THE FLYING Scotsman is ready to steam into Leeds.
For the second successive year, Gary Anderson will enter the First Direct Arena for darts’ Premier League opening night as world champion.
After stunning Phil Taylor in the 2015 final, Anderson kept hold of the Sid Waddell Trophy – named after the legendary commentator, who lived for much of his life in Pudsey – with a thrilling seven sets to five victory over Adrian Lewis.
This year’s Premier League launch, on Thursday, February 4, will be the third time the tournament has visited Leeds, which is known as the birthplace of televised darts.
After a hugely successful debut, in front of a packed five-figure crowd in 2014, the city was handed the honour of opening the tournament last year and will do the same in a month’s time.
Fixtures have yet to be announced, but last year saw Anderson, who went on to win the tournament, take on Taylor in a repeat of the world final, so a rematch with Lewis could be on the cards.
The other eight players in this year’s Premier League are: Taylor, Raymond Van Barneveld, Michael Van Gerwen, James Wade, Robert Thornton, Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith and Peter Wright.
“I am looking forward to it,” Anderson told the Yorkshire Evening Post after his victory in Sunday’s final at Alexandra Palace, north London. “The venue will be packed, as they all are. If it holds 3,000 it is packed and if it holds 14,000 it is packed. It is a great venue and it is fantastic to have so many people turning out on a Thursday night.”
Smith, from St Helens, will be making his Premier League debut when the event kicks off in Leeds.
He has the same manager as Anderson, who believes the youngster is a future world champion. He said: “You think Michael Van Gerwen is good.
“When he (Smith) finds his feet on stage, watch out!”
Anderson is still buzzing after his win over Lewis, which avenged defeat in the 2011 final.
He netted prize money of £300,000, plus a £15,000 bonus for a nine-dart leg in his semi-final win over Jelle Klaasen.
“When I was doing all the interviews last year I thought ‘never again’, but I have managed to do it,” he added.
“Phil Taylor is probably the greatest darts player ever so to beat him in the final meant the world. Not many people have done that and winning it the first time has the biggest part of my heart. Winning it the second time has the rest.”
Anderson averaged 99.26 for every three darts in the final, to Lewis’ 100.22.
There were 34 maximum scores of 180 between them, which is a record for any professional match, but Anderson felt neither player was at his best. We were both expecting fireworks,” said the champion. “We normally have cracking games, big scores and big outshots.
“It was like someone forgot to light the fuse, there were some good darts and some awful ones. It felt like it never kicked off and if somebody had said it was a 77 average, I would have believed that – then I saw we’d hit 30-plus 180s, so it was not too bad!”
Tickets for the Premier League launch at the First Direct Arena next month are available from the venue on: 08442481585 or online at: www.eventim.co.uk