"Black by Day and Red by Night" 3
Till today on a hill above Dudley you can find the ruins of Dudley Castle - the home of the Barons of Dudley. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1750. In the former castle park you today can find Dudley Zoo. Dudley was during the Industrial Revolution the main town of the Black Country. Today it is scarred by high unemployment and the decline of industry. In the not really appealing city centre you can find the flower bedecked memorial of a popular inhabitant of the not too far yesterdays - a young football player who recalls a very sad story.
The young football player is Duncan Edwards who was born in Dudley in 1936. Edwards seems to have been an outstanding talent who was as a teenager with 13 years spotted by several football clubs. With 16 or 17 he already was a professional with Manchester United. He was the youngest ever player in the English first league. With 18 he gave his debut in the national team. On the 1. February 1958 he played his last match for Manchester United. After it the team travelled to Belgrade for a European Cup match. On the flight home the airplane made a refuelling stop in Munich. During take off the plane veered off the runway and crashed. Seven Manchester players and 14 other passengers died immediately. Edward was dangerously wounded and died on 21. February due to kidney failure in a hospital in Munich. Till today his grave on the cemetery is visited by fans and Dudley remembers Edwards not only with the memorial but with a street and a glass window in the church.
After this sad excursion into football history we better return to the far less sad darts in Wolverhampton. It had been a sunny day and I spent it in nearby Birmingham were already the Christmas marked had opened. The town smelled of roasted almonds and glühwein. It was my last day at the Grand Slam and the first day of the knockout phase. Only four matches were played but the format was much longer.
First Dave Chisnall and Ryan Harrington came on stage and it soon was pretty clear Chisnall was the far better player. Chisnall won seven of the first eight legs of the match and all Harrington had to offer by then had been an outstanding 154 Finish. Harrington managed to hit two more legs to better his result. But it was not enough to stop Chisnall. And so Chisnall was the first player to progress into the quarterfinals.
The second match was the match between Glen Durrant and German Gabriel Clements who had been one of the surprise players of the tournament. Of course that was the match I had most eagerly anticipated. First it looked quite good for the German who got the lead several times though he couldn't get rid of Durrant who always managed to level the match. When it was 9:8 for Clements the tension was almost palpable and seemed even to reach the usually very composed German Giant. He missed with his Matchdart and Durrant drew level once again. In the deciding match it was Durrant who hit the right scores and who won with 10:9. It was the only time in the match Durrant had the lead.
With Michael Smith and Daryl Gurney again two seemingly evenly matched players stood at the oche next. Gurney had the better start and was 3:1 in the lead soon. But Smith finally levelled 4:4 and got into the lead. Gurney won several more legs during the remainder of the match but ever regained his lead or even levelled. Smith showed another strong performance and progressed into the quarterfinals.
In the last match of the night Peter Wright played against Rob Cross. Wright had shown good performances so far, Cross had played solid but not really convincing so for me Wright was the favourite to win the match. Till the first break Cross was able to keep up with Wright. After it Wright pulled away. For Cross nothing came together any longer and his scoring power had gone as well. So he had only a few chances to throw at the doubles at all. Wright could celebrate a 10:3 win and to be sure had far less problems to progress into the quarterfinals then he had expected.
For the last time I used the shuttle bus back into the city. It first looked it would be another quiet trip but in the last moment a group of male teenagers entered the bus and fired the atmosphere. Every suitable and not so suitable darts song was sung on the way back. A Japanese bus passenger was absolutely fascinated and recorded everything. When we left the bus it had started to rain again. On my way back to the hotel all the songs slowly faded away in the distance.