Becoming world darts champion should have been the best thing that happened to Andy Fordham.
The darts player, who has died aged 59, won the 2004 BDO (British Darts Organisation) World Championship at the Lakeside, beating Mervyn King in a thrilling final.
He had reached the top of the game and had the world at his feet.
But that turned out to be a danger.
Fordham, regarded as one of the most popular players in the sport by opponents and fans, later conceded that it was actually the worst thing that could have happened to him – and the manner of the victory tells the real story of his life and career.
Nicknamed the Viking and instantly recognisable for his huge frame – at one point he weighed 31 stone – Fordham confessed that he was drunk during that landmark win.
He was a heavy drinker, a habit born out of running a pub with his wife Jenny, and he reportedly drained a bottle of brandy and 24 bottles of beer before taking to the oche for the biggest night of his life.
He stormed to a memorable 6-3 win over King to put his name alongside some of the greats of the game.
But that was not without consequence, as the limelight and a raft of personal appearances came with free drinks – and he was not one to turn down a free drink.
“Maybe it was one of the worst things that could have happened to me, becoming world champion,” he said in a newspaper interview in 2009.
“I wasn’t used to the limelight. I was so shocked, I’d drink to cover it. You’d get invited here, there and everywhere and everything’s free. Drink is everywhere.
“I just enjoyed drinking. In the end I p***ed away everything I earned.”
That included his health and, after being taken ill during a champion of champions meeting with Phil Taylor several months after his world title win, the full extent of Fordham’s issues was discovered.
In an era when the riches and razzmatazz of the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) were just taking off, in which Fordham could have been alongside Taylor at the front and centre, he was instead being told by doctors that his liver was 75 per cent dead, the remaining 25 per cent was not in great condition, and that he had to stop drinking immediately.
In a bid to get into shape, he enrolled on reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club, but continued to struggle with health issues, including the need for a life-saving bowel operation in 2020.
Fordham was born in Bristol in 1962 as the eldest of four children and grew up in south-east London.
He was an active child, had a keen interest in football and athletics and was nicknamed “The Whippet” at school because of his speed.
His interest in darts coincided with his discovery of pubs and the two went hand in hand for much of his life and career.
Fordham’s incredible ability to perform while under the influence helped make him the player he was, but it also stopped him from achieving much more that his talent and friendly persona deserved.
Paying tribute, his opponent in that world championship, Mervyn King, said: “I will remember Andy in so many ways, I have so many memories. 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.”
Fordham is survived by his wife Jenny and their children Ray and Emily.
If you would like to submit an obituary, or have a suggestion for a subject, contact [email protected]
A message from the Editor
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.