MILTON KEYNES may have only been a town since 1967. But it’s history dates back as far as the Bronze Age. However, not many could have predicted it would become the centre of the Tungsten Age in 2020.
With the UK still gripped in the virus crisis, the Marshall Arena has become the temporary home of darts in a bubble.
Just to add further spice to the brew, Storm Francis has the windows rattling on the windows of the Arena as the Unibet Premier League blows back into the limelight.
The truth is that the Covid-19 lockdown has sucked up the darts world form book like a tornado and no one is sure who will be spat back out on top of their game.
There are lots of questions to be answered in this PL binge of 10 nights of action in just 13 days and only four points separating eight players.
Here’s a quick rundown of the fascinating days ahead, player-by-player in league table order:
Undoubtedly one of the most intelligent guys on the entire tour. He’s had a great deal of time to dwell on being top of the table since lockdown in March. But perhaps his biggest asset is experience and unflappable nature. Duzza is privately fuming he missed a chance to get a major title under his belt with the Matchplay. His first night back result against Peter Wright will be a massive indication of what he is capable of.
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN
Knowing Michael, he will want to roar back from his subdued Matchplay performances and show the world what he’s all about. It has become a growing question of which Michael will turn up at some events and in knockout tournaments that is naturally a precarious place. But the Premier League allows him to have the odd blip and still dominate. It would be a big surprise if this wasn’t the case again.
It is a case of when not if Michael taking a major. The constant chat is a bit irrelevant. He has won the Shanghai Masters and World Youth title already. However, the anticipation is a huge compliment because everyone knows he has the ability to wipe out any player at any stage. If he can cut out a tad more of the stage emotion and stay in the top four, he is very capable of winning this.
He’s still very much the new kid on the block. Curiously won the PDC Home Tour despite him admitting he was playing “absolutely horrendous”. Nathan has shown seeds of doubt over his form after lockdown and was another player who had a tough Matchplay. But this lad remains a dark horse, never to be underestimated. He will need to adapt to crowd-less events quickly.
The only thing predictable about Peter is his unpredictability. Now he’s swapping darts again and glasses or contact lenses! Just when we think he’s messing about too much, he defies us all to pull something special out the bag. His return tonight against Glen is a huge clash of the old pals. Peter needs that win under his belt to really kick on and stake his top four place. One thing for sure, there won’t be a dull moment.
Desire is always the key word for Gary. If he turns up and wants to turn it on, no one is safe. But you have to feel that the glut of games plays into his hands. If Gary can get his throw right early he can reel off win after win. Once again, the opening gambit against protege Michael could be vital to get him in the mood.
The Iceman is playing it cool. He told Darts World this week that he’s just using the Premier League as practice. A bit of kidology perhaps? This is suddenly a big test for Gerwyn, he clearly lacks a bit of firepower without the adrenalin and atmosphere of fans. Who would have thought that a lack of booing would be a bad thing. If he gets a result against Nathan tonight, it will give him a big boost of energy and a real threat thereafter.
The quiet man of the league, constantly chipping away off the radar. He’s definitely not set the world alight so far. But Rob is the king of plod. His B game is his biggest asset, winning ugly and all that. However, that won’t be good enough to get him into the top four. He needs to find that extra gear and that Rolls-Royce rhythm that took him to three majors. Being a new dad can be either a massive boost or a big distraction.
Another off-the-radar merchant and he admits he likes it that way. Daryl is a curious customer because he can go on decent winning runs without anyone noticing. His clash with Chris Dobey is absolutely huge for him to get out of relegation trouble. A win tonight and Rob Cross loses and it’s game on. Defeat to Dobes and it’s possibly game over. Gut feeling is that Daryl is ready to fight his way out of elimination.
Tuesday August 25 (6.30pm), Sky Sports. Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
- Michael Smith v Gary Anderson
- Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
- Nathan Aspinall v Gerwyn Price
- Chris Dobey v Daryl Gurney
- Peter Wright v Glen Durrant
Pictures by Taylor Lanning