If H M Stanley merits a statue in Denbigh – why not Mark Webster?

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: Mark Webster of Wales celebrates victory in his third round match against Raymond van Barneveld of Holland on day twelve of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on December 27, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

Mark Webster celebrates victory in his third round match against Raymond van Barneveld of Holland on day twelve of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on December 27, 2013. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

So Denbigh saw fit to erect a statue in honour of a man who allegedly supported slavery but are yet to establish a permanent tribute to a world champion sportsman who truly put the town on the map.

Whether you support the petition to remove the memorial to ‘controversial’ locally-born explorer Sir Henry Morton (H M) Stanley, installed by Denbigh Town Council in March 2010, is down to opinion.

Those against it claim the 19th-century figure was guilty of crimes against humanity and supported slavery, yet those in favour will hail Stanley as a man of many talents most famous for his exploration of central Africa.

Two years before Stanley’s statue was put up in Denbigh town centre, Mark Webster was crowned BDO World Darts Champion.

Already a growing star on the global stage, the Denbigh lad, who started playing for the town’s Golden Lion at the age of 12, began the 2008 World Championship as the number one seed due to his success in open events.

Wales watched on in awe as Webster progressed through round after round before beating Simon Whitlock 7–5 in the final to become the third Welshman to win the World Championship of either organisation, after Leighton Rees and Richie Burnett.

The moment it happened I remembered the words of a friend of mine who used to live near Denbigh – David ‘Pim’ McNally.

When I was a reporter on a local newspaper in the Denbigh area, Pim phoned to urge me to keep an eye on a young darts player called Mark Webster, who was probably still county standard at the time, but a youngster the Scotsman said was destined for big things. How right he was.

The year after landing the BDO title at Frimley Green, Webster joined the more lucrative and higher-profile Professional Darts Corporation (PDC).

In his debut at the PDC World Championship in 2010, he defeated established players including Mark Walsh, Peter Manley and Co Stompé to reach the semi-final, where he was outplayed by the great Phil Taylor.

Webster did, however, earn the consolation of third place via a playoff match with Raymond van Barneveld, earning an extra £20,000 in the process and entering the top 32 in the PDC rankings for the first time.

Later that year, as Welsh captain Webby paired up with Barrie Bates for the inaugural 2010 PDC World Cup of Darts, finishing runners-up to the Netherlands.

In 2011, Webster made the PDC World Darts Championship semis again. The quarter-final saw the Denbigh man knock out 15-time and defending world champion Phil Taylor to reach his second successive last-four clash, where he lost 6-4 to Adrian Lewis.

Webster played in the 2011 Premier League and reached his first PDC major final at the Players Championship, losing to Kevin Painter.

After a barren spell, the left-hander saw a welcome return to form at the 2014 World Championship by seeing off Mensur Suljović, John Henderson and Raymond van Barneveld before exiting 5-3 in the last eight to Michael van Gerwen.

Mark Webster on the oche in 2015. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

While remaining a steady performer ever since, with snatches of the old magic, Webster revealed he has been battling dartitis in recent years.

This year he announced he does not intend to participate in the 2020 Q School to regain his tour card. He intends working on getting his game right in order to get back up to his former level.

Webster remains very much part of the sport as he is now an expert summariser on Sky Sports and is doing a great job.

While loved and respected in Denbigh, largely down to the fact he has never forgotten or lost touch with his roots, it is disappointing there is no permanent tribute on show in the town to mark his achievements on the oche.

Statues, plaques or busts do not have to be made when a legend dies, they can be every bit as applicable while the subject is alive.

Although darts has not always enjoyed the best of images in the sporting world, the days of heavy alcohol drinking on stage and huge bellies (for the most part) are long gone.

It is a sport which requires tremendous skill, concentration and dedication. And as a spectator sport, it is massive.

Mark Webster has all of those attributes in abundance. He is the only world darts champion to hail from North Wales and a credit to the town of Denbigh, now and forever.

Whatever your view, it is hard to argue he does not achieve at least equal prominence in his hometown as H M Stanley – if not more so.

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