FRIENDS and family of a Newport darting “genius” have described their sadness at losing a “lovely, generous and kind-hearted” man.

Anthony Ridler – known as Tony – died aged 59 of kidney cancer on January 16 after battling with the illness for five months.

He was a professional darts player for 20 years and represented Wales 39 times throughout his career, winning numerous trophies due to his steady hand.

“It was a pleasure to know him and play darts with him,” said Allan Plant, 74, Mr Ridler’s darts partner for more than 10 years. “I was honoured to be asked to play with him.

“We travelled all over Europe playing together and it was all a pleasure.

“He was a fantastic player, not many could get near Tony. He was one of the only players to play with his right hand lined up with his left eye, which was unorthodox.

“I remember Eric Bristow, world number one at the time, came down to Newport and played an exhibition leg of 1001 against 16 people. He wouldn’t play Tony first as he wanted to get warmed up.

“He did in the end and Tony destroyed him, and was just two darts off the world record of taking out 1001 with 19 darts. That sums up how good Tony was, he was a genius.”

Away from Mr Ridler’s main passion in life, he was a loving father, husband and friend.

“He was liked by everyone that knew him,” said his son, Antony Ridler, 43, “he was a happy go lucky guy who lived for each day and enjoyed himself.

“He was not just my father, but he was my best friend as well. We did everything together and he was the one that got me into darts.

“We played together on the same team as well, which is something that I’ll always cherish.”

Dawn Evans, 49, from Ringland, was Mr Ridler’s sister-in-law.

“It’s extremely sad,” she said. “Tony was a fun loving man who cared for everyone. I remember travelling around to watch him in his prime and it was great times.”

Hundreds of people are expected at Mr Ridler’s funeral, which will be held on February 10.

It will take place at St Stephen’s Church at 2pm followed by cremation at Gwent Crematorium. Friends and family are then invited back to the Clarence Club on Chepstow Road in Newport.