Former darts world champion Andy Fordham has died at the age of 59.
Tributes have flooded in for Fordham, nicknamed 'The Viking', after the British Darts Organisation announced the death of one of the sport's most popular players.
A BDO statement read: “The British Darts Organisation are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of the darts legend Andy (The Viking) Fordham, a true gentleman of the game who will deeply missed by all. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Life and career of Andy Fordham
Bristol born Fordham grew up in Charlton, in south east London, and was the eldest of four children, with a younger brother and two younger sisters.
Despite his physical appearance in adulthood, Fordham was nickamed 'The Whippet' at school and excelled in sports, including track and field athletics and football.
But in the mid-1990s he tried his hand at darts, became really good, and started running his own pub when it is thought his weight gain began with drinking and takeaway food.
He won the BDO World Championship final in 2004 at the Lakeside after a 6-3 win over Mervyn King and paraded the trophy on the pitch of two football clubs he supported.
He showed the BDO World Championship trophy off at Ibrox, in Scotland, before a Rangers game and at half time at The Den, in London, the home of Millwall.
Following Fordham’s 2004 win, he took on PDC World Champion Phil Taylor later that year in a clash dubbed ‘The Showdown’ at the Circus Tavern but breathing difficulties forced him to retire trailing 5-2 in the best-of-13 contest.
After a health scare, where doctors told Fordham his liver was 75 per cent dead, he enrolled on reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club and joined the Professional Darts Corporation in 2009.
Fordham would later return to the BDO and qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts in 2015 where he claimed a first televised win in 10 years over Wayne Jones.
But experienced further health problems and required a life-saving bowel operation in 2020. He was diagnosed with Covid 19 at the start of 2021.
What has the family of Andy Fordham said after his death?
As tributes for Andy Fodham came flooding in, his family took to social media to express their thanks to all the well wishers.
His wife Jenny posted from his Twitter handle @viking180: "This is Jenny. Thank you all so much for your kind words. Andy was, is and always will be my champion."
The words were followed by three emojis - a golden trophy, red heart and blue heart.
The post has been liked more than 10,000 times and retweeted hundreds more, as people continued to comment in reply to the passing of one of darts' most popular players.
Tributes to Andy Fordham
Former darts player and ex-BBC pundit Bobby George said: “Just heard the devastating news that Andy Fordham has passed away.
“He was a gentle giant and loved by all. Our condolences go out to his wife Jenny, family and friends. RIP Andy Fordham, The Viking.”
James Wade, who started out in the BDO before he switched to the PDC where he has since won 10 titles, tweeted: “God bless my friend Andy Fordham.
“What a pleasure it was been your friend and spending time with you. Thoughts are with his family. Cheers Hamlet.”
Fordham’s triumph at the 2004 BDO World Championships occurred after four previous defeats in the semi-final stage.
Steve Beaton had handed his “great friend” one of those losses in 1996 in the first of six meetings between the duo.
“So very saddened to hear of the passing away of Andy Fordham,” former world number one Beaton said on Twitter.
“Not only a great friend but a sporting legend who I had the pleasure of knowing for many a year. Our thoughts are with Jenny and the family. RIP my friend.”
The Showdown remembered
Despite the hype, Fordham’s match against PDC World Champion Phil Taylor in 2004 – dubbed ‘The Showdown’ at the Circus Tavern – came to a premature end.
PDC chairman Barry Hearn said: “Andy was one of the most recognisable players worldwide throughout his career and extremely popular around the world.
“His 2004 win at Lakeside will always be remembered as the greatest moment of Andy’s career and we also knew how much it meant to him when he qualified for the Grand Slam a decade later.
“He was a great personality and a lovely man, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”