A new name was etched onto the PDC World Darts Championship trophy in 2015 as Gary Anderson conquered the challenge of 16-time world champion Phil Taylor in an epic at the Alexandra Palace, the pair among 10 that will compete in the illustrious Premier League Darts Championship held across the next five months.
Flying Scotsman Anderson finally lifted the crown in his second ever World Championship final appearance at the Ally Pally, coming from behind to defeat ‘The Power’ in tense contest between the two tungsten terriers that was won through double 12 by the Scot for a 7-6 triumph.
Next on the list for both is the 2015 Betway Premier League, the crowd favourite 10-player tournament held over 16 successive Thursday nights from February 5 until May 21, kicking off at the First Direct Arena in Leeds which stages the opening night.
Raymond van Barneveld enters as the defending champion following a superb win over Dutch compatriot, Michael van Gerwen, the latter at the helm of initial bookmaker prices from the 10 desite having lost his World Championship crown after defeat to his successor, Anderson, in the semi-finals.
Taylor himself meanwhile recovered to the semi-finals of a difficult Premier League run last year that began with a whitewash loss inflicted by van Gerwen, although his return to enviable form keeps him tied at the top of the Premier League betting odds with the bookmakers a month prior to the action, Taylor and van Gerwen both 5/2 with Paddy Power for overall success.
The short format of the Premier League matches will suit van Gerwen and Anderson’s relentless attacks of the treble 20 bed, Anderson now third in the odds to regain the Premier League crown he won famously back in 2011. Reduced 5/1 odds with Betway could still be a huge scoop, just as proved the case with his underdog 7/1 mantle to win the World title.
Amazingly, little faith has been placed it seems in the battling van Barneveld to defend the league title, despite his gutsy world championship efforts that indicate he is strongly mentally than he has been in several years. Coral’s 25/1 price is the longest for the Dutchman, who was looked back to his best in the previous two years of his dynamic darts career even at 47 years of age.
Adrian Lewis joins the quartet on the back of his nine-dart heroics at the Ally Pally although his defeat to Anderson in the 2011 final remains his best Premier League result, while doubles were hard to find for him in the World Championships. His former big rival, James Wade, returns to the packed arenas of the league once again after a sabbatical from the 16-weeker last year, looking more refined on this occasion and a potential outside scoop at 16/1 (BetVictor) to add to his 2009 victory.
Former World Championship runner-up Peter Wright returns for the second year in succession to make it two Scottish contingents in the league, while Dave Chisnall again competes, both through the fan picks. ‘Chizzy’ – somewhat harshly – props up the bookmaker odds for success, but is therefore very likely to earn punters the biggest individual match winnings along the way initially with his quality at a dartboard.
Two contenders meanwhile make their debuts in the competition. Belgian Kim Huybrechts earned his place after consistently giving the big names headaches in 2014, falling to Taylor in the last-16 of the Worlds but only after a major scrap, while a nine-dart finish in a Grand Slam of Darts battering of van Gerwen was his major eye-opening moment.
Former BDO World Darts champion Stephen Bunting also makes it in rightly following an exceptional first year in the PDC, pushing van Barneveld all the way in the quarter-finals in London in the New Year to provoke a gracious bout of praise from the Dutchman on stage that moved the St Helens thrower to tears. Bunting’s 14/1 odds with tournament sponsors Betway to win outright should not be overlooked, but individual match odds each Thursday should be where the ‘Bullet’ is worth his price having oozed quality thus far.
“When Barney said that, it sort of sunk in that I do belong with the big names”, Bunting told Sky Sports. “It just goes to show that I made the right decision after Lakeside. The only way is up really. I know that I’ve got the game to beat anybody. It’s just about taking my game up there and showing it to the fans.”
Sky Sports will show each Thursday night of the Betway Premier League Darts live from February 5 until May 21.
2015 Betway Premier League Darts Schedule:
February 5 – First Direct Arena, Leeds
February 12 – BIC, Bournemouth
February 19 – Echo Arena, Liverpool
February 26 – Odyssey Arena, Belfast
March 5 – Westpoint Arena, Exeter
March 12 – Capital FM Arena, Nottingham
March 19 – The Hydro, Glasgow
March 26 – 3Arena, Dublin
April 2 – The Manchester Arena
April 9 – Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
April 16 – GE Oil & Gas Arena, Aberdeen
April 23 – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
April 30 – The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
May 7 – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
May 14 – The Brighton Centre
May 21 (Finals) – The O2, London