FORMER world champion Andy Fordham was recovering in hospital today after his latest visit to the Lakeside ended with him being carried away on a stretcher before he had even taken to the stage.
`The Viking', reported to be in a "stable" condition after being admitted with a severe chest infection, was taken ill half an hour before his World Championship first-round match against Australia's darts ace Simon Whitlock.
It marked the latest chapter in an eventful career for the popular 44-year-old, whose public profile soared after he captured the British Darts Organisation's most prestigious title in 2004.
A year after that success Fordham was invited to appear on ITV's Celebrity Fit Club and lost four stone as he stopped drinking beer - something he has mainly kept to ever since.
But his health has been the subject of concern for some time and in November 2004 he had to retire from a massive `unification' clash with PDC champion Phil Taylor after suffering an asthma attack.
Fordham's form has also suffered due to the commercial commitments he undertook as a result of his World Championship triumph and Whitlock would have started a hot favourite to beat him.
Yet John `Boy' Walton, who was promoted to centre stage for his match against Brian Sorensen because of the cancellation, thought 26-stone Fordham had recently slimmed down to a degree.
"Andy was saying he had lost some more weight and his rings (on his fingers) had gone slack," said Walton.