I can’t start a review of the year so far without mentioning the sad passing of the ‘Crafty Cockney’ Eric Bristow. Aged only 60 he collapsed at the Premier League fixture in Liverpool and died that evening.
Many people think Phil Taylor effectively ‘built’ the PDC but Bristow was a key figure in its formation. Without his mentoring and investment ‘The Power’ would not have become the champion he was either. Bristow was a showman, bringing fans to the game in droves. With his charisma and talent, his influence on all aspects of the game today should never be underestimated. RIP Eric.
Life Without Phil Taylor
For a lot of darts fans Phil Taylor has been in our lives since we were kids. Things have been a little strange since he packed his arrows away. Like many I feared suffering PTSD at the end of the World Championship – Post Taylor Stress Disorder – but the standard of play has been so high this year that his departure didn’t leave as big a hole as it might have.
‘The Power’ will be back in a commentator’s role for the World Matchplay soon. So if you have missed him you’ll be able to get your fix then. In the meantime let’s enjoy his final walk-on. Probably the most spine-tingling of them all after Michael van Gerwen’s.
Taylor, despite getting to the World Final was not THE man when he retired and to be fair neither was his conqueror Rob Cross. Though Cross beat the Green Machine en route to a stunning debut win at the World Championship. That honour still firmly belongs to Michael van Gerwen.
Michael van Gerwen – A
The Dutchman has dominated 2018 in typical fashion, seemingly putting behind him the lack of a 3rd World Championship win. By dominate I mean he’s top of the PDC Order of Merit by over £1 Million (!) He also tops the ProTour Order of Merit, the European Tour Order of Merit and the Players Championship Order of Merit too. On top of those, of the four biggest events so far this year he’s won three – the Unibet Masters, the Premier League (having topped the table, again) and the World Cup, along with a number of smaller competitions.
His only failure as such was in the UK Open losing to Jeffrey de Zwaan in the last 64. There have been occasional signs of vulnerability alongside that defeat though, to give others hope for the remainder of the year. In the Premier League he suffered an unusual number of defeats. He has also lost at the quarter-final stage of the two World Series events so far. Possibly the combination of travel and looking after a small child are working against him. Something worth bearing in mind for Shanghai this weekend.
Gary Anderson – B+
The only other name putting an engraver to work with any regularity in 2018 is Gary Anderson. He’s fourth in the world right now, mainly because he’s being more selective in the competitions he enters, rather than due to any decline. He took the UK Open title in March, beating Rob Cross on the way to the final where he held off an impressive Corey Cadby. Anderson is one of those who defeated MVG in the Premier League where he made the play-off, losing to Michael Smith. He also reached the last four of the Unibet Masters and the World Cup final – not often you get to say that about a Scotsman!
Those in the know tell me that Anderson is scaling back his activity for the same reason that Taylor did last year. A view to retirement – preferably after a third World Championship of his own. He’s publically stated that he finds the tour draining and joked that he’s an old man who can’t play two matches in one night anymore.
He’s also made it clear that he doesn’t want to miss his young children growing up. So his time at the oche may be very limited after this year. While he’s got his darts in his hand though he’s still probably the best 180 hitter around. In Las Vegas at the weekend he also showed that there’s nothing wrong with his often criticised finishing. Taking out a 164 finish to win the US Darts Masters.
Everyone Else – Must Try Harder!
Rob Cross in particular will feel that he should have done more since January. He did find form in the Premier League after a slow start and made the semi-final but that’s the high point so far. Maybe it’s the pressure of being World Champion or maybe it’s the shocking change of walk-on music, when Electric Six were the perfect fit. He has knocked about in the latter stages of a few tournaments. However, he’s going to have to pick up another title in the next few months, if he wants to hit Alexandra Palace with any confidence.
Quantity or Quality?
Peter Wright will also need to do something special to get 2018 back on track. Eric Bristow once said that a poor Premier League performance meant a bad year. Wright has gone from nearly winning it last year to finishing 7th this. He is number two in the world right now. That is due in part to the sheer number of tournaments he enters and past results, not anything from the last six months or so.
A notable mention must also go Adrian Lewis, former two-time World Champion and now down to 16th in the PDC Order of Merit. He’s either won or been in the final of most things but has struggled of late. In part due to injury problems and in part due to being a pillock, as in the video below.
Those guys aside most of the others also need to buck their ideas up. The Matchplay is imminent and other big events are on the radar.
There are some exceptions though. It would be harsh to criticise Michael Smith too much after how well he did in the Premier League. Mensur Suljovic also played well in the Premier League and picked up the German Darts Masters, so he gets a pass too. Equally it would be wrong to go overboard about Raymond van Barneveld and Dimitri Van den Bergh after their excellent World Cup performances. Finally, Max Hopp in winning the German Open and Corey Cadby for making the UK Open final also get a big tick for now.