On the oche is the Basingstoke Builder, famous in the darts world for his larger-than-life personality and beer-assisted escapades. And he's a nice guy – as long as you don't try to take food from his children's mouths.
It's 7.30pm in the KempShott social club in a remote area of Basingstoke. Professional darts player Colin Monk is standing at the oche with a look of fury on his face.

"To be honest, mate, you could throw darts all day long, but you'll never be any good," he says to me. "You have to be a natural, you see, like me."

It is true that I have just thrown three abysmal arrows into Kempshott's battered darts board, but why such anger, Colin? "Well, a lot has been said, and written, about my darts face," he says as he collects one his shiny new arrows after notching up two 180s with his first six darts. "I can look very angry when I play – but I'm not in this game for the prestige or the trophies, I'm in it for the money. If somebody is trying to beat me they are trying to take money away from me and my family and it makes me want to rip their head off – that's why I take it so seriously."

And with girlfriend Kirstie and four children to support, including three-month-old Chaz (that's them in the photo above), it is easy to see why Monk is so passionate. His aim is to win the Embassy world championship, which is worth £50,000 to the winner, not counting the sponsorship that comes with it. So far, he has only ever made it to the semi-finals – although he has won a bunch of minor tournaments.

Until he does win the big one, Monk will have to stick with the day job. His darts name is "the Basingstoke builder", a moniker he justifies by getting up at 5.30am and driving from Basingstoke to the Isle of Wight to work as a labourer for WAA Contractors.

"It is more than a job," he says. "My boss Alan Benson at WAA is behind me 100%; he is my sponsor and is as good as gold. He doesn't let me do any dangerous work – I don't go anywhere near the cutting machines because they know my fingers are precious," he laughs as he begins idly picking off doubles around the board.

And Monk's bosses have to put up with a lot. They give him time off work to travel across Europe to play in darts exhibition matches, and they have to put up with some of his now notorious drunken activities. "Nearly all the players on the darts circuit have a good drink – it calms the nerves," Monk grins. "World champion Andy "The Viking" Fordham, a great mate of mine, drinks three double brandies before he even leaves the hotel room at 10am, and drinks about 20 bottles of beer before each game. But you have to do it – it steadies the hand, that's the important thing."

Even so, it was no laughing matter for Monk and his employers when he suffered the kind of crippling injury you would normally associate with rugby or football. It was just before Christmas and he was on a tour of Holland. After sinking some a few large ones, he jovially fired an arrow, William Tell-style, next to the head of a Dutch fan who was standing close to the board. Without thinking, the fan tossed the dart back at Monk, who jumped out of the way, lost his balance and severely damage his ankle ligaments. "I was off work for about three weeks on crutches. I had to explain it to them at work, but I think they probably knew I was on the drink again. It's a good example of how they are so good to me."

But Monk, 36, is beginning to tire of life on the road and is thinking about quitting the international scene, as well as his labouring job, so as to be able to look after his children. Partner Kirstie is on maternity leave from her job – she is the only female engineer at Mitie Engineering Services. "The plan could be for me to stay at home, look after the kids and practise my darts while Kirstie goes back to work as the breadwinner – but nothing is finalised," he says.

My boss doesn’t let me do any dangerous work – I don’t go anywhere near the cutting machines because he knows that my fingers are precious

Monk met Kirstie six years ago while playing in an exhibition match, also in Holland. Kirstie went along to watch the tournament with a friend who was dating George Noble, the Embassy world championship's master of ceremonies. "Kirstie was obviously very attracted to me, because I'm a lovely looking bloke," says Monk, before Kirstie pipes up from across the room with a "yeah, right" and pulls a face at him. She explains that Colin has quite a following at Mitie, and says that they all know him there.

Monk says Kirstie is the "brains of the operation". She has a degree in engineering from South Bank University and worked at construction group Kvaerner before moving to Mitie, where she now works in the scientific projects division on schemes for clients such as GlaxoSmithKline and Oxford University. Monk, on the other hand, says that he wasn't really one for school; he misspent his youth beating most of the blokes in his local at darts. Despite this lack of dedication, he still managed to achieve a City and Guilds qualification in construction and went on to work for a road maintenance firm before becoming a general labourer.

The Basingstoke Builder's sensitive side becomes apparent when he starts talking about the reasons for his lack of form in the Embassy earlier this month. He drops his Jack-the-lad, pub-landlord-style hardman persona when he tells of his disappointment at being knocked out in the first round. Just before the championships, and five days before his baby was born, he got a call from his mother to tell him that his father had passed away, aged just 63.

"He was like a mentor to me," Monk says, as his throwing arm pauses in contemplation for the first time since we began the interview. "We talked about anything and everything, so when I began losing in the world finals it all became very emotional for me. And I just lost it a bit, I suppose." The death of his father may also explain in part Monk's decision to stay at home and get in some serious practice.