Andy Hamilton is ready to fight his way back to the top echelons of the PDC and silence the doubters who have written his career off.
The 49-year-old has endured a difficult two years on the PDC circuit, dropping out of the top 16 and is now in real danger of losing his place in the top 32 of the organisation’s order of merit.
Hamilton announced a new long-term sponsorship with Team XQMax Darts last week, the manufacturer who work with world number one Michael van Gerwen and fellow Dutch stars Benito van de Pas and Vincent van der Voort.
The partnership does not start until August, with the Hammer’s current contract with Unicorn still running for another few months, but Hamilton is hopeful this new deal can help him rise again into the top eight in the PDC.
“I had an email from Unicorn in January saying they were going to drop me,” he explains. “Obviously they lost a bit of belief in me and felt it was the time for a change.
“I sent emails out to a lot of darts companies and there were a few interested, but XQMax are the ones who were the most favourable.
“They gave me the best deal and gave me the longest commitment, and it just shows what I’ve done in the past is the reason why someone still believes in me.
“They were so friendly. They appreciated who I was as a player and what I’ve done in life. That goes a long way and my respect for somebody as well.
“We met in Birmingham and it was a great meeting. We got on well. They’ve given me so many incentives to get back up there again and I’m sure it’s going to happen. I just feel privileged to be a part of it.
“With Michael van Gerwen, the world number one, involved with them, I’m hoping something like that will give me more incentive to help me rise up the rankings again.”
Hamilton will become the first English player to join Team XQMax when their partnership starts on August 1 of this year.
Before then the Hammer will look to build up some form to take with him when work begins with his new sponsor in the next three months of his Unicorn contract.
The 2012 World Championship runner-up dropped out of the top 16 last year and went to Alexandra Palace in December, for the 2016 staging of the event, outside of the top 16 seeds for the first-time since 2006.
With less than £10,000 keeping him in the PDC’s top 32, Hamilton is currently in 29th place, the Hammer knows he needs to start picking up results in order to qualify automatically for the 2017 William Hill World Championship.
“I’ve been number five in the world before and I know I can get back there”
“My form is gradually turning around,” he said. “My form is getting better and better and this (new partnership) will make it turn around more and more.
“I think things in the future are looking rosy for me. I know where I’ve been in my darting career.
“I’ve been in the top eight, I’ve been number five in the world and I know can get back up there.
“It’s just turning the form around and obviously just trying to push on now. Not even to win tournaments, but digging in and showing the form I used to have.
“I’m sure I can rise up there in the not so distant future. It would be a massive achievement for me, my family and my sponsors. The biggest achievement would be to shut up all the doubters who have written me off at the moment.
“I’ll have the last laugh and I’m sure I’ll get back up there with a bit of hard work and practising hard.
“I’m putting the time in on the board and I know I’ll get back up there eventually.”
Hamilton’s rise to prominence in darts has not taken a clear path which many of the young up and coming players will now take playing on the PDC tour.
In fact, the Stoke-born thrower had a spell of near enough 20 years where he did not play competitive darts in the PDC or the BDO.
After playing county darts as a teenager for Cheshire, Hamilton then decided against pursuing a career as a professional.
But when he found the belief in his ability to give the PDC circuit a go in 2004, he made an immediate impact. In just his fourth event on the PDC tour, Hamilton reached the semi-finals of a Players Championship event in Scotland.
Before that, in his first PDC tournament, he got the better of Kevin Painter in a UK Open North West Regional Qualifier, with the Artist having three months earlier lost to Phil Taylor in a deciding set in the 2004 World Championship final at the Circus Tavern.
It would not be long before Hamilton was making a name for himself on the Purfleet stage, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2005 event as a qualifier.
A first television final followed in 2007 when he lost to Taylor in the inaugural Grand Slam of Darts, with two more major finals coming after that in the UK Open and the World Championship.
The Hammer’s success saw him selected for the Premier League in 2012, and then the World Series in 2013, and it is that past glory on the oche which makes him determined to rediscover those heights before he calls it a day.
“It would be a massive thing to say I got back into the PDC’s top eight”
“It’s like in any sport, when you have a bit of bad form it has a knock on effect,” Hamilton said.
“It’s hard when your form drops. Your concentration levels are not as high and your intensity is different. It takes a lot of time to turn it round.
“My form is just starting to turn around and I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m going to fight my hardest to get back up there and get my name recognised again.
“People don’t see a lot of things which happen in life and obviously I’ve had a few personal problems in the last two years.
“People don’t see that and its part of the reason as to why my form went down.
“Too many things were going on in my mind and it meant I wasn’t concentrating on darts as much.
“The personal problems have gone and I’ve moved on now. I’m having better runs in tournaments now than what I was 12 months ago, so there are signs my form is coming back.
“One event can turn your career around just like that, so I’m hoping one of the tournaments coming up will do that for me.
“I was with Unicorn for nine years and it disappointing for it to come to an end.
“I can’t say much about it. They wanted to part company, it’s as simple as that and as one door closes a bigger door has opened for me, so I’m looking forward to the future now and not the past.”