Our regular ‘This Week’ review features a unique event and some stages posts on the PDC’s journey to its current impressive position. March 30th – April 4th hashad some superb moments over the years:
30 Years Ago: World Champions Challenge
Imagine an event where every living/active World Champion met in a special one off tournament. Today’s would include Taylor, Lowe, Priestley, Barney, Adams, Part, Hankey and many more.
The (1990) World Champions Challenge was a unique event. All seven WDF/BDO World Champions appeared, six played the first round with Eric Bristow gaining a semi final place via a bye. Kieth Deller narrowly defeated Jockey Wilson, Bob Anderson removed Leighton Rees and Phil Taylor was crushed by John Lowe.
The semis saw Eric defeat Keith, a modicum of revenge for 1983?, and Anderson move past Lowe and into the final. The Limestone Cowboy claimed the crown in fine style, besting Eric by three sets to one, to become the first and Champion of World Champions!
Although the event was staged again the following year, with Priestly being added as the new and eighth World Champ,it did not have the same feel or format. Players such as Mike Gregory, Dave Whitcomb and Peter Evison were added despite not being World Champions.
Bob Anderson therefor lays claim to a truly unique notch on his ‘gunbelt’.
12 Years Ago: Taylor Bags Six of The Best
The PDC Pro Tour, as we now know it, was beggining to take firm shape. Every month featured Players Championships, UK Open qualifiers or TV and other events. This week saw Phil Taylor in the middle of a run of six Pro Tour events in a row.The last of these was the Midlands Final of the UK Open qualifiers. The Power was utterly dominant whitewashing Brendan Dolan(8-0) in the final. For good measure, Taylor then claimed the, non ranked, London Masters to make it seven PDC events on the bounce.
4 Years Ago: Development Tour Flexes It’s Muscles
Four Development Tour events were claimed, by four different players, over this weekend, four years ago:
Adam Hunt, who has long been known to have superb potential and recently reclaimed his PDC Pro Tour Card, Josh Payne who has already achieved much in top level darts including senior Pro Tour titles and a UK Open qtr-final place, Steve Lennon has also claimed other PDC titles as well as reaching the Quarters of a PDC major. In addition, Steve reached the final of the World Cup with Willie O’Conner. Callum Loose is the fourth member of this impressive group. Though is yet to match the others in terms of measurably achievement, it’s not too late and many report that Callum is just as talented.
It is no surprise to see the level of talent out there. The structure built, by the PDC, over the last decade enables more of it to be developed, and showcased, and later to earn a very good living from “chucking sharp things at a round thing” as some would call it!
Darts World have observed the resurgence of Harrows, over recent months and years, with a mixture of nostalgia, curiosity and pleasure. You cannot have documented both of Darts’ golden eras, which Darts World has, without retaining an affection for the brand which backed Bristow so wholeheartedly and was an important figure in the global expansion of our game.
After the departure of Glen Durrant, who had played a big role in the resurgence, we were a little worried that they may slip back again. Not so. They almost immediately snaffled Chizzy and were rewarded when the St Helens man hit an upturn in performance in both majors and the tier Tours.
The immediatele launch of an attractive Chizzy signature dart, flight set and a trademark yellow shirt ensured that they were off and running in a new era. Today sees the expansion of that range in a big way.
Harrows have clearly gone for the, tried and tested, strategy of branding many products with the name, face, colour scheme and logo which Chizzy has made his own. It is not dissimilar to the approach taken with Eric all those years ago. Indeed some products remain almost unchanged!
The Endorsed Dart: There is now an 80% Tungsten Chizzy dart that will come in at the lower cost points, probably in the £25 region. It is a nice simple looking dart that should appeal to Chizzy fans and those looking for a dart that ticks many boxes at a lower cost.
The Family Game:
Reader will be very familiar with this beginner or introductory product. Many will have had one as youngsters and may well think of getting their own children started this way.
The combination of simple basic board that is reversible to play a simpler, bullseye based game, with a couple of sets of basic darts has been repackaged nicely and is sure to do well as always.
The Alloy Dart: In addition to the 80% version of Chizzy’s dart there is an alloy model that will be classed as cheap and cheerful. It carries the Chizzy name, and the branding, while appearing to be a coated brass style barrel.
Taken together with the Chizzy signature dart, and the shirts and accessories available, it is clear that Chizzy is now the brand leader for Harrows and that they hope this backing will lead to continued or expanded success, for their man, over coming years.
In addition, Harrows have begun assembling a small team of up and coming players both here in Europe and across the world in the Australian and Asian markets. Players such as Josh Payne are showing superb progress and may well provide the brand with a a smooth transition in the future.
Together with other, widely praised, recent product launches, that include new point technology and some very distinctive barrels, it seems that Harrows are well and truly back in the top echelon of darting brands. We at Darts World hope that this does as much for the game as it managed in the 1980’s and beyond.
Linda Duffy PhD. (@sportspsycoach) has a unique perspective on the sport of darts. As a player, Linda, then known as Linda Batten, was World Number 1, England International (Captain) and World Cup Singles Champions.
In management, Linda assisted the careers of two World Champions (Keith Deller & Bob Anderson). Later, after a competitive retirement, she completed her Doctorate and can now be found at Middlesex University, that’s when she is not assisting Josh Payne in his rise through the PDC.
Our resident coach sought Linda’s opinion on Q School 2020, the BDO scenario and other current issues in the world of darts:
Coach: As a player, manger and coach, you have multiple perspectives on Q School. What’s it like attending and wearing multiple hats?
Linda: It’s a great event to attend with so many players of many different levels of skill, it’s fascinating because it’s not always the best players, that prevail.
Coach: Do you think Q School is an event that can be coached and prepared for and if so what are your top tips for those planning on an attempt in the future?
Linda: Yes, every sporting event takes meticulous planning and Q school is no different. Top tips are copious amounts of concentrated practice in the run up to the event. Timing is important, not too far away from the event but not too close either – you need to peak for the four days of the event. Stamina is also key so pacing yourself and practising to concentrate for a long period of time is important, not many players know how to do this effectively.
Coach: Do you think Q School is an accurate indicator of the likely success, long term, of a player on the professional tour?
Linda: No not necessarily, records will confirm this. Getting your tour card at Q school is not necessarily an accurate predictor of still having it after 2 years. I think many Tour players have to return to Q school to try to regain their cards.
Coach: Do you watch the players your connected too directly, from a distance or do you stay away from the board?
Linda: I get as close to the board as I can – I watch every dart thrown.
Coach: Do you think anyone should be able to enter and play Q School or should there be a level of assessment or qualification?
Linda: I think historically it’s been an effective way for players to have the opportunity to get a Tour Card but these days I think there are too many players who are not to the required level and maybe there should be some type of pre-Q school qualifier.
Coach: Is there anyone who, in your view, is less well known and might gain a card this year?
Linda:I wouldn’t like to say, I think it’s a bit of a lottery.
Coach: DW suggested Josh Payne for a ‘Challenger’ slot in this years PL. What do you think?
Linda: I think Josh would acquit himself well and his game would certainly stand up to the scrutiny but I prefer to focus on what is in a players own hands, not selection.
Coach: As a former BDO Champion and England International how do you view the current struggles within that code?
Linda: I think it’s very sad. The BDO is a valuable resource for the “amateur” game and a good provider of future PDC champions. The BICC is a perfect platform to hone your skills and, if adjusted, could get back to its former glory days when venues were filled all over Britain.
Coach: Glen Durrant performed superbly after getting a Tour Card last year. Do you see him doing so again in 2020 and could anyone in the years Q School repeat his achievements?
Linda: He did very well and I don’t really understand why so many people were surprised, he was a 3 time world champion with multiple titles to his name. I was more surprised by the success of Rob Cross. Both men are quality players are I don’t see why they wouldn’t do well every season.
Coach: Our columnist (JR Lott)http://www.dartsworld.com/?s=decade) has picked Lisa Ashton as one of the players of the decade, and it seems that female players are making more of an more impact across the game, would you like to have had played in this era or was being part of the first golden era satisfying enough?
Linda: I’m happy with my playing career and I achieved everything I set out to do and more. I played in an era with some great women players as competitors and had the privilege of playing with, travelling with and watching brilliant men such as Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Bobby George, Leighton Rees, Bob Anderson, Jocky Wilson, Keith Deller, Cliff Lazarenko and Tony Brown – I love competing so I would like to still be playing but I had a brilliant time playing back in the day so I’m more than happy.
Coach: Linda is one of the best informed people in our sport. Her huge experience, now allied with academic research and alternate perspectives of player, manager and coach, make her an almost unique resource. We don’t always agree on every nuance, but as you can see from the above, she is more than likely correct!
• Dr Linda Duffy is a former World No.1 dart player, England captain, World Cup singles champion, two-time British Open champion, European Champion and is now a consultant sport psychologist at Middlesex University.
Our first selection is the Diamond, Ian White. Whitey has been consistently on the vrge of the Premier League (by right) for quite a few years. It seems very unfair that he does not even get an opportunity to get used to it. He is a very funny guy and a player who adapts and improves to every situation. This tester session could be just what he needs to jump up another level. Kryzstof is a major champion and he has claimed PDC titles already, it is only a matter of time before he qualifies and this would give him a chance to show he can do it under these conditions.
Selecting two Germans is both sensible for the development of the game and keeping up the standard of those selected. Clemens is a seriously hard working player who gets better on the time and Hopp know how to win matches and titles.
Ricky Evans is the such a singular player that it would be good to see him in these conditions. If he could retain his composure and relaxation he would be superb entertainment, the crowd would love him. Baby Shark anyone?
Asada gives the Asian tour a focus within the Premier League and may lead to a visit there very soon! He is a quality player who has performed well both on tour and in World Championships.
Josh Payne has developed strongly. He has taken his time and matured through each stage of the modern game. Talented, though a little under rated, Josh is a fine example of what a new generation young player should be in attitude, presentation and professionalism. It would be wise to reward this.
WILDCARD – Ted Hankey
We cant help thinking, that if Ted is fit enough, The Count would be a superb guest star. In many ways Hankey, at the Grand Slam, showed the way in terms of a darts villain. It would certainly be a challenge for his opponent and great fun for the crowd.
Fallon Sherrock stunned the sporting world again as she knocked Mensur Suljovic out of the William Hill World Championship with a monumental bullseye finish on Saturday.
Four days after making history as the first woman to win a match in the sport’s most prestigious tournament with her victory over Ted Evetts, Sherrock claimed another victory thanks to an incredible display of doubling at Alexandra Palace.
The 25-year-old sensation converted 69 percent of her double attempts in a 3-1 triumph over Suljovic, the 11th seed, which she sealed with a 86 checkout on the bull.
“I can’t believe it,” said Sherrock, who will return on Friday December 27 to take on Chris Dobey in round three.
“I’ve knocked out one of the best players in the world and it has given me the best feeling in the world.
“I was so happy when that bullseye went in. It was an amazing moment for me and I’ll be jumping around when I get home.
“I felt so comfortable and I really enjoyed it – I just want to get up there and play again.”
Suljovic looked like he had taken control from the start when he won the first two legs but successive finishes of 81, 131 and 70 saw Sherrock steal set one.
She then added checkouts of 104 and 64 to make it five legs on the spin but it was Suljovic’s turn to come from behind as he won the next three legs to level the match.
The Austrian took the the first two legs in the third set but Sherrock hit back again, winning the next three with the aid of an 11-darter that began with back-to-back 180s for her second time in the tournament.
Suljovic took a 2-1 lead in the fourth set before Sherrock took out 68 to level and, after her opponent missed a dart at tops to force a fifth set, she punished him in style with a clinical 88 finish on the bull.
Dimitri Van den Bergh posted the highest average of the event so far as he breezed past Josh Payne in the final match of the second round.
The Belgian star completed a straight sets victory with a three-dart average of 103.81, hitting three 180s and a 124 checkout in an impressive start to his campaign.
“I gave my best and I’m glad to be through,” said the two-time PDC Unicorn World Youth Champion.
“A couple of months ago I was really struggling but I have found some belief and I took it on stage tonight.”
Daryl Gurney made light work of Justin Pipe as the former World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals winner completed a 3-0 win.
Pipe took the first leg with a 104 checkout but Northern Ireland’s number one reeled off nine of the next ten legs to progress.
“He took out the 104 but there was no catching me after that,” said Gurney. “I’ve been working on my throw and made a small correction which seems to have helped.
“I know I’m going to be in for a real battle in the next match so I’ll come back ready for that.”
Gurney will take on Glen Durrant in the third round after the Alexandra Palace debutant eased past Australia’s Damon Heta without losing a set.
The three-time Lakeside Champion added the tournament’s sixth 170 finish in a solid PDC World Championship debut.
Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis won a thrilling battle against Spain’s Cristo Reyes, coming back from two sets down to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Lewis narrowly missed double 12 for a nine-darter as he rallied back from the brink to move into the third round, where he will play Darren Webster.
“If I play like I did in the last few sets then I’ll be fine but if I play like I did in the first two then I’ll be in trouble,” said Lewis, the 2011 and 2012 Ally Pally champion.
“If I can almost hit a nine-darter it shows that I’m playing pretty well and I feel like I can carry that form on.”
Simon Whitlock eased past Harry Ward with a straight sets success, in which the Australian number one dropped just two legs.
Former World Championship finalist Whitlock will face Mervyn King in round three as he bids to reach the last 16 for the first time in six years.
“I’ve been practising harder than ever for this,” said Whitlock, the runner-up a decade ago. “I’ve put in around 100 hours on the board at home in the last six weeks and I feel like that made all the difference today.”
Ryan Searle’s 101.54 average is currently the second highest of the 2019/20 World Championship so far as he defeated Steve West by three sets to nil.
Devon darter Searle won every set 3-2 to book his place in the last 32, where he will take on two-time World Champion Gary Anderson.
Seigo Asada completed a great escape to stun Keegan Brown, who won the first seven legs of their dramatic tie before falling to a tie-break defeat against the Japanese ace.
World Cup semi-finalist Asada took the final set 4-2 with a match-winning 11-darter to set up a third round meeting with Peter Wright.
Sunday sees the third round begin with 12 players competing across two sessions, including defending champion Michael van Gerwen up against Ricky Evans and UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall’s tie with Krzysztof Ratajski.
Day Ten will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports Darts channel and through NOW TV in the UK, on PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.
England’s Josh Payne claimed his 2nd senior PDC title last Sunday with victory in Players Championship 12.
He edged out World No.2 Peter Wright 6-5 in a thrilling final to cap off an incredible day for the 24 year-old from Gravesend.
Over 2 years since he first tasted victory in the professional ranks, Payne was visibly emotional after pinning double top at the 5th time of asking in the deciding leg.
Reiterating his desire to ‘make a big mark on TV’, he admitted battling hard to return to this level of competition following a tough time on the circuit last season.
So can the talented youngster now take his career to the next level?
From Pleasure to Payne
Much was expected of Josh when he shocked James Wade to win in Barnsley as a 22 year-old, back in April 2016.
Payne ran through Gerwyn Price, Wes Newton, Kevin Painter and Mensur Suljovic- all current or former top 12 players in the world rankings- en route to the final, before downing 7-time Major Champion Wade 6-5 to take the title.
Unsurprisingly, he quickly became the newest ‘next big thing’. Learning to deal with these expectations is difficult, as is performing when all eyes are suddenly upon you.
His achievements gained him entry to the prestigious World Matchplay in July, as well as the Players Championship Finals and eventually the holy grail of the World Championships at the end of the year.
Transitioning from floor tournaments to the grandest stages the sport has to offer is incredibly hard.
Thrust in front of the cameras and with thousands of fans packing the arenas, Josh struggled to adapt. First-round losses at the Matchplay and the Worlds sandwiched a 10-2 thumping by World No.1 Michael van Gerwen at the Players.
No further appearances at Premier events have been forthcoming.
In fact, Payne failed to register a single semi-final appearance on the Pro Tour for the next 24 months and his burgeoning career had come to a shuddering halt.
So just how has he turned it all around to once again take a place in the spotlight?
The System is Working
Josh Payne began his career on the PDC’s Development Tour in 2012 as an 18 year-old.
Good performances saw him quickly graduate to the Challenge Tour the following year where he recorded a first tournament victory, defeating Austrian Rowby-John Rodriguez 4-3 in the 2nd event.
Further progression gained him full Tour Card status at the back end of 2013.
Crucially for Josh, he was still eligible to compete at youth level alongside his forays onto the senior circuit.
This is invaluable experience for young players learning their trade. Disappointments against seasoned professionals can be quickly forgotten. Lessons can be learnt and mistakes corrected with constant match practice against fellow unpolished up-and-comers.
The PDC’s tiered system- implemented by Chairman Barry Hearn- can be instrumental in a player’s future if utilised properly.
Payne has squeezed every last drop out of a system designed specifically to achieve what he is trying to- successful passage into full-time darts.
He could have opted to compete only at pro level following his breakthrough triumph. However, his decision to continue to play on the youth circuit may have ended up saving his career.
Whilst getting nowhere against the world’s elite, Josh continued to rack up confidence restoring results against his own peers, culminating in a run to the Final of the World Youth Championship last November.
His win over Double BDO Youth Champion Justin van Tergouw preceded a standout victory over Australian sensation Corey Cadby in the semi-finals.
Triumphing 6-3 against the reigning champion and odds-on favourite, Payne lined up against Dimitri van den Bergh in the Final.
Dimitri’s 6-3 victory meant no visit to Ally Pally over Christmas. More importantly, the World Youth Final was the last event before Josh turned 24. He was no longer eligible to compete in youth events.
To make matters worse, the end of April this year marked 2 years since he defeated Wade, meaning the £10,000 prize would be wiped from his ranking.
Perilously close to dropping out of the top 64 in the Order of Merit and relinquishing his tour card in the process, Payne arrived in Milton Keynes last weekend with a 2018 tournament record as follows:
18 entries, 17 failures to progress past the round of 16 and 6 failed attempts at qualifying for the European Tour events. He also missed out on the UK Open in March.
Therefore, when Gary Anderson defeated him in Round 1 of Saturday’s event, it was easy to assume another fruitless weekend was in order.
He had, however, been practising hard. No longer having the development tour training ground to fall back on, it was time for Josh to sink or swim at the highest level and there were signs that the hard work was paying off.
He beat 5 fellow tour card holders to reach the semi-finals of Players Championship 8 where he lost to the inspired eventual champion Mickey Mansell.
Milton Keynes Magic
It was promising, and on Sunday 20th May 2018, Josh reminded us all what a precocious talent he still is.
He quickly reeled off victories against Steve West, Zoran Lerchbacher and 2012 Lakeside Champion Christian Kist before whitewashing veteran Mervyn King to reach the quarter-finals.
There he dispatched in-form Welshman Johnny Clayton- himself a winner on the Pro Tour this season- by 6 legs to 2.
World No. 13 Ian White succumbed in a tight semi-final as Payne battled through a field of 128 professionals despite holding the 51st best average of the tournament.
Clinical without being spectacular throughout the day, Josh called upon everything he had learnt since he last graced a final in the big league and saved his best performance for last.
Heavy scoring provided early opportunities against good friend Peter Wright- who missed doubles early on. Payne pounced to take a 3-1 lead.
Inevitably, ‘Snakebite’ hung around and showed his class to force a deciding leg with a stunning 161 checkout.
Undeterred, Josh fired in his 5th 180 of the contest and left 40 after 12 darts thrown, as his opponent languished on 188. It was impeccable timing.
Subsequently missing 3 darts at his final target, he remained calm as Wright chased him down. Returning to the board he placed one more marker above the wire and confidently nailed the red bit with his next arrow. No panic. No finish-line nerves.
This title seemed different to the last. This wasn’t just red hot form blowing everyone away. No, this was a grind. All the years of hard work appear to have created a man who knows what it takes to win when you aren’t at your best.
Second Chance at Stardom
A newfound maturity, combined with hard work and dedication has handed Josh a precious career lifeline.
The £10,000 cheque rockets him back into the top 50 in the Order of Merit and the top 10 of the Players Championship Order of Merit.
With 7 events remaining before the cut-off, Payne sits just £2,750 outside the qualification places for the World Matchplay.
A return to Blackpool might be on the cards and a berth at the World Grand Prix in Dublin is also a strong possibility.
His World Youth Final loss, although disappointing at the time, has also guaranteed him a spot at the Grand Slam of Darts in November.
The top 32 in the Order of Merit should be his next aim. Indeed, every previous player to win multiple PDC Pro Tour titles has achieved this feat as a minimum.
Now positioned in line for a second shot at stardom, can he harbour the consistency needed to avoid history repeating itself?
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