponsored by The Pheasant. From that 12, eight are selected to play in the Borders-wide tournament which boasts seven teams of the region’s most talented players.
“Playing Super League is the stepping stone to playing at district level and from there the sky is the limit,” added Paterson. “All of us want to achieve the highest level possible and the competition is immense.”
One player in particular who, at the age of only 20, is already climbing towards that very goal is Kelso’s Ryan Hogarth.
Back in June, the youngster won the Scottish Under-21 Championship before taking the European Challenge Open in Airdrie in August, where he beat Andy “X-Factor” Boulton in the final 5-2.
Hogarth is just one of the great young band of talent that the Borders is producing and Paterson hopes that his success leads to many more players taking up the sport.
“We are already getting a few younger players coming along, but would welcome many more,” he said.
“Darts is really a sport for everyone, male or female and all ages can enjoy it. There aren’t many sports out there that can boast that.”
Sunday saw the first of three outings for this year’s Super League with some good darts on show in Coldstream, resulting in the hosts heading the table.
The next round is at Hawick in February.
Results ‑ Game one: Hawick 4 Kelso 4; Coldstream 4 Peebles 4; Gala 5 Jedburgh 3. Game two: Kelso B 0 Coldstream 8; Jedburgh 3 Hawick 5; Peebles 5 Gala 3. Game three: Kelso A 4 Jedburgh 4; Gala 6 Kelso B 2; Hawick 7 Peebles 1. Game four: Coldstream 7 Gala 1; Peebles 4 Kelso A 4; Kelso B 4 Hawick 4. Game five: Jedburgh 5 Peebles 3; Hawick 2 Coldstream 6; Kelso A 5 Kelso B 3.