It has been four years since James Richardson stepped foot on the Alexandra Palace stage, but perhaps more memorably five since he produced one of the biggest shocks in darts history.
December 19, 2011. Richardson made his World Championship debut against five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in the first round.
A surprise 3-0 victory over Barney, which included two 145 checkouts, cemented Richardson’s name in history, but fast forward to 2016 and a lot has changed.
After dropping off the PDC tour at the end of 2014, Ruthless then suffered early exits on all four days of Qualifying School at the start of 2015. It meant a year playing on the Challenge Tour, as well as a few tournaments in the BDO.
But after winning back his tour card on the second day of Q-School last month, the 42-year-old then booked his place at the first two European Tour events of 2016.
“I didn’t qualify for one last year,” Richardson said. “I did in my first year, second year and third year, but in my fourth year I didn’t qualify for any.
“It’s nice to get the first two under my belt. It gives me a taste of it again and a bit more hunger as well.”
After losing out in the first round on day one of Q-School, Ruthless reeled off six straight wins to win back his place on the PDC tour.
“It was brilliant,” he said. “The first day in the tournament I didn’t play that well. It stewed me up throughout the night. I knew I was good enough to get one so I came out all guns blazing the next day.
“I just rattled through the lot of them on the second day. It felt really good and my wife said it was like I was back to my old self.
“I knew I was good enough. I just played badly on the first day. It was my fault because I played a slower game against Mark Barilli, who is a fast player.
“I just thought I’d slow him down a bit and it didn’t work. So I thought, let’s play my game now and I sped up.
“I played faster and it all clicked in and I haven’t changed it since. I’m playing that fast at the moment.”
Ruthless is not the only darting success story to come out of 2016 from the Richardson household though.
His son Josh won the BDO World Youth Championship at the start of the year at Lakeside, and dad James says he has been an inspiration to him.
“Since he won that world title he’s got me out of me chair and 9 o’clock and we’ve started playing,” he said. “I never used to do that.
“I used to be lazy in my practicing but now I’m fighting to be number one in the house, as well as he is.
“So it’s been like a little battle between us and it’s making me play that much better.
“It’s spurring him on as well. He’s seen me have a dip in form and in results, and he’s said to me: ‘dad you’re playing really well again.’
“So it’s nice for him to notice and it’s nice to play well again.”
Josh was unsuccessful in his bid to gain a PDC tour card along with his dad, but has been undeterred in making it to the top, playing in the European and UK Open Qualifiers in recent weeks.
“I’ve been there so I can give him all the advice I can,” Richardson senior said. “It’s working as well.
“In games before he’s given up and I’ve told him just don’t give up. A few weeks ago he played James Wilson, it was 6-2 to James but what a game.
“It didn’t reflect the score and he never gave up, even when he was 5-2 down. They must have hit four 180s each and god knows how many 140s.”
Looking further ahead, and Richardson has set his sights on a return to the Alexandra Palace.
“I haven’t looked into how they do the order of merit,” he said. “I’m hoping the European money goes onto the Pro Tour one if it does then my aim is Blackpool and the World Matchplay in July.
“If I have a good run in Holland and Germany and in some of the Pro Tour events I could get there.
“But obviously the worlds that’s the main one. Getting back to the worlds where I have my best memories there.
“People still talk about it and it was nearly five years ago now. It seems like it was yesterday though.
“Everyone still knows and they talk and they want to see me back up there, and I want to get back up there. It will come. I know it’s coming back.
“Everybody loves the Vindaloo walk-on. When we go to Pro Tour events you get the officials going ‘Vindaloo, Vindaloo.’ It’s brilliant.”