Leeds is the right place for world class darts

Phil Taylor. PIC: Lawrence Lustig
Phil Taylor. PIC: Lawrence Lustig
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BOOM SPORT darts is set to move to a new level in 2016, one of its top stars claims.

Peter Wright will take to the oche at Leeds’ First Direct Arena tonight to kick off the opening round of the BetWay Premier League.

A five-figure crowd will pack the venue to see the game’s 10 best players in action and Wright, a former world finalist, believes the quality of arrows on show will be sky high.

“In my opinion, the standard of darts is going to go even better this year,” predicted Wright who will face Premier League new boy Michael Smith in tonight’s opening match.

“Michael van Gerwen wants more, Phil Taylor wants to get back to winning big titles, and Gary Anderson too, and guys like Adrian Lewis, James Wade and myself are practising really hard.

“I think you’ll see the averages go even higher, which will be great for the fans and people watching on TV.”

Tonight’s players are fresh from the UniBet Masters in Milton Keynes, which was won by van Gerwen.

Wright said: “I’m playing well. I’ve been making a few small amendments to my darts – like longer points – but in Milton Keynes I used shorter points in my darts with a diamond grip and I felt fine.

“I know that I can average at least 103 with those darts all the time and I averaged 104 against Phil Taylor on Sunday although even that wasn’t quite enough!”

Wright has yet to win a major televised title, but feels this could be his year.

He added: “I’m looking forward to this year. I had a few personal problems last year and maybe I wasn’t turning up in the right frame of mind.

“This year, it’s a guy who wants to play darts so the other players need to watch out.

“This year, I’ll win TV tournaments and the aim is to go and win the Premier League now. I’m experienced enough now to go and win it, and I’m afraid of nobody.”

Smith will be a tough first opponent, despite his inexperience.

“I’ve been very, very impressed by Michael Smith,” Wright said. “He has done immensely well to get into the top 10 and he’s a fantastic darts player – he will be a future world champion, easily.

“But it’s my job to welcome him nicely to the Premier League with a whitewash! In my first year I was top of the league for six weeks or so, and Michael’s got to go out and enjoy it.

“It’s totally different to any other TV tournament and it’s a privilege to play in the Premier League.”

Tonight’s other fixtures are: Michael van Gerwen v James Wade, Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld, Gary Anderson v Adrian Lewis, Robert Thornton v Dave Chisnall.

PIC: Steve Riding

Photo gallery: Betway Premier League darts in Leeds