The Bullet’s views on PDC Worlds, turnaround in form and more
We are delighted to be joined by four-time Major title winner Stephen Bunting, who shares his exclusive thoughts to Sam Barnard for Darts World ahead of his fourth Ally Pally appearance, in Part 3 of our 2018 PDC World Championship profile/interview series.
The Bullet is no stranger to a World Darts Championship, having won the BDO edition in 2014 and reached the quarter-finals at the PDC version a year later.
Stephen burst onto the darting scene at an early age, lifting prestigious titles such as the 2001 World Youth Masters and 2002 WDF Europe Youth Cup before making his BDO Worlds debut in 2004 aged just 18.
He has since become one of the top names in the PDC after crossing over soon after his Lakeside triumph, having reached the latter rounds in many Major tournaments and gained invites to the likes of the Premier League and World Series events.
Despite a slow start to 2017, Bunting has picked up his form at the right time before another Ally Pally appearances, reaching at least the quarters in three Players Championship events since August, showing great mental strength to beat Joe Cullen at the 2017 European Championship and qualifying for the Grand Slam.
So, read on about the above and more for our exclusive Stephen Bunting interview and profile, the third in our series, ahead of the 2018 PDC World Championship from December 14 – January 1…
Stephen Bunting profile
Date of birth: 09/04/1985 (age 32)
Place of birth: Liverpool
Based: St Helens
Nickname: The Bullet
Walk-on song: Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen
Darts used: 12g Target darts
Management company: Nevada Sports Management
Sponsors: Target, Accept Car Finance, Nevada Sports Management
Twitter handle: @sbunting180
Website: Coming soon
Favourite double: 16
Favourite checkout: 170
Favourite tournament: World Matchplay at the Winter Gardens
Favourite country played in: Australia
Toughest player faced: Michael van Gerwen
Players to watch in future: Ted Evetts, Corey Cadby
Sports hero growing up: Steven Gerrard
Best mates in darts: Tony Martin, Anastasia Dobromyslova, Rob Cross, Ricky Evans
Favourite food: Chinese (sui mai)
Favourite films/TV shows: Predator, Ghost
Favourite bands: Keane, Tom Chaplin, Queen
Hobbies outside of darts: Fishing, snooker
Current/previous day job: Administrator
Best moments in darts: Beating Alan Norris in the Lakeside final. Or beating Phil Taylor in the European Championship
Ultimate darting ambition: To become PDC world champ and world number 1
Stephen Bunting interview
You’re set for your sixth straight appearance at a BDO or PDC World Championship, and 11th in total. How excited are you ahead of the 2018 edition? Do you have any specific aims at it?
Very excited. Just to be in the tournament is a special feeling and I am chomping at the bit to get back on the Ally Pally stage.
I am putting in a lot of practise behind the scenes so I am hoping it pays off and I can go all the way.
My form is really good and it’s exciting me leading me into the Worlds. I play my best darts when I am happy and I’m very happy at the minute.
What are your preparations for the Worlds now until it begins?
I have the Grand Slam and Players Championship and a few exhibitions before the Worlds.
As well as these I will be putting the practise in behind the scenes to make sure I am bang at it when I arrive in London.
Do moments such as lifting the 2014 BDO title, beating James Wade and Michael Smith in the 2015 PDC Worlds, and epic battles with Barney give you fond memories and inspire you even more for the future?
Of course they do. They are all defining moments of making me the player I am today.
I am proud of my achievements in darts so far, but there is a lot more to come.
You mentioned after reaching the Players Championship 20 final recently that you’d considered quitting darts. Firstly, I’m very glad you didn’t, but at what point did you think that and why?
It was a severe lack of confidence. Looking back now my form wasn’t that bad but I was losing a lot of games which took its toll. I was going to tournaments and wasn’t enjoying being there.
I lost a lot of love for the game but I believe I am coming back stronger than before. I’m glad I didn’t walk away from the game that has given me many fond memories and a game I love so much.
You have to take the rough with the smooth and I am enjoying a good run at the minute. I was lazy before and didn’t practise nearly enough, but now I see I have too.
And now that you are back to playing at your near best, how did you turn around your fortunes?
I went and seen a sports psychologist and it really helped me.
I started looking at the positives of my game and it has changed my way of thinking. I really believe I am better now than I was before.
Does the turnaround in form by other players in recent years such as Michael Smith and Simon Whitlock give you confidence that you can continue to do the same too?
Of course, but I tend not to look how others are doing and just focus on my own game.
If I am playing my best then I can beat anyone in the world.
You’re still in a good place in the rankings ahead of the Worlds and new season. Have you set any specific goals yet for 2018?
Not really. I just want to keep playing well and things will start to happen.
Moving onto to football and your beloved Liverpool FC, who have had a somewhat inconsistent start to the season. What has been your assessment of them and Klopp so far? And what do you hope they can achieve by the end of the season?
I love Jurgen Klopp. He has been a breath of fresh air around the place and he has really lifted the players.
It’s not been the best start, but with [Mohamed] Salah, [Sadio] Mane, [Roberto] Firmino and [Philippe] Coutinho’s quality we can beat anyone.
I am hoping for a top 4 finish and a great run in Europe.
And finally, do you have any favourite moments of the PDC World Championship watching as a fan? And what makes the tournament so special?
I always watched when I was younger. I loved the epic battles between Part and Taylor and later with Barney and Taylor.
The tournament at Ally Pally is made special with it being around the festive season and the crowds all turning up in fancy dress cheering all the players on.
It’s a favourite venue and place to be at that time of year.
Many thanks to Stephen for speaking to us this week. Join us for part 4 of our PDC Worlds interview series next time, where we’ll hear the views of top 10 ranked PDC star and former World Youth champion Michael Smith.