BIG-TIME DARTS will fly back into Leeds tonight.
A packed house of around 12,000 is expected at the First Direct Arena when the Professional Darts Corporation’s Betway Premier League makes its fourth visit to the city.
Ten of the world’s top players will shoot it out in five matches played over the best of 12 legs, with the highlight being a clash between multiple former world champions Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and Raymond Van Barneveld.
They are third on, after Peter Wright faces Gary Anderson and James Wade takes on Adrian Lewis. The final two match-ups see world champion Michael Van Gerwen meet Jelle Klaasen and Dave Chisnall play Kim Huybrechts.
The Leeds crowd is becoming known as one of the most raucous and enthusiastic in the sport and Wright – nicknamed Snakebite – is relishing tonight’s big-match atmosphere.
“It’s better playing in front of a crowd than in totally silent and freezing cold halls,” said the former world finalist. “It is a lot more exciting having a crowd and being on TV.
“It gets the adrenaline going and if you are playing well you can shut the noise out. Sometimes when I’ve played on the big stage I’ve been in the zone that much it has felt like I was back at home practicing. You feel that relaxed you forget about the crowd.”
Wright, ranked No 3 in the world, is known for his colourful image – flamboyant trousers and whacky hairstyle – as much as his marksmanship.
He said the Leeds crowd will have to wait and see what he has in store this week.
“I don’t know,” he admitted when asked if his hair will have a Yorkshire theme. “It’s up to the boss, my wife Jo does it all – I just play darts.
“I am running out of outfits and I’m waiting for a delivery so I don’t know what she has got planned. It will be a good surprise.”
Meanwhile Taylor, who is in his final Premier League season, has described Leeds as one of his favourite cities to play in. He said: “It will be a great crowd in Leeds, they always give good support. To me Leeds is probably one of the best venues we play at. It’s always a good night, they are great people and it’s a perfect venue for me against Barney.”