This interview was recorded on Thursday the 7th of Feb 2013.
I had organised to ring Tony at 7pm, ended up ringing him at 3 minutes past. The call went to answer phone, i was gutted i had missed my chance to have a chat with a darting legend. So imagine my surprise when my phone rung, i answered and a voice said " Hi is that Richard, its Tony, Tony O'shea". We both chatted for a couple of minutes then got down to the following interview.
RN : So when did you start playing darts? When did it start getting ‘serious’?
Tony : I started playing in the pub about 1978 but that was a bit of fun really, i don't class serious until i started playing county darts in 1980 for lancashire. I pottered around playing county darts for a while, my first actual ranking event that a travelled to was the German Open in 98, that was the start of going on tour and chasing points.
RN : You have been with Target for some time now, how did the partnership come about and how long does it take to develop your darts?
Tony: I was actually with Data Dart Europe for quite a while, about 5 or 6 years in the early 2ooo's, but he struggled a bit and when the contract run out they must of sent out info to other companies and Winmau and Target got in touch literally on the day the contract ended. I went down to see the lads at Target and didn't bother looking at anyone else because they were so friendly, they really enjoyed the darts and knew what they were on about so i dived straight in with them and I've been with them since.
RN : I use Target darts too.
Tony : The quality, obviously i did a bit of homework, but everyone seems to say the same thing, the Target stuff is far Superior to most so i went with them.
RN : Do you find it difficult to play and beat people being the 'nice guy' of darts. Is it right you had aggression coaching?
Tony : To be honest that's always been my problem. I went to a sports psychologist and he did me a disc and had a session with him to try and get that aggressive streak in me and to stop being so nice. The first session i had with him was 2011 the night before the Northern Ireland Open, and i won it the next day, after one session. I thought hmm he might have something here so I've been talking to him regular ever since.
RN : So it is working then?
Tony: Yeah, i won the Northern Ireland Open then i went to Holland and got to the semi's of the Zuiderduin Masters, then got runner-up at the Lakeside and went to the Dutch open 3 weeks after and won that! he has 5 or 6 other players with him now.
RN : You seem to have done it all. Any other ambitions?
Tony : Well i haven't done it all because I'm still to win a major on TV, so i still have loads of ambitions, as far has I'm concerned i haven't fulfilled anything yet. I'm captain of England now so that's an achievement, but until i win one of them big TV tournaments, I've done nothing yet.
RN : So you've got a check list and your waiting to tick off the big ones?
Tony : Yeah, Exactly. I mean I'm not obsessed by it, but until I've won one of them i wont be happy.
RN : So what’s your favourite tournament?
Tony : Obviously there is the Lakeside, its like the wembley of darts i absolutely love it there, but i would put it on a level parr with the Grand Slam in Wolverhampton, just purely because of the atmosphere. I do get great support at he Slam, i just get a buzz and really look forward to both the tournaments more than anything else throughout the year. So Probably Lakeside but the Grand Slam is a very, very close 2nd.
RN : Describe your throw in 3 words?
Tony : Slow and Steady! A lot of people say i throw like Leighton Rees, Slow and smooth. When I'm playing well, i do slow down a little. So yeah slow and steady sums it up perfect.
RN : What was the highlight of 2012?
Tony : Getting to the final at the Lakeside was a big thing, but i got over the disappointment of losing fast because i won the Dutch Open and for me that was the highlight. Even though i had just lost in the final of the Lakeside, the Dutch open is such a tough open tournament to win, everyone is there, everyone is chasing them big points, its near enough like winning a big tournament.
RN : What do you do to relax away from darts?
Tony: Well my wife will tell you I'm a tele addict, I've just come back from Holland I've been away for 2 weeks and I've filled up the Sky+ box memory, i record all sorts of stuff. Documentaries everything so yeah I'm a tele addict, i love watching TV,films and stuff.
RN : Tell me something we don’t know about you?
Tony : To be honest I've said everything. I am a chocoholic, Its not something to be proud of and its not good for me but yeah I'm a chocoholic.
RN : Do you have any darts weaknesses?
Tony : I haven't got that killer instinct, that's the only weakness. I know on a good day i can play has good has anyone but some days I'm just to soft but I'm working on that. I'm just too nice.
RN : Why ‘Hey Baby’?
Tony : I love old music, 60's kind of stuff. I like the original by Bruce Channel, I was actually at the German open it could of been the first year i was there in 98. An old English pal of mine was living in German and hes into the 60's and he put this DJ Otzi rework of the song on for me to listen to, and i thought to myself if i ever get on TV I'm having that. It was 4 years later, and i had forgotten about it, but because i couldn't have the one i had chosen, i suddenly remembered about 'Hey Baby' and I've had it ever since. I would never change it now.
RN : No, I wouldn't either its one of the most popular walk ons around.
Tony : Its a bit cheesy, but it gets everyone going.
RN : If not that what else would you walk on tune be?
Tony : When i did qualify for the Lakeside in 2002 i was going to use my Cheshire county walk on tune Let me Entertain you by Robbie Williams, I wanted that for the Lakeside but they said you cant because Merv King already has it so that's when i remembered about Hey Baby.
RN : Do you take much notice of the social media side of darts i.e.: Twitter, Face book etc?
Tony : I don't get involved to be honest. I know Target have the twitter thing but I'm not really computer literate to be honest, I've got a new iPhone but I'm not sure what most of it does, so i don't get involved in anything like that.
RN : When your not playing do you enjoy watching any other players play?
Tony : As i said I'm always watching Tv, i even saw snips of the World cup when i was in Holland last week, i try and watch all the darts. I'm a darts fan as well as a player, years ago i loved watching the indoor league from years ago. But modern day darts, I'm a big Phil Taylor fan. I think what hes achieved is unbelievable really, he doesn't seem to lack anything really. He can score, he can kill a game. Hes got the bottle, hes got a sense of humour. Hes the complete package really. Phil Taylor i just a living darts legend!
RN : Why have you never taken the leap to the PDC? Is it something that would interest you? And when if you were to go?
Tony : To be honest a few years ago i was offered a sponsorship deal to go and do it, think it was about 4 years ago maybe longer, but I've always had this ambition to win the 'Embassy' has i still call it, and until I've won Lakeside i will always have unfinished business and while I'm still runner-up all these times its just tunnel vision. I would love to play with them lot,i do play against them in exhibitions and do quite well.
RN : Well yeah, and you do the Grand Slam too.
Tony : Yeah exactly. I love the atmosphere. One or two people complain about the noise but it helps me. I cant hear my own heart beat for a start. I would love to play at Blackpool and these Premier League nights, the crowds are fantastic. That's probably why i enjoy the Grand slam in Wolverhampton so much, but obviously until I've sorted out this unfinished business out I've got blinkers on. I just want to win Lakeside, for me it will always be the blue ribbon, even though the PDC one is bigger prize money and the crowds are bigger, i need to win the Lakeside!
RN : Its where everyone started, isn't it. You need to win that one before you step over.
Tony : Exactly. Gary Anderson moved across, he always seemed to struggle at the Lakeside, its got its own special little pressures. I don't think until you've won that your a world champion, i know Adrian Lewis was born and bred in the PDC and hes never had the chance to play at the Lakeside, but I'm sure he would of loved to of done something there too.
And with that the interview ended, Plus the first night of the Premier League was on.
A big thank you to Tony for taking time out to do this interview, and also to Rob Hartley for getting Tony's email to start this off. Also to you the reader, thank you