Ahead of this year’s Premier League season entering its second phase tomorrow, SAM CARTER picks his ultimate 10-player line up for the Premier League, choosing only from the 46 players who have competed in the tournament’s history.
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD
There are a few men that would have to be in your “Ultimate Premier League” line up, and a few that are down to personal choice. Raymond van Barneveld is a man who falls into the first category.
In the second edition of the Premier League, all the way back in 2006, some extra star power materialised when van Barneveld was added to the field as a wildcard entry, shortly after declaring his intentions to switch from the BDO to the PDC.
RVB, a five-time world champion and massively popular around the world, appeared in the Premier League in 14 successive seasons, qualifying for finals night eight times and going all the way in 2014 and winning the event, defeating Michael van Gerwen in the final.
His last Premier League season to date in 2019 was not a campaign to remember for RVB, but his past triumphs in both this event, and other events previously, as well as his massive support and Premier League nine darter exploits means he must be a shoe in for this particular list.
From a regular fixture in the Premier League to a man who is fairly new on the scene, the current world champion, Gerwyn Price.
Unfortunately for The Iceman, he was ruled out of the Premier League this year on the first day of the tournament, due to testing positive for Covid-19. This would have marked Price’s fourth appearance in the event and, after failing to make the play-offs in all three previous appearances, it is of course obvious to see that his heritage in this event is lacking.
With that being said, Price had never won as much, or played as well, before his previous Premier League seasons as he had in the pandemic era of darts.
He was joint favourite with some betting firms to win the title this year and was tipped by yours truly to top the league phase. This along with his brash on-stage persona means he gets a spot in this line up.
A man who seems part of the furniture in darts’ most prestigious invitational tournament is Peter Wright.
A run to the World Championship final in 2014 gave him entry into the subsequent Premier League, a berth he has since never surrendered.
Wright has had two very contrasting outcomes in a Premier League season; in 2015 he was relegated, and then in 2017 he missed six match darts to win the final against Michael Van Gerwen.
Wright’s record in the Premier League is not as good as perhaps you would expect it to be, only making the play-offs twice, but the former multi-time major champion makes it into this field for me, with his obvious darting ability being paired with his huge charisma, entertaining the crowd with his colourful hairstyles, outfits and darts equipment.
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN
There is nothing much to really say about Michael van Gerwen that has not already been said previously, and there is absolutely no doubt he would walk into any list celebrating the best throwers of tungsten.
The Premier League is a tournament that van Gerwen is particularly efficient in, winning the league phase every year from 2013 to 2019, and converting five of them league phase wins to outright tournament wins.
Few will forget that epic 132 checkout to beat Phil Taylor in the 2013 final, that aforementioned comeback from what looked like certain defeat in the 2017 final versus Peter Wright, and that unbelievable world record average on TV against Michael Smith in 2016.
I think van Gerwen would fancy his chances no matter what Premier League he is in, but he would probably fancy his chances in this one more than most, relishing as he does the biggest games against the biggest of players.
One of darts’ biggest stars over the past 15 years, James Wade is regarded by many as the best player in the sport to have never won a World Championship.
The Machine has picked up nearly every big TV title bar the Worlds, including a Premier League title in only his second attempt in 2009.
Wade has appeared in 11 Premier Leagues in the last 14 seasons, making the play-offs six times and, perhaps unsurprisingly, never being relegated after Judgement Night.
Wade was not expected to be in this year’s line up but got a late call up due to Gerwyn Price testing positive for Covid-19, and is expected to appear in the tournament for the 12th time next year, either by staying in the top four on the PDC Order of Merit or as a wildcard as a result of winning this year’s UK Open.
No matter how Wade is performing he is notoriously a hard man to beat and rarely gets caught from a winning position. This, combined with his longevity and an under-rated scoring game, would make him a big asset in any Premier League he plays in.
Also taking a spot for me would be one of only four men to have appeared in at least 10 Pemier Leagues, Adrian Lewis.
Jackpot debuted as a 22-year-old whipper snapper in 2007 and only missed one year until his latest campaign in 2017.
Lewis has looked unlikely to appear in the Premier League since then, as long tournament runs and subsequent ranking money have started to dry up as of late.
An Adrian Lewis at his best is unlike so many other players to watch. At his peak, his game is awash with 180s and high finishes.
Lewis has thrown two nine darters in the Premier League is still only in his mid-30s, and has plenty of time to get his career back on track.
For my next entry I have a man who perhaps did not have the most vintage of runs in the Premier League, but I would still put him in regardless, and that is the game’s most successful non-European player, John Part.
The Canadian scooped his second world title a couple of years before the Premier League was set to start, but still made the inaugural tournament on the basis of making several big finals across 2003 and 2004.
Despite a decent start, Darth Maple did not have a good run in and finished sixth a place he would go on to fail to better in either of his other two appearances in the Premier League in 2008 and 2009.
With that being said, Part was still one of the biggest stars of the sport at the time, being one of only a few players that regularly troubled Phil Taylor’s era of dominance and definitely adds big name value to any tournament, particularly an all-star event such as the Premier League.
Debate will always rage as to who the true greatest of all time is, but I do believe there is only one correct answer and it is Phil Taylor.
The Power is also by far and away the best player in the history of the Premier League and I’m sure we have all heard the statistics proving his greatness, but here are a few just to remind you.
Out of 14 Premier Leagues, Taylor only managed to lose out on finals night qualification once; and went on to win six titles.
He is the only man to hit three perfect legs in the event, including two in just one match against James Wade in the 2010 final.
He had a 44-game unbeaten streak in the event stretching across four years, and has the highest ever group phase average recorded in the tournament’s history.
Gary Anderson is the second Scotsman and fifth former Premier League champion to appear in my list, having won the title in 2011 and 2015.
Anderson has made finals night on each of the last six occasions he has played in the tournament, but also has the dubious honour of being one of only two men to come bottom of the table in two successive seasons.
The two time world champion brings an awful to the lot table. A serious amount of big scoring as well as massive popularity in his home nation and beyond.
In recent years, Anderson has also been known for his regular forays into darting politics, entertaining post-match interviews and hard to read form and is one of the most unpredictable players in the game. You probably would not be surprised if he exited a knockout tournament at the first round or if he went on to win it. He is certainly a star attraction for the Premier League.
This may seem a bit of a strange pick to some as Dennis Priestley only appeared in one Premier League, all the way back in 2007.
The Menace was 56 years of age back then, but took to the huge arenas across the British Isles like a duck to water and despite stating that the loud crowds were not too his liking, remained unbeaten in his first five matches and went all the way to the finals night, being defeated in the semi-finals by long-term rival Phil Taylor.
I think a dream Premier League lineup, or something of this nature, would really benefit from the two time world champion’s presence.
I for one would certainly love to see the calculated, calm and old school of style of Priestley coming up against a newer breed of quicker, more animated players like Michael van Gerwen or Gerwyn Price. And who would not love to see Taylor and Priestley renew their rivalry and duke it out on the big stage one more time?