The 2020 Unibet Premier League gets underway on Thursday in Aberdeen, as Peter Wright makes his homecoming on what promises to be a special night for Scottish darts with Gary Anderson and John Henderson also returning to the big stage.
The Premier League roadshow will see nine of the world’s biggest stars go head-to-head across 17 nights of action, kicking off at the new P&J Live venue in front of 7,000 fans.
A highly-anticipated opening night will see newly-crowned World Champion Wright joined by fellow-Scottish stars Anderson, who will make his Premier League return, and Henderson, the first of nine Challengers.
Wright claimed World Championship glory on New Year’s Day at Alexandra Palace as he sensationally defeated Van Gerwen 7-3 to claim the Sid Waddell Trophy and take his mantle as World Champion.
The pair will renew rivalries on Wright’s home soil as the Scot eyes his maiden Premier League title to banish the demons from the infamous 2017 final which saw him miss six match darts for the title.
“The World Championship is won, that’s off the list, now I want to finally get my hands on that Premier League title,” said Wright, who won his first Masters title on Sunday.
“I would say the 2017 Premier League final is probably the most painful defeat I’ve suffered, but by the next day I’d got it out of my head by winning a floor tournament and hitting a nine-darter.
“You can’t do anything about the past, you have to look to the future and I think that’s my biggest strength which, ultimately, is what led to me lifting the World title.
“You’ve just got to learn how to forget things. Once you’ve released your three darts you can’t take them back out the board and have another go, you’ve just got to make sure your next turn is better.
“Thursday will be an amazing night for Scottish darts with Gary making his comeback and John is a huge crowd favourite.
“Scottish darts is in a great place at the moment and to showcase that on the opening Premier League night will be really special.”
World number one Van Gerwen will be seeking immediate revenge for his World Championship defeat as the Dutchman opens his challenge to win an unprecedented fifth successive Premier League title.
Van Gerwen has dominated the competition since his debut in 2013, winning the league phase every year; a record he is determined to continue into 2020.
“I love to perform on the biggest stages and the Premier League is the perfect tournament for that, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Van Gerwen.
“I have performed very well in the tournament over the years and if I keep my focus each week then I will continue that this year.
“You have to perform every single week and if you don’t you will lose because you are playing the best of the best. I see every game as a final, that’s how you need to approach it.
“Of course it was a disappointment to lose the World Championship final, but you have to look forward and that starts this Thursday against Peter.”
2011 and 2015 Premier League Champion Anderson will make his Premier League return against Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney, with the Scot having missed last year’s campaign due to a back injury.
The two-time World Champion is firmly established as a Scottish sporting hero but the 49-year-old insists he still has the hunger for more titles.
“It will be great to be back in the Premier League, I must admit I’m looking forward to it,” said Anderson.
“Last year there was no way I could’ve played with the state of my back, but I did enjoy spending 16 weeks with my family.
“This year will be about finding the perfect balance between spending time at home and playing, hopefully we will find that balance.
“To me it’s not all about winning, I just want ‘my game’ back; I want to play free-flowing like I used to without pain, and if I can do that then I’ll be a happy man.
“It will be great to play in the magnificent new arena in Aberdeen, I’m already very impressed with it so to see it full will be quite a sight.”
Local hero Henderson famously lit up the old Aberdeen venue in 2019 with a spine-tingling walk-on followed by a thrilling 6-6 draw with Van Gerwen.
This year he will face UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall, who will be competing in his first full Premier League campaign, with over 7,000 fans set to pack the state-of-the-art venue.
“If Thursday night is even half as good as last year I will be delighted,” Henderson revealed.
“Last year goes down as one of the best and most emotional nights of my life, so to have the chance to do it all over again is amazing.
“Because I got a draw with Michael last year some people will think I will beat Nathan, but I know how good Nathan is and it will be a really tough game.
“I’ll give it my all and hopefully I can create some memories in front of what will be another incredible crowd.”
The opening night will also see newcomer Glen Durrant play 2018 runner-up Michael Smith, while two-time Grand Slam Champion Gerwyn Price takes on last year’s runner-up Rob Cross.
The first nine nights of action will see a different Challenger in action, culminating in Judgement Night in Rotterdam on March 26 where the ninth-placed player will be eliminated.
Following Judgement Night, the remaining eight players meet once more in the remaining seven league nights in Belfast, Sheffield, Manchester, Berlin, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds.
The top four players then progress to face off for the title, and a £250,000 top prize, in the Play-Offs at The O2 in London on Thursday May 21.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.
Any remaining tickets are available to purchase through ticketmaster.co.uk
2020 Unibet Premier League Night One
Thursday February 6
Aberdeen, P&J Live
Michael Smith v Glen Durrant
Gary Anderson v Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall v John Henderson
Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross
Sixth place £60,000
Seventh place £55,000
Eighth place £50,000
Ninth place £35,000
League winner bonus £25,000