Exclusive: Bunting Wants Double Celebration.

STEPHEN BUNTING is hoping for a double celebration of Liverpool winning the Premier League and then qualifying for the World Matchplay. The 2014 BDO World Champion admits he is buzzing that sport is back on the big stage with his beloved Reds on the verge of title success.

‘The Bullet’ will bid to grab his place in the Matchplay with five crucial Players Championships events in Milton Keynes from July 8. He said:

“I watched the football on Wednesday but it’s a bit weird without the fans and no atmosphere.

But obviously, when Liverpool are on I’ll be glued to the telly”.

“Watching the derby with Everton 7pm kick-off on Sunday is going to be strange in itself. I still think we’ll win the game then hopefully we can wrap up the title on Wednesday against Palace.

“Being at home has been so boring with no darts and also no football. It’s crazy. Me as a fan I look forward to games so much. You learn to appreciate sport so much.”

Bunting will need to hit the ground running for the Summer Series and reach the Matchplay on July 18.

The Bullet is currently World No.17 and will miss out on qualification unless he can outgun his nearest Order of Merit challengers in Milton Keynes. He also admits it will be a weird scenario at the Marshalls Arena, unlike any other ProTour event held before.

For diabetic players such as himself, Ian White, Andy Hamilton and Jamie Caven, the return to action poses extra problems.

He added: “The way it has worked out for me it makes it very difficult. Obviously I’ve just got to get to Milton Keynes and forget about everything and go and play.

“I’m 17 in the rankings. There’s also a possibility that not all the top 16 seeded players are going to come over for it, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. I can never count my chickens.

“Obviously I’ll be trying my hardest in Milton Keynes to earn that spot. I think I’m about £3,000 behind on the ProTour Order of Merit.

“If I can have a good five days in Milton Keynes then I can make it to Blackpool in my own right.

“It’s going to be a weird situation as well. We don’t know what’s happening or what the new protocols are. 

“A big thing for me is travelling as well. Obviously I’ve got Type-2 diabetes so I’ve still got to be very careful. Getting to the venue is important and once you are there it’s OK.”

Bunting also reveals that he has made a huge decision to change his diet and lifestyle with so much information regarding Covid-19 affecting the vulnerable in society, which includes diabetes sufferers.

He added:

“My wife has bought me an exercise bike and I’ve been on that every day. I’ve changed my diet and I’m trying to do things away from the oche to make myself fitter”.

“A few family members have lost loads of weight in the past and are no longer diabetic so that’s something I can try and do. It’s going to benefit me in the long run with having more energy”.

“We’re on a healthy meal club and we get set 12 meals for a week sent to you. It’s perfect and I’m enjoying that and getting used to the exercise regime. 

“I’m taking it slowly, not trying to be Superman right away.

Just building up the amounts I do so I don’t burn myself out!

“I’ve also tried to change my lifestyle by not staying up so late at night on the PlayStation. I’m going to bed earlier and waking up fresher with more energy.”.

Pix: Taylor Lanning

Exclusive: Thank Evans For “Mad Ricky”.

RAPID Ricky Evans admits he’ll always be a bit “mad” as he aims to finally shake off the oche joker tag with major titles. The Kettering ace is never short on laughs as arguably the wackiest star of the oche and has spent lockdown dressed as a cheerleader and in a blue morph costume on social media.

As per usual with the World No.29 it has been a wacky few months as he’s got kitted up for the Clap For Carers every Thursday night. Evans, 29, said:

“My dad and I have done three Clap For Carers dressing up nights. He collects masks and anyone who knows us knows I am just my dad 30 or 40 years ago. He’s nuts. “He’s got at least 100 masks. He’ll go on ebay and see a Donald Trump mask and buy it. He’ll buy any old rubber latex mask. 

“On one Thursday night, I was in a blue morph suit, wearing a PDC shirt on an exercise bike. I’ve been a cheerleader so far as well.” “My dance I did at the Ally Pally in December has been watched a few times and turned into a GIF. I still don’t know what happened then.”

Evans – who threw a 180 in 2.16 seconds in the Worlds three years ago – also also feared he’d be too quick for his own WiFi in the PDC Home Tour.

He added: “My board is in a little darts room that my mum and dad made for me when I was a teenager. I had to tell my mum and dad to stay off WiFi after 6.30 pm.

“Because I’m a quick player it was hard. Usually, I’m always on my tiptoes ready to throw against my opponent. It was weird having no one in front of me. It slowed me down a bit and certainly upset my rhythm.

“The biggest problem was that my phone camera wasn’t able to keep up with my throw, my throw is too quick for WiFi to trust me.

“I was looking forward to all the tournaments and trying to qualify for the big TV events. I’m usually away for 40 weeks a year, I was in 2019 and that was very successful for me.

“I had hit form for a few months just before the lockdown. Now it’s a weird one whether to practice hard or not.“Last year was awesome for me, I qualified for everything apart from the Grand Slam. I was a seed for the Europeans which was great.

“I ran into Michael (van Gerwen) in the Worlds. It wasn’t a 4-0 defeat game, I missed some big chances. But that’s why he’s World No.1 and I’m World No.29.”

Evans also admits that he’s unlikely to stop being the oche madman – unless he starts winning majors. He said: “I’m just me and that might not change ever. I’m serious on the oche. I’m never going to be the most serious player in the world. If I started making semi-finals and finals that jovial stuff would wear off a bit I’m sure. “I think people would get bored of my silly walk-ons and facial expressions. Maybe I could wear a mask!

“Until then I won’t change, I’ll always be a bit mad.”

Saved By The Bull? Aspinall Thanks Price For Kick-Starting His Rise.

NATHAN ASPINALL goes into the BetFred World Matchplay as a title favourite but admits his career changed by a missed bullseye.

The World No.7 became the inaugural PDC Home Tour lockdown champion three weeks ago and is fired-up for the first major back on the big stage in a month’s time.

But the Stockport ace, 28, revealed he doesn’t think he’d be the latest star of the oche if Gerwyn Price had beaten him at the Worlds two years ago.

He said: “I often do wonder what would have happened if he had hit the bull to beat me three-nil in sets in the second round of the World Championships two years ago. Would I be wear I am now as World No.7?

“Hand on my heart I don’t think I would be. I really really don’t. I do think that game, me beaten someone of his calibre, he was pretty much the best player in the world at that time. To beat him on the biggest stage made me think I am actually good enough.

“I do think that moment and that game changed my whole career. So thank you Gerwyn Price!

“Our sport is 10 per cent ability, 90 per cent in the head. I’m quite strong minded. There’s some players that are and some aren’t. When you are confident and everything is right in your head and at home, it flows.”

Aspinall also admits that other pivotal moments came when he lost the 2015 World Youth Championships to Max Hopp in a deciding leg and then winning his first Players Championship three years later when he was penniless.

He added: “Not many speak about the Youth final to be fair, it absolutely broke me. For six months I couldn’t win a game, I was a broken man. It proper screwed me up. If I hadn’t lost that title I would have got a place in the Worlds and I would have retained my tour card. But I think that’s helped me be the player I’ve become now.

“It means I can dig deep and come back from positions that not many other players can come back from.

“I think that stems from games like that against Max

early on in my career where I’ve had a right good uppercut and now I’ve become stronger”.

“I won my first Players Championship in Barnsley and I didn’t have any money to get a taxi from the Metrodome to the train station. I had no money left but I had just won 10 grand!

“I walked to the train station with a suitcase on the train. I got home and thought ‘wow I can’t wait for that to clear because I’m skint’.

“I was buzzing, it was another moment in my career that I thought I am good enough to make a living out of darts.”

Now Aspinall can’t wait to get back onto the big stage for the Matchplay and he’ll start as a real contender for the title.

He added: “I’m just hoping I can kick off where I left off before lockdown. I’ve upped my practice, I’m playing really well.

“I never thought I’d miss the darts as much as I have. I’ve missed the darts, the lads, the craic, all the things that come with the darts tour.

“We’ve got the Summer Series on July 8 before the Matchplay which is a great idea with the PDC.

“You can play at home in matches and hit big averages but they count for nothing, it’s what happens on the big stage.

“To put the five days of Players Championships on before is a great shout and hopefully that will get rid of some rust and get us ready for the Matchplay, wherever that will be.

“Personally I’d love it to be at Blackpool but I can’t see it. Obviously we’ll have to see what happens on July 4 when the Government announces the next move. But I do think it’s going to be at an alternative venue and likely to be Milton Keynes.”

Pictures by Taylor Lanning

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Exclusive! Bravedart Battles COVID Fears.

OCHE legend Jamie Harvey has revealed he is terrified that catching Coronavirus would kill him and is fearful of the consequences for others in a similar position.

Jamie Harvey a.k.a ‘Bravedart’ has previously battled cancer, but Covid-19 holds additional fears for the legendary Scottish player. (Pic: PDC)

The former world No.4 was diagnosed with throat cancer 11 years ago, had a 10-hour op to save his life, then underwent chemo and radiotherapy. He also had his voicebox removed and had a permanent laryngectomy stoma fitted to enable him to speak. In all, he lost four stone during the extensive treatment.

Yet battling Bravedart has lived up to his nickname by continuing to play in local leagues and attending big events over the past five years. But Harvey, 64, admits he is frightened of catching COVID-19 and the lack of relevant information.

Jamie revealed:

“I wish I could put my mind at rest but I can’t. Having had a laryngectomy my voice box was removed and a plastic valve inserted instead.

“I can’t breath from my nose or mouth, I breath from a hole in my neck”.

The Coronavirus is here looks like for a long time. I am 64-years-old, my concerns for me and other people who’ve had a laryngectomy are what do we do, we can’t breath through our mouths or noses only through the orifice in our necks.”

“The daunting thing is I have been in and out of hospitals for a few months now. Also the local doctor’s surgery. Not once has any doctor or nurse explained to me what we do to protect themselves against this disease which is spreading faster than butter”.

“They say do not touch face or mouth. That’s no use to us as I myself have to clean my stoma about on average between 20 to 40 times a day, not one specialist doctor or local surgery doctor can tell me what hygiene we are to do during this worrying time.

“There’s also no mention about anything at any time what kind of masks we wear for our throats. “l’ve got to put my finger on the button on my neck to talk to anybody. I think especially the doctors don’t know enough about the effect on people who have had a laryngectomy or this disease. 

“Please doctors and nurses get your fingers out and help us because my finger is in my hole for the rest of my life. 

“Hopefully I won’t catch this virus because it will kill me. Thoughts please I’m lost? They must help people with who have had a laryngectomy, it’s frightening.”

Exclusive: ‘The Power’ Talks To Darts World.

PHIL TAYLOR believes that Gary Anderson will be “reborn” when darts returns after lockdown. The 16-times World Champion has been back in the spotlight thanks to online events with Paddy Power against Raymond van Barneveld and Fallon Sherrock.

The Power is still in the darts limelight after recent online specials.

But The Power is predicting a big comeback for pal Ando who finished runner-up in the PDC Home Tour a fortnight ago. He also laughed off suggestions by Michael van Gerwen that he only made controversial statements to stay in the spotlight.

Taylor said: “Someone like Gary Anderson will benefit from this enforced break. The time at home with his family will do him a world of good – he will almost be a player reborn.

A player reborn? The Power thinks the time with his family will benefit Anderson.

“I’d have loved being in Michael’s day as his peak. I do enjoy his company to be quite honest, he’s a funny lad.

“Am I trying to wind him up? No.

The question was who would be World No.1 if not Michael, it would be Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price is also climbing up the rankings. “But Michael will lose the fact that people are scared of him. He isn’t winning the titles like he used to.

“Do I need publicity? Not really. I think I’ve done 30 years at the top. If he can do 20 years at the top he’ll be doing well. “But he doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Do I care? No, not really. I’m quite happy where I am. “I can’t run him down, the lad has done brilliantly.

Is MVG missing his duels with The Power?

“You need someone on a pedestal and Michael was the one who took over from me. But I don’t think Michael will ever get me out of his head. “If you asked him truthfully, he misses me. Because it’s not the same. A lot of the players have told me this. The practice room where it used to be brilliant, ask James Wade, ask Gary, they say it’s dead. The characters are not there anymore.

“So deep down I think Michael would love me to come back as a rival. And then you’d see Michael up his game again because he’d have no choice.”

Taylor is convinced that the dominant MVG will find it hard now that he has a young family and a new baby son who was born in early April.

He added: “I’m really pleased for him. There’s nothing like fatherhood for changing your life. But it will get harder for him now – when you have to leave your loved ones week in, week out to play in the Premier League, and you’re only at home one or two nights a week, it’s really tough. Especially when your family is so young.“

Back in the day, I had to spend a lot of time on the road to pay the bills because there wasn’t a lot of money in the game. I got £24,000 for winning my first world title – now you get £500,000. But it’s getting harder and harder because the schedule is so full, and the travel is relentless.”

Pix: Taylor Lanning

Wacky White Wants Worlds Win!

WACKY Ian White is adamant he can be a World Champion…and then take the trophy off stage in a CARRIER BAG!

The real, very funny, Ian White is not often seen on stage or in front of a TV camera.

The Stoke star has been one of the most consistent stars on the oche and simply one of the best in the world in the Pro Tours. Diamond, 49, finally shattered his big stage quarter-final hoodoo last December by reaching the Players Championship last four.

But the joker in the PDC pack would definitely deliver a unique winning ceremony at the Ally Pally with another of his bag for laugh pranks.He said: “The carrier bag thing started when Gary Anderson beat me in one final. Years ago they used to interview the winner and runner-up, now they don’t bother. 

“My era was Morecambe and Wise…

it was like their sketch of Eric walking off at the end of the show.“

So when Gary was getting interviewed, at the end I walked away in the background with my stuff in a carrier bag and I said ‘I’m going now, ta-ra’! “After that, the same thing happened in another tournament with James Wade and I walked past with a wheelie bin shouting ‘any empties?’

“So what I’ll do at the Ally Pally is win the World Championship and walk off stage with it in a carrier bag!”

White is undoubtedly one of the most popular players on the circuit. He is practice partners with Michael Smith and close pals with Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson, James Wade and Ryan Harrington, they all share a table on the ProTour circuit.

He believes that table can produce more trophies, adding: “I can be World Champion, definitely. I’m playing well. I’m working on a few bits but I should be OK.

“I’m knocking on the door at the moment and I just need one good tournament. I’m so close. “I’m a good character at exhibitions and on Twitter, everyone sees how much fun I am.

But when I’m up on stage I’m up there to do a job. I don’t jump around the stage. I might give it large if I win the game, that’s the extent of it though.“I know people went on about my quarter-final thing but at the end of the day I’ve got the best job in the world.“ “I enjoy what I’m doing and it’s paying for me. I can’t knock it” . 

“A lot of the people who criticise you on social media would love to be in my position. I do read it. And people are entitled to their opinions and we’ve got to watch what we say being in this spotlight. So I just sing on Twitter instead. That’s who I am!

“I think if I give up this job I going to dress up as a clown and entertain kids, that’s something I could be very good at.“

I practice with Michael Smith and we are great pals. He’s going to be one top dart player in years to come.“ “We all know we can do it, every player does. When we are on form, we can beat anyone. But every single player can do that in the practice room. It’s just timing and producing it when you need to.“I think we’ve all got the talent, it’s just whether it comes out on the day.“It would be lovely to get to play Michael in a final.

But there a few of us as friends, Adrian and Gary. We have a good table and all sit together on the Pro Tour. Us four plus James, Ryan. We are all playing well.“We’re a bit of a team on that table. It’s a hard tour all year so if you can make it enjoyable, it definitely makes a difference. “We spend a lot of time together, every weekend almost. It’s nice to have a great atmosphere.”

Images: Taylor Lanning

Van Gerwen To Dominate for a Decade!

MIGHTY Michael Van Gerwen has blasted that he’s still “hungry” to dominate for another DECADE.

The mean, green winning machine opted out of the lockdown online PDC Home Tour to dedicate time to his new son and practice. In his absence, there’s been an awful lot of chat from rivals that his rule at the top of the sport could be on the slide. But MVG has dismissed any such talk.

He told the Sky Sports podcast:

“Of course I want to play darts but I didn’t really fancy it.

That is my own opinion and everyone thinks differently about it. Other people like to do it, but I don’t.

“I practice a lot with Vincent van der Voort, who is a very good friend of mine. We had a lot of battles and I think for myself, that’s better preparation than the Home Tour, so that is why I chose not to play the Home Tour. It’s for myself and nobody else.”Practice has been going well, really good to be fair. Lots of people competed in the Home Tour so you know if they’re playing well or not so well, but nobody knows anything about me, but I can tell you now, nothing has changed, trust me.

“Of course I’m going to come back with a bang. What I noticed is that I really missed playing on the highest level and that was a good sign to myself.

‘Hey, I’m still hungry to win more titles.’ I still want to be the best for another five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years.”

This charming Dutchman, ever the consummate professional has been an incredible leader for the sport. He removed Phil Taylor from the throne of World No.1 when he became World Champion in 2014.

MVG is undoubtedly the man to beat, the yardstick, racking up 54 televised titles and 77 other ranking events.Yet he was still under huge scrutiny when he switched to Winmau at the start of the year until he won the last major player, the UK Open.

He added: “There was a lot of talk about me. I moved over to Winmau, my new sponsor and darts manufacturer. There were a lot of question marks behind my name until I played the UK Open.“I played a phenomenal tournament over there, smashed everyone up and that gave me a lot of confidence. You need to believe in your ability, to know where your strengths and weaknesses are. I don’t have many weaknesses I know that.“

“I always say you need to invest in something and you need to give yourself some time and that is exactly what I did and it worked out quite well.”

It was announced on Friday that five Players Championship events are set to be held behind-closed-doors at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena from July 8-12, subject to the UK Government’s quarantine policy on overseas visitors. With the World Matchplay also set to go-ahead on July 18, it also seems increasingly likely that it will be held at the Marshall Arena rather than the iconic Winter Gardens.

Incredibly, Van Gerwen has failed to go beyond the quarter-finals at the Matchplay since winning in 2016. He added: “At this stage, nobody knows if you are going to play with a crowd or without a crowd. If I had to gamble I would say it will be without a crowd.

“This is bigger than the darts. This is about what is going to happen for the rest of the world. I am just a person in this scenario.

“If I can travel, I will be there. I didn’t perform well in the last two years at the World Matchplay. I have got nothing to defend at all so I think I might be hungry for that title.”

CELEBDARTY! Fallon adjusts to fame and maybe a jungle.

ARROWS queen Fallon Sherrock admits it would be easier to tackle eating bugs and face huge spiders on I’m A Celebrity than beat a man at the Ally Pally.

The Milton Keynes mum-of-one is still basking in the limelight after becoming the first woman to beat a man in the PDC World Championships and grab a draw with Glen Durrant in the Premier League.While her World Series debut has been put on ice until 2021, Sherrock admits she could be set for even bigger things off the oche.

She admits: “I think in the long run I might get some opportunities to push myself a bit further. I’m not really what just yet, I’m taking each day as it comes. I’ve had a couple of things come up, I’m not going to say anything because they’re not confirmed yet. Fingers crossed.“Obviously any opportunity like that if it came my way, I’d take it. I think everyone would take it if they got the opportunity. I’ve never been afraid to challenge myself, so anything different I will go for it. I’m so excited to see what happens in the future. “I can dance, a little bit. Can I eat bugs? Yes no problem. Spider and heights are much easier than beating a man at the Ally Pally, any day of the week!”

Sherrock has been flooded with messages from celebs since her wins over Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic at the Ally Pally including Billie Jean King and Sex In The City star Sarah Jessica Parker. She even played in a celeb event with Italian football legend Luca Toni.

Sherrock added: “It has started to sink in the amount of messages I had from people. It’s disbelief to get messages from these massive people and they know who I am. They are talking about me. I’m just a normal person. It’s just incredible. I’m so proud and happy with everything. “I’ve had a lot from Jacqui Oatley, she was messaging me support throughout the Worlds. I’ve met some more celebs, I played darts with Luca Toni in Germany, he was awesome. He congratulated me. I’ve had so much, I’ve lost count.”

Sherrock, who has certainly backed up her stage performances with impressive lockdown online displays, admits she’s suddenly got a big target on her back.

But she dismisses any suggestion that the pressure is too much on her shoulders, adding: “It’s not really been that difficult. I have got a target on my back now, I never had that before. Instead of people saying ‘I’ve got to play her, it’s fine’, now everyone wants to beat Fallon Sherrock, she is the one we want to beat.“I’m so happy about that in one way because it means I’ve got a game on my hands and I always like to be pushed as much as I can. In that respect I’m really happy.

“I don’t take any notice of stuff said on social media. If I see anything negative I just don’t read it. If anything it just spurs me on a bit more. I want to prove everyone wrong and makes me even more determined. I know what I can do, I’ve just never had the opportunity to prove it before.“I’ve possibly got a bit more pressure on me but I don’t put pressure on myself. I just try and ignore everything going on around me and play my own darts.“

I’m really happy that Lisa Ashton got the tour card it proves again that us women can compete with the men. Now there’s two women that are going to beat the men.“Getting through Q School is such a hard thing to do so that was an achievement in itself for Lisa. I feel so proud and positive that she will go week-in, week-out and so us proud. It’s only going to push the ladies’ game even further. It’s all positives.”

World No.1 Michael Van Gerwen is in the same Modus Sports stable as Sherrock and has helped her deal with the pressures of instant fame.And several of the game’s superstars have reached out to her with guidance after nasty trolls subjected her to social media abuse. But criticism from keyboard warriors is nothing compared to the battle mum-of-one Sherrock faces in looking after autistic son Rory. Not that the five-year-old has any moans about his mum’s new hectic lifestyle.

She added: “I’ve explained to him what I’m doing when I’m going away and he loves it. Now he just wants to try and play darts and always try and hit the bullseye!“All through the week though it’s mummy’s rules for him and then he’s away at my mum’s and he’s got no rules, he sees it as a little holiday. So he’s loving life at the moment.“I feel like I’m doing this all for him. It was hard for me being away from him. But I call him on FaceTime three times every day I’m away. So I still feel like I’m there. It’s working well at the moment.

“I’m doing all this work for him. I want to do this for the long run, for his future.

It just makes me want to carry on and do my best.”

Pix: Taylor Lanning.

Wright’s No ‘Plastic Jock’- The Truth Behind Snakebite’s National Pride.

I’m passionate about my upbringing. I was only taken from Scotland so my mum could keep me. “I’m happy to tell my story now and hope people realise that I am a true Scot. I hate it when people say I’m not

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Peter Wright invites many assumptions, to be made about him, most are false. But perhaps the most hurtful are those concerning his national identity! The ‘plastic Jock’ tag is easily thrown around by those seeking to provoke controversy on social media or to gain a reaction from fans and supporters, but it does not hold water.

Wright might be based in Suffolk and sound more Bernard Matthews than Billy Connolly but his heart beats blue and white Saltire after his early life in West Lothian. Wright admits his burning passion for Scotland was born after his mum RAN AWAY with him when he was just three years old. He revealed that one night his young mum Jean took him away 40 years ago leaving West Lothian for London.

Wright, 49, has never met his father, who was in jail when he was born, and has lived an almost nomadic lifestyle since his mum left Scotland with him in 1973. In truth, he is a total contradiction of persona v personality. The oche punk look could not be further from his real character. He’s quiet, reserved and verging on shy, very softly spoken and emotional.

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Wright was close to tears when he admitted: “My mum was 16 when she had me and my dad was in jail.“But her sisters didn’t think she was up to bringing me up at one stage and they were apparently talking about taking me off her.

“So my mum decided one night to just run away with me to London when I was only three.“It was obviously a very difficult time for her but that’s the only reason I left Scotland.“We were in London until I was 18 and then I’ve lived in so many places since then – Suffolk, Norfolk, Cheshire, Ayrshire. “I’ve probably turned out for more counties in darts than any other player – I’ve represented all the places I’ve lived in. “I’ve settled in Suffolk now and my mum lives above my wife’s hairdressers down with us. But my heart still remains in Scotland. “My true identity is that I am Scottish – I’ve got Scottish blood running through my veins. “I’m passionate about my upbringing. I was only taken from Scotland so my mum could keep me. “I’m happy to tell my story now and hope people realise that I am a true Scot. I hate it when people say I’m not. I’m proud of my country and even prouder to represent it.” Wright burst on to the scene six years ago by reaching the World Championship Final and has since been consistent at the highest level before landing the big one on New Year’s Day.

Pictures by Taylor Lanning

Voltage – Digging For Glory!

REVVED-UP Rob Cross won a small fortune but ditched plans to buy a Bentley and went for a JCB DIGGER instead.The Hastings battler landed a fairytale William Hill World Championship just 18 months into his professional career in early 2018.

However on the eve of aiming to regain his World Matchplay crown, Voltage admits he didn’t splash the cash on four-wheeled glitz, he bought something for digging a ditch!The former electrician, nicknamed Voltage, said: “My mates thought I was mad, it was like I’d won the Lottery getting 400 grand at the Ally Pally after beating Phil Taylor.

“I was in a whirlwind for a month, like an out of body experience, seriously it was very weird”.

“My mates thought I had seriously lost the plot when I said I was buying a JCB.“To be honest, that’s just the way I am. I’m not a flashy bloke, I don’t wear jewellery or even an expensive watch. It’s not my thing.“All I had in my mind is that I wanted to invest in a new house and knew I’d need a new digger so I bought one.“The maddest thing of all now is that I’ve got the house and so much work is being done. My first instinct is to do it all myself like I would have in the past.“Now I haven’t even got time to do the wiring so I’ve had to get an electrician in to do my own job. How crazy is that?“

“But I’m really bad to work for because I check and double-check all the work done. If I don’t like it the poor guy has to start all over again. I’m a perfectionist and I expect everything done to my standard.” Cross, 29, was invited to JCB HQ in Uttoxeter at the end of last year after they found out his love for their diggers.

Voltage was undoubtedly blown away by the outstanding story of the family-run JCB company which was founded by Joseph Cyril Bamford CBE in 1945 in a garage in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. Now they employ 15,000 with a turnover of £4.1billion, making around 100,000 machines every year. The company makes their own engines – and they have just powered the JCB Fastrac tractor to a Guinness World Record as the world’s fastest tractor reaching 135mph!

JCB is a family business and the son of the founder Lord Bamford been at the helm as Chairman since 1975 and celebrates its 75th anniversary on October 23rd, 2020. Cross added: “I love to see British succeed. I’m very patriotic and this is a great British firm which has been built from nothing by one family to a major global company, supplying machinery all over the world.

“What a great story that is. The plant in Uttoxeter is so impressive. The likes of The Queen, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Nancy Reagan have all visited”.

The tour was conducted by a brilliant guy Les Humphries who had been with the company for 51 years! “Their media man Nigel Chell, another great character has been there for over 20 years. That shows how much they all love the firm and care for it. Some families have got four generations who have worked there.

“I was like a kid in a candy shop at JCB. What an amazing company and to see all the history of a family firm was fantastic. But I could have bought at least three diggers”!

“It seems a bit iconic considering how close to Stoke this place is, and that’s the home of darts legends like Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis.”

“The most amazing thing is that Eric Bristow’s son worked for JCB recently and so did Ray Reardon’s boy. I couldn’t believe that.“I suppose this is the perfect place for me. Even while playing I get myself into some right holes which I need to dig myself out of.“I beat Daryl Gurney in the World Matchplay semi-final 17-15 after being 15-9 down. I said that night I needed a digger to get myself out of trouble. I’ve always been like that. I did that a few times in my run to the World Championship in 2018.”

Cross has certainly buried any chat of his being a one-hit major wonder, adding the World Matchplay and European Championship titles in 2019 and reaching the Premier League and UK Open finals – taking his prize money to a shade under £1million in two years.

He added:

“I’ve done alright, I’ve proved myself this year I think a bit more. But there’s more work to do, I want to be World No.1″

“…… always set fresh targets.“I still believe I’m very inexperienced at the top level. My best is definitely yet to come. I certainly want to add more World Championships, many more. “I look at Lewis Hamilton winning six Formula One titles, that’s seriously impressive to be at the very top for so long in any sport. I don’t think anyone appreciated with Phil Taylor did in darts to win 16 Championships.

“….. I love my country, I love seeing my country doing well. I was buzzing to see us win the cricket World Cup, Ben Stokes was just unbelievable”.

“I must admit those sort of performances really get me fired up. I’m straight back on the practice board wanting to achieve more.” “That’s what makes me tick really. The motivation for me comes in all different ways. That’s why I know I can go on to achieve so much. I’ve done a great deal in a very short space of time. Now I can focus on a big future.“There’s a lot to win. And a lot more diggers to buy!”

A previous version of this article appeared in OCHE magazine.

Picture by Taylor Lanning