Written by Toby Foster (@TobyFost)
When Dorset-born farmer Scott Mitchell arrived at the Lakeside Leisure Complex in January 2015 to compete in the BDO World Darts Championship, he knew it was now or never to fulfil his ambition of lifting the trophy.
A fan of darts from a young age, Scott had grown up watching legends of the sport including Jocky Wilson, Eric Bristow and John Lowe vie for victory at Lakeside, before becoming a professional player himself in the mid-noughties at the urging of wife Sharon and son Sam.
And after hitting the big time by winning nine tournaments on the pro circuit in 2014, he was aware that the 2015 Championship would be his biggest chance to clinch darting glory.
“I put my bag in the car to go to Lakeside in 2015… I said to my wife, ‘If I don’t win it this year, I will never win it’”, Scott told Nerve’s Ultimate Sports Podcast.
“She said ‘I think you will win it this year.’”
Sharon’s prediction proved to be correct, as Scott, nicknamed ‘Scotty Dog’ on the darts circuit, produced brilliant form throughout the tournament to set up a final with old rival Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams – which Scott won 7-6 after a nail-biting sudden-death set.
“It was sweet revenge over Wolfie”, Scott said, given that Adams had whitewashed him in a previous World Championship match.
“[In the final], the more sets and the more crucial moments you win… you just start to gain in confidence and you get into the game.”
Scott also credits professional guidance for giving him a crucial psychological edge over his opponents when breezing past top players to become Lakeside Champion.
He said: “I saw a mind coach. We were doing things over MP3, things to put in my ears to listen to overnight.
“[It] worked. I was listening to that all through 2014, and I was going to tournaments and ripping it up.
“One of the mistakes I made is that I told [future three-time World Champion] Glen Durrant I was seeing a mind coach. And [then] that’s what he did. He went off and saw the same mind coach I had!
“Glen will never give me the credit, but that’s what happened!”, he added.
I felt like some kind of Thunderbirds puppet
The importance of a focussed state of mind in darts cannot be underestimated – and Scott feels that the wrong mentality cost him dearly in his first ever World Championship appearance in 2010, as he lost 3-2 in Round One to Daryl Gurney.
“I’d watched Lakeside so many times”, he said.
“I just remember walking out [on stage]… I felt like some kind of Thunderbirds puppet. I was just not in control of my own arms and legs. I was walking like I was in mud or on water.
“It was really crazy.
“I was walking out on the stage where all the legends had played.
“I just got it mentally really so wrong. You look back now and experience tells you that.
“To lose on that Lakeside stage is just so, so lonely. It is hard. Some people only get there once – losing there can absolutely destroy you. I’ve been very lucky, it didn’t destroy me.”
🎯 We talk all things darts from Scott’s early career, his 2014 breakthrough, winning the World Championship, his career since, current state of darts + lots more!
— Ultimate Sports Podcast (@UltimateSportP) August 19, 2020
I upset Chris Evans… I was in a bit of trouble
Scott speaks in glowing terms about his career-changing World Championship win, but things didn’t go entirely to plan the morning after he lifted the trophy, when he was due to appear as a guest on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show.
Having been approached at the bar on the night of his victory by Evans’ co-host Vassos Alexander, Scott agreed to be interviewed on the programme – but his plans went awry, leaving Evans less than impressed.
Scott said: “I upset Chris Evans, because I hadn’t got on his radio show.
“I was exhausted. I said ‘I’m the Champion, I should be the last person to leave this room’, so I didn’t leave the hotel bar until 4 in the morning.
“I had stopped drinking and went straight onto coffee.
“I was supposed to be on Chris Evans’ show at half-six or seven, and I just slept through my alarm. I woke up about half-eight, thinking “oh, no!” and I had a load of missed calls.
“Chris Evans’ show finished, and they didn’t get to speak to me.
“I was in a bit of trouble.”
If it didn’t work… it was time to retire
After a brilliant decade in the BDO (British Darts Organisation), Scott recently decided that the time was right to make the switch to the other side of competitive darts, and try his hand as a competitor in PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) tournaments.
The well-documented issues surrounding the running of the BDO played a part in his decision, and Scott admits he was open to the possibility of retirement if swapping to the PDC did not go as planned.
“We knew before the [2020 BDO World Championships] there was a shortage of money. But I had already decided back in October that it was time to go”, Scott said.
“I’d done ten or eleven years there. It was time to go and try the other side. And if it didn’t work, if the sponsors didn’t stay, then it was time to retire.
“I was one of the top players at the BDO, and a favourite for everything. It was really strange to then walk into a room in the PDC, and everybody knowing you, but you haven’t proven anything to them.
“There was a lot of criticism when I went”, he adds. “[People] saying ‘he won’t be good enough’.”
“All I want to do is try to gain respect, and I’ve gone over as an underdog. I’ve not been an underdog for a long time.
“It is absolutely lovely. When you’re playing Gary Anderson and Simon Whitlock, the pressure is on them.
“Chances are, I will only ever be in one [World Championship Final] now. I hope not, because I think I can get one on each side. It would be lovely.”
Scott Mitchell was speaking to ‘The Ultimate Sports Podcast’ on Nerve Media. The entire interview is available to listen to or download from all major podcast websites.