Premier League watch: Six players who could potentially be in the running to make their debuts in 2018

As we reach the final few months of the season, the battle to earn one of six wild cards to the 2018 Premier League starts to take centre focus. Next year is poised to be one of the more wide open years in recent history, as Phil Taylor is due to retire and as many as six of the other nine participants from 2017 cannot feel that their spots are secure.

In part one of a three-part series, I take a look at six players who have never been in the Premier League and make a case for and a case against each of them receiving a debut invitation in 2018.

Mensur Suljovic

The Case For

The world number seven — besides being ranked number seven — just added his first TV title to a 2017 resume that includes two European Tour finals and a run to the World Matchplay quarter-final. That TV title included five consecutive wins over 2017 Premier League participants in the space of 32 hours. And it came with the crowd warming to him, showing that despite his esoteric style, he’s a crowd favourite.

The Case Against

His 2017 hasn’t been nearly as good as his 2016. Granted, some of that came down to family obligations, as his wife spent much of the season pregnant with the family’s second child, but it has led to a leaner CV than he might otherwise have. Moreover, his standard hasn’t been as good. Suljovic routinely was averaging just over the ton in 2016, while this year it has been more around the 97 to 99 mark, indicating that he may be regressing.

Daryl Gurney

The Case For

Daryl Gurney is one of just two people to reach the semi-finals of both the UK Open and World Matchplay, the other being Peter Wright. That’s on top of his first PDC title, alongside four other finals, including one in a World Series event. He’s just going from strength-to-strength, and he always looks up to the task.

The Case Against

Can he keep this going? Right now, Gurney seems a lock for the Premier League. But Gurney’s still a timing player, and hasn’t shown he can consistently maintain his A-game for extended periods of time. That might cause him some trouble over the next few months, when we’ll see him play lots of longer-format matches. Still, it’s hard to see a scenario where he does not make the Premier League.

Gerwyn Price

The Case For

He’s reached a ranking TV final, which no one else other than Mensur Suljovic has done amongst the potential first-time invitees. And he backed that up with a run to the World Cup final alongside Mark Webster. He played the first three World Series events, reaching the semi-finals of two of them. Moreover, he won a pair of ranking events last year, which only Rob Cross this year has matched amongst those leading the way for their first-ever invite.

The Case Against

If you asked a few months ago, there didn’t seem much one could say against his selection. But since then, immaturity has sometimes outshone his accomplishments. Price has missed multiple events due to registration problems, and he fell out of the World Series rotation after getting invited to the first three World Series events of 2017. He hasn’t been past the quarter-final of a ranking event since April, and he only averaged 88 against Taylor in the Matchplay.

Darren Webster

The Case For

Since the start of November, he’s whitewashed Phil Taylor on television and taken a 6-0 lead over Michael van Gerwen in a TV semi-final. He’s won his first ranking PDC title in over a decade and pushed up the rankings with regularity. Two months ago, he made the quarter-final of the World Matchplay, losing out to Peter Wright in a competitive match. He’s only getting better.

The Case Against

Other than that title in July and the run to the Matchplay quarter-final, Webster has only reached two other quarter-finals or better in 2017. When’s he’s on, he’s one of the most electric players on the circuit, but he has too many off matches. He takes well to television, but he needs to show a lot more in the back end of 2017.

Kyle Anderson

The Case For

He’s won a TV title, something no one else on this list other than Mensur Suljovic has done. And he’s began climbing up the rankings, despite losing out on a lot of prize money from the end of 2016 due to his visa problems. He’s recorded big wins on stage against most of the top players in the world now, and has shown he has the game to rival anyone. Since the World Series, he went on a string of five consecutive Euro Tour matches where he averaged over 100.

The Case Against

He’s only made two ranking TV quarter-finals, and both were last year. He’s thrown in more than his fair share of clunkers on TV, including as recently as the World Cup against Russia. His last six weeks have been very good, but he had an indifferent 2017 before that, including a run of four months where from March to June where he only reached one quarter-final on the Pro Tour and failed to qualify to five Euro Tour events. He needs to prove this isn’t just a hot run of form.

Rob Cross

The Case For

Rob Cross has made Stephen Bunting’s debut season in the PDC look pedestrian, and Bunting got a Premier League invite after the year. Cross has already won two titles, and just made his first Euro Tour final, where he ran out of steam against a brilliant Michael van Gerwen. He accounted himself well in his Matchplay debut, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe he’s going to slow down now.

The Case Against

The comparison to Bunting is his strongest argument for a Premier League invite, but it’s not a fool-proof case. Bunting came to the PDC as the reigning BDO world champion, and he made two television semi-finals and a World Championship quarter-final at the back end of the year. Until Cross matches Bunting’s TV results, his case for a Premier League spot next year is weak. He’s got the talent, but his resume by Premier League standards is still lacking.

Race to Wolverhampton: Champions League triumph secures Grand Slam spot for Mensur Suljovic

Mensur Suljovic’s stunning victory in the Unibet Champions League of Darts at the weekend has secured him a spot in the bwin Grand Slam of Darts in November.

The world number seven was a 40/1 pre-tournament outsider to win the title in Cardiff, the Austrian upsetting the odds with consecutive victories over Gary Anderson (twice), Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall and Raymond van Barneveld to clinch his maiden televised title in the PDC.

The victory for Suljovic has seen him become the 15th player to have now pre-qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts, with the criteria including the finalists from the Champions League.

TV event winners alongside Suljovic include reigning Grand Slam of Darts champion Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld and Corey Cadby, while finalists Gary Anderson, James Wade, Berry van Peer, Gerwyn Price, Dave Chisnall and Mark Webster are also currently qualified for the 32-player field for the Wolverhampton event.

Among the eight BDO representatives, Glen Durrant, Danny Noppert and Peter Machin have all qualified, and they will be joined by the top five ranked players from the organisation’s rankings on September 30.

Review: Target Phil Taylor Power-9Five Generation 4 26g Darts

When Target got in touch with us just after the World Matchplay, offering us a set of the Power-9Five Generation 4 26g darts to review, the exact same darts which Phil Taylor had just used to win the tournament in Blackpool for a record 16th time, we did not need a second invitation.

As someone who has only really used darts weighing between 19-22g, it did feel a bit daunting at first when the darts to review arrived at Love The Darts HQ. Just a few days had passed since Taylor was using these darts (well, not this exact set!) to win the World Matchplay, and here I was trying them out for myself on my board at home.

Let’s start at the top of the dart: the flight. The Generation 4 darts are equipped with a ghost flight, a unique flight created by Target, which uses a UV chevron grip for ‘the best possible flight hold.’

And they are not wrong in that respect. I’m used to the flights falling out of my darts when entering the board from time to time, but with the Generation 4 darts not once did one of the flights come out, or even appear to be loose, so that certainly gets my approval.

The flights themselves are not the most durable, though, and I did notice after a few hours of use some tears had appeared. From my experience this is not an issue solely for the ghost flight, as my regular size flights will also encounter some wear and tear over time through general usage.

Moving further down the dart, the Generation 4 darts are fitted with a G4 Titanium Power Shaft, which the packaging says have been designed to Taylor’s ‘exact specification’ and are ‘specifically balanced for the stacking style of play ‘The Power’ is known for.’

I may not have been able to replicate the 16-time world champion’s ‘stacking style of play’ when using the Generation 4 darts, but I did get glimpses of it in action while playing with them.

In terms of the flight of the dart through the air, whenever a dart landed in the treble 20, and on top of the bottom wire, it was a rewarding feeling, being able to, momentarily, repeat the desired outcome which Taylor has achieved with these darts on many occasions this year.

Now onto the grip and the barrel of the dart. The Generation 4 uses a textured matt grip, which has been sandblasted by hand using fine particles to create this texture.

The result is a successful one, as it gives you a better grip when holding the dart at the rear of the barrel, while lower down the barrel, for those who use a central grip, a mix of precision milled axial grooves and radial synergy grooves also provide the darter with an improved grip.

I must say this part of the dart is probably my favourite. When looking for a dart to use, the grip has to be one of the areas which is important to get right. Get it wrong and you will struggle with your action and ultimately releasing the dart.

I found the grip on the Generation 4 darts to be beneficial to my throw, and even found after a few hours of using them that it had improved it and made it more smoother.

The bottom of the barrel uses a Black Titanium Nitride Coating, which also helps to enhance the grip of the dart, while the Black Diamond Pro point features a laser diamond pattern for ‘extra grip in the board.’

Before beginning the trial with the darts, I must admit when I first picked them up in my hand I was worried if they were going to stick in the board or not. My throw at times can be quite forceful, but I thought I may have to use even more power to try and keep them in the board.

However, this proved to be far from the case. I can recall perhaps one or two bounce outs from the hours I spent overall using the darts, which is a quite impressive figure on its own.

Even after a bad release, when the dart appeared to be hanging on and with an awkward trajectory in the board, when I went to retrieve it after my throw I found that it was stable in the board and was not loose at all.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the Generation 4 darts. The retail price (£84.95) is not cheap and would put off some, but to own what is essentially a piece of sporting history does not come cheap I suppose.

These are the darts that Taylor has been using during his final season on the professional circuit, and will be the darts he uses for his final tournament, the World Championship, at the end of the year. So I can see how the price has been negotiated to that figure, and I’ll also point out the extra work that has been put in to make these darts look as appealing as they are.

The Generation 4 is a quality dart and it is to be expected given the player they have been designed for. Taylor has mastered them and in the, albeit, limited success I found with them compared to him it is a rewarding experience when you do find the bottom of the treble 20 with your first dart with the same trajectory which ‘The Power’ has famously done.

The 26g makes them easily the heaviest dart I have ever thrown with, so it has been a challenge to adjust to the weight, but I would expect that regardless of which 26g set of darts I was using.

I intend to continue practicing with them and seeing how much progress I can make. For players used to throwing in the 26g region I would expect a smoother transition, the Generation 4 darts are a thing of beauty!

4.5 out of 5 stars

Fifth Development Tour title of 2017 moves Luke Humphries back to the top of Order of Merit

Luke Humphries returned to the top of the Unicorn Development Tour Order of Merit after winning his fifth title on the tour in Barnsley on Sunday.

Berkshire’s Humphries overcame his Red Dragon Darts stablemate Ryan Meikle 5-1 in the Event 16 final as he followed up an earlier quarter-final in Event 15 by taking the £2,000 top prize.

Humphries lost just four legs in his opening four matches as he defeated Shane Reidy, Dylan Powell, Josh Payne and Thomas King, before seeing off Dan Read 5-2 in the quarter-finals and Dimitri van den Bergh 5-3 in the last four.

Suffolk’s Meikle was aiming to win his second Development Tour title of the year, having previously won Event Three back in February.

The left-hander enjoyed wins over Jack Seymour, Tom Lonsdale, Joshua Church, Craig Reeves, Kevin De Vries, Harry Ward and Steve Lennon as he reached the final, only to be denied by Humphries.

The victory for Humphries has propelled him back up to top spot in the Development Tour Order of Merit on £10,100, with van den Bergh close behind on £9,800, and then Adam Hunt back in third on £8,000.

The final Development Tour weekend will be held on November 4-5 at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan, and will be followed on November 6 by the early rounds of the Unicorn World Youth Championship.

The top two players on the Order of Merit following the final event on November 6 will earn two-year tour cards onto the main PDC circuit for 2018 and 2019.

Unicorn Development Tour Event 16
Quarter-Finals
Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-3 Adam Hunt
Luke Humphries 5-2 Dan Read
Steve Lennon 5-4 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Ryan Meikle 5-3 Harry Ward

Semi-Finals
Luke Humphries 5-3 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Ryan Meikle 5-4 Steve Lennon

Final
Luke Humphries 5-1 Ryan Meikle

Martin Schindler clinches first Development Tour title with victory in Event 15 in Barnsley

Germany’s Martin Schindler won his maiden title in the Unicorn Development Tour after beating Justin van Tergouw 5-2 in the Event 15 final in Barnsley on Sunday.

The 21-year-old, who reached the quarter-finals alongside Max Hopp in the World Cup of Darts this summer, won through to his first Development Tour final yesterday, thus surpassing his run to the Event Two semi-finals earlier this year.

After seeing off Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez 4-2 in his opening game, Schindler then defeated Bradley Brooks, Sam Carter, Callum Goffin and Kenny Neyens to reach the last eight.

A 5-2 win over Ireland’s Steve Lennon put him through to the semi-finals, where he repeated the scoreline against fellow German Nico Ziemann, before also losing just two legs as he took victory in the final against van Tergouw.

Van Tergouw, who made his European Tour debut a fortnight ago in the Dutch Darts Masters, reached two semi-finals on the Development Tour weekend in Germany back in May.

And the 17-year-old continued to show his promise as he recorded wins over Justin Bradshaw, Reece Kiley, Josh McCarthy, Rob Hewson, Callum Loose, Ronnie Roberts and Harry Ward to make the final, where he was denied the £2,000 prize by Schindler.

Unicorn Development Tour Event 15
Quarter-Finals
Harry Ward 5-4 Luke Humphries
Justin van Tergouw 5-3 Ronnie Roberts
Nico Ziemann 5-3 Dawson Murschell
Martin Schindler 5-2 Steve Lennon

Semi-Finals
Justin van Tergouw 5-2 Harry Ward
Martin Schindler 5-2 Nico Ziemann

Final
Martin Schindler 5-2 Justin van Tergouw

Mensur Suljovic wins first televised title after beating Gary Anderson 11-9 in Champions League of Darts final

Mensur Suljovic is the newest first-time winner of a PDC televised title after beating Gary Anderson 11-9 in the Unibet Champions League of Darts final in Cardiff on Sunday night.

The 45-year-old Austrian, ranked seventh in the world, was the 40/1 pre-tournament outsider with Unibet heading into the weekend, but racked up five straight wins over players in the world’s top eight to claim the £100,000 title.

Suljovic opened the tournament with a 10-3 group stage win over Anderson and also recorded victories against Peter Wright (10-8) and Dave Chisnall (10-5) to finish top of Group B.

An 11-9 win over Group A runner-up Raymond van Barneveld, which was sealed with a stunning 160 checkout, booked his spot in his second TV final, where he repeated the scoreline against Anderson to win his maiden TV title.

“I feel perfect,” Suljovic said. “I never thought I could win this tournament.

“Gary is a brilliant player, a gentleman and I’ve got so much respect for him but I played well and I never gave up.

“I played well and was focused on my game but I never thought I could beat Gary twice.

“I couldn’t dream of being in the semi-finals but I gave it my best and fought so hard.

“I was so happy to get to the final against the best players in the world.”

Anderson led 2-0 and 3-1 in the final before Suljovic took out checkouts of 116 and 118 in a run of five successive legs to move 6-3 up.

The world number two then took three legs in a row to level at 6-6, with an 11-darter squaring the game up again in the 16th leg and an 80 finish with two double tops in leg 18 sending the final into a three-leg shootout.

Suljovic’s favourite double 14 moved him 10-9 up, before three missed doubles from Anderson allowed his rival back in to seal victory by hitting the same bed.

Anderson had earlier bounced back from his group stage loss to Suljovic by overcoming Chisnall on Saturday night, before surviving eight missed match darts from Wright in their Sunday afternoon winner-takes-all clash to claim a semi-final place with a 10-9 triumph.

The Scot then ended Phil Taylor’s title defence at the Motorpoint Arena with an 11-6 victory in the last four, recovering from 102 and 121 finishes in the opening two legs from Taylor to win eight on the spin on his way to victory.

However, it was Suljovic again who enjoyed victory over the two-time world champion to deny him the £100,000 title, with Anderson admitting: “Mensur has been brilliant and you can see how much it means to him.

“He’s been phenomenal for the last two years and he’s been the best player this weekend.

“He deserves it – he’s been the player of the tournament and smashed the lot of us.

“It’s been a great event. It’s a couple of weeks since I won in Perth and I got better as the event went on.

“I struggled against Mensur, then played better on Saturday evening and played well today.

“I did alright in the final and I’d have loved to have made it 10-all and then see what happened in the last leg, but I had three clear darts at double 10 and made a complete mess of it, so we’ll never know.”

Champions League of Darts 2017 Photos

Check out photos from the 2017 Unibet Champions League of Darts held at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales last weekend. Mensur Suljovic won his maiden televised title in the PDC with an 11-9 victory over Gary Anderson in the final on Sunday. Photos are courtesy of Lawrence Lustig/PDC.

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Unibet World Grand Prix first round draw: Michael van Gerwen to begin defence of title against Scotland’s John Henderson

Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his Unibet World Grand Prix title against Scotland’s John Henderson in the first round in Dublin next month.

The world number one claimed his third title in the double-start tournament by beating Gary Anderson 5-2 in last year’s final, and the Dutchman has been handed an opening round clash with Henderson, ranked 32nd on the PDC Order of Merit, to start his bid for a fourth triumph in Ireland.

The 20th staging of the World Grand Prix gets underway at the Citywest Hotel, in Dublin, two weeks today, with the first round draw having taken place this morning.

Second seed Gary Anderson, who lost out to van Gerwen in the final 12 months ago, takes on debutant Richard North, third seed Peter Wright faces former BDO world champion Stephen Bunting, and fourth seed Adrian Lewis, a runner-up in Dublin back in 2010, has been drawn against Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney in a mouth-watering last 32 tie.

Fifth seed Dave Chisnall, a finalist in 2013, goes up against former world champion Jelle Klaasen, sixth seed Mensur Suljovic plays Ian White, seventh seed Michael Smith takes on Gerwyn Price, and eighth seed Raymond van Barneveld, twice a runner-up in the World Grand Prix, meets recent Auckland Darts Masters winner Kyle Anderson.

Elsewhere in the draw, 2015 champion Robert Thornton, who only got in the field for this year’s event following the withdrawal of Phil Taylor, takes on Kim Huybrechts, while 2008 and 2010 winner James Wade will play Steve West, who memorably knocked out Taylor in his World Grand Prix debut 12 months ago.

Mervyn King, the 2012 runner-up, has drawn Ronny Huybrechts, Benito van de Pas takes on Cristo Reyes, and Simon Whitlock faces Christian Kist.

Rob Cross, the highest-placed qualifier on the Pro Tour Order of Merit, goes up against Steve Beaton, Joe Cullen faces off with Daren Webster, and Alan Norris battles Justin Pipe in the other first round ties.

2017 Unibet World Grand Prix first round draw
(1) Michael van Gerwen v John Henderson
Alan Norris v Justin Pipe
(8) Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
Steve Beaton v Rob Cross
(5) Dave Chisnall v Jelle Klaasen
Robert Thornton v Kim Huybrechts
(4) Adrian Lewis v Daryl Gurney
Joe Cullen v Darren Webster
(2) Gary Anderson v Richard North
Simon Whitlock v Christian Kist
(7) Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Benito van de Pas v Cristo Reyes
(6) Mensur Suljovic v Ian White
Steve West v James Wade
(3) Peter Wright v Stephen Bunting
Mervyn King v Ronny Huybrechts

NEW ISSUE! Peter Wright exclusive interview, Wayne Jones on winning the Challenge Tour and much, much more!

We’re back! After a hiatus over the summer, the Love The Darts magazine is back, and we’re once again weekly! Here’s what’s inside this week’s relaunch issue:

– Peter Wright chats to us in an exclusive interview from this week’s Weekly Dartscast on tinkering with his darts, his number one ambitions and more

– Wayne Jones chats to us fresh after winning the Unicorn Challenge Tour and his tour card back in Wigan this past weekend

– Our statistician Christopher Kempf gives us his Match of the Week as well as the latest Form Rankings

– Lockup Dave returns with his betting tips for this weekend’s Unibet Champions League of Darts

– Richard Edwards is also back with the latest entry in his Darting Diary

Check out the issue for free above and send any feedback to lovethedartsmag@gmail.com

William O’Connor and Jason Cullen to contest for Ally Pally spot in Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay final

William O’Connor and Jason Cullen will battle it out for a place in the William Hill World Championship after both made it through to the final of the Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay.

Ireland’s premier domestic tournament took place in Tramore over the weekend, with O’Connor and Cullen securing their places in the final, which will take place on stage at the Citywest Hotel, in Dublin, next month.

Cappamore’s O’Connor has played in several majors before, including the World Grand Prix and UK Open, and has also represented the Republic of Ireland at the World Cup of Darts.

The 31-year-old has yet to appear in the World Championship though, but wins over Dean Forde, Martin Byrne and Roy Bailie has put him now one game away from clinching his debut at the Alexandra Palace at the end of the year.

Wexford-based Cullen, who has qualified for the BDO World Championship and World Masters in the past, is aiming to secure his debut in a PDC televised tournament.

The 29-year-old saw off Sheamus Hagan, Anthony Whoriskey and Keith Rooney to reach the decider, which will take place ahead of the Unibet World Grand Prix final on October 7.

The Tramore Darts Festival also featured the Irish qualifier for the upcoming Unicorn World Youth Championship, with Nathan Rafferty defeating Dean Finn 5-3 in the final to book his spot in November’s event.

Rafferty recorded wins over Luke Pearse and Ronan McCarthy on his way to reaching the decider, where he got the better of Finn to earn him the Irish Youth Matchplay title alongside a spot in the World Youth Championship.