He’s a former Premier League winner and has also won the World Matchplay, UK Open and World Grand Prix during his career, but few would have predicted James Wade as one of their four players to make it through to the end of season play-offs in this year’s Betway Premier League.
At the conclusion of week six of the competition in Nottingham last night, the Machine is on eight points and occupies fourth place in the table.
The illness to Robert Thornton in week two means Wade, along with Michael Smith, has played a game more than most of the field, and in some cases two, but his performances in the Premier League in the last two weeks have certainly been impressive.
Wade hit three 100+ checkouts on his way to a 7-4 victory against Dave Chisnall last week in Exeter, and followed that up last night with a 7-5 triumph over Raymond van Barneveld.
Those two wins shows how far the Aldershot thrower has pushed on in this Premier League. Wade lost 10-7 to van Barneveld in the last 16 of the Grand Slam of Darts last November, in a match which he let Barney’s slowing down antics get the better of him.
And in the Masters in late January of this year, Wade had no answer for Chisnall’s scoring power as he succumbed to an 11-6 defeat in the semi-finals.
The Machine has had an up and down season so far in this year’s Premier League. It began last month with the daunting prospect of facing Michael van Gerwen on the opening night in Leeds.
A surprise 7-4 win over MVG was followed by a win against Smith by the same scoreline the following week, but then it appeared to go downhill for the 2009 Premier League champion.
Defeats to Phil Taylor, Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis left Wade languishing in sixth place and starting to look over his shoulder, yet he has reacted brilliantly in the last few weeks with back-to-back wins.
Wade can further boost his claim for a top four place when he takes on relegation-threatened Thornton in Glasgow next Thursday, before he then sits out the Liverpool leg of the competition on March 24.
Last year Wade had six points from his opening seven games of the Premier League, but then went on to win just one of his remaining nine fixtures.
The 32-year-old finished in seventh place in 2015, seven points adrift of the top four, but this year he looks like he means business.
After missing out on the Premier League in 2014, Wade returned to the tournament last year and I think the demands of playing each week over that length of time caught up with him.
This year I believe Wade is ready to have a real go at trying to disrupt the main frontrunners and finish in the play-off spots.