2018 Unibet Premier League Darts Preview – The Dark Horses

2018 Premier League Darts dark horses
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The biggest names in darts begin their quest for Premier League glory on Thursday as the new-look 2018 edition kicks off in Dublin ahead of 16 weeks of gruelling competition which culminates in Play-Off night at the O2 Arena in London on May 17.

After analysing the chances of the main contenders to the crown, what of the rest of the field? Debutants, former world champions and previous Premier League stars make up a strong but fresh line-up, where every man will fancy their chances of making the top four and earning a place at the Play-Offs.

The Dark Horses

Daryl Gurney

World Ranking: 5

Premier League Best: N/A (2018 debutant)

2017 Premier League Result: N/A

One of four debutants, Gurney will be hoping to make a major impression in his first Premier League campaign after a 2017 in which the Northern Irishman put himself amongst the world’s best.

In his best season to date, ‘Superchin’ won his first Pro Tour event alongside his first TV major at the World Grand Prix in October, making Gurney the first Northern Irishman to win a televised title.

Not known to shy away from a confrontation, and after several run-ins with the likes of Phil Taylor in 2017, Gurney will no doubt add spice to the roadshow with his feisty nature a trait that only seems to spur him on.

Bringing a much-improved game to the Premier League, Gurney will be a thorn in anyone’s side and has the potential to at least make it to the O2 should he play to the form he is capable of.

 

Mensur Suljovic

World Ranking: 6

Premier League Best: N/A (2018 debutant)

2017 Premier League Result: N/A

Suljovic’s rise up the rankings has been one of the real feel good stories over the last few seasons in the PDC. With his idiosyncratic technique you would be forgiven for wondering how the Austrian is so popular, but ‘The Gentle’ is one of the game’s nicest characters and a man who knows his own game inside out.

Unique in his selection but nonetheless deadly on the doubles, Suljovic will look to claim more top scalps in his first Premier League appearance. His victory at the Champions League of Darts very much felt like a breakthrough moment and a run to the Semi-Finals at The Masters last weekend shows he is in a positive frame of mind.

Do not count against the ‘giant killer’ dealing with the pressure and thriving week to week during the tournament.

 

Raymond van Barneveld

World Ranking: 10

Premier League Best: Winner (2014)

2017 Premier League Result: 6th

Having Raymond van Barneveld as a dark horse may seem ludicrous to some, but ‘Barney’s’ ability to consistently deliver has waned over the past few years with good performances on TV following dips in form.

The Dutchman, though, is no stranger to the Premier League. This will be RvB’s 13th appearance tying Phil Taylor’s record, while the legendary thrower has tasted victory once before in 2014.

Some outstanding performances at The Masters at the weekend, on his way to a narrow defeat in the final to Michael van Gerwen, leaves van Barneveld in a rich vein of form heading into the opening week. The battle will be to keep it up over 16 long weeks.

 

Gerwyn Price

World Ranking: 12

Premier League Best: N/A (2018 debutant)

2017 Premier League Result: N/A

Perhaps the biggest unknown heading into the tournament, Welshman Gerwyn Price has shown himself to be one of the most dangerous men outside the established order at the top.

With destructive scoring ability, Price can hang with the best of them and ‘The Iceman’ also enjoyed his best year to date in 2017 with runs to two TV finals alongside a strong showing at the World Championship where it took a superb MvG performance to knock him out in the last 16.

Another man who thrives on a challenge and a real battle, Price will certainly not be there just to make up the numbers with a chance to truly cement himself amongst the game’s elite, alongside a Premier League trophy, on the line.

 

Simon Whitlock

World Ranking: 8

Premier League Best: Runner-Up (2012)

2017 Premier League Result: N/A

Australian Simon Whitlock has embarked on a career renaissance of late after falling down the rankings following several lean years. 2017 saw ‘The Wizard’ reach his first major final since 2013 as he was narrowly edged out by Daryl Gurney at the World Grand Prix.

The Aussie has vital Premier League experience, which may be a big factor this year more than any other, after experiencing the draining nature of the 16-week tournament on five separate occasions including coming up short at the final hurdle in 2012.

Whitlock is an enigma who will add colour to the event but he will be a danger to any of the big names.

 

Michael Smith

World Ranking: 11

Premier League Best: 10th (2016)

2017 Premier League Result: N/A

After a nightmare debut Premier League campaign in 2016, ‘Bully Boy’ Michael Smith returns to the tournament in 2018 hoping for better fortunes and to have learned from his chastening experiences.

Smith had a consistent, if unspectacular, 2017 but continues to show that he has the potential to rise to the top of the game.

The only thing stopping Smith is his ability under pressure, having missed golden opportunities in his last two World Championship appearances in falling to defeat to James Wade and Rob Cross at the last 16 stage after being in positions of considerable strength.

Another Premier League campaign, with lessons learned, should give Smith the opportunity to work on this unwanted trait and, perhaps, surprise many by upsetting the big guns.

 

With only hours to go until the tournament kicks off for another year, the anticipation is high and the expectations are even more so. Who will triumph come May 17?  We predict another Michael van Gerwen title with Rob Cross to make the play-offs and the pick of the dark horses to be Mensur Suljovic.

 

Premier League Darts 2018: Night One (Dublin) – Thursday February 1

Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock
Gary Anderson v Michael Smith
Daryl Gurney v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price