Monday morning brought bad news for Gary Anderson fans.
It was confirmed by the PDC that the Flying Scotsman would miss the 2019 Premier League. This comes immediately after Anderson backing out of the Masters, having undergone further treatment for a chronic back complaint.
It’s well documented that playing in the Premier League is an intense experience. Gerwyn Price is a more recent example of the draining effect the weekly tour can have. Anderson himself has spoken about the rigours of playing on stages in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands on a regular basis. The PDC and Sky, having now accepted that Anderson can’t commit to the Premier League, must find someone else to put their next three months on hold.
But who should replace the popular Scot?
One of the names immediately in the frame would be Glen Durrant. There was plenty of buzz surrounding his potential inclusion before the original announcement. Barry Hearn quickly quashed the rumours, stating that only a PDC Tour Card holder could play in the Premier League. Since that time, Durrant has won the Lakeside title for a third consecutive time, and earned his Tour Card through Q-School. If he were to be included, it’d be one almighty baptism of fire as he starts his PDC journey.
Simon Whitlock will have felt aggrieved that he didn’t get an invite in the first place. Mensur Suljovic and Gerwyn Price, both relegated – something Whitlock was in absolutely no danger of – are back again in 2019. Raymond van Barneveld’s inclusion means that Whitlock is the only member of the Order of Merit’s top ten who was snubbed. It is true that the Wizard wasn’t able to weave his magic on the big stage last season. Defeat to Ryan Joyce at the Alexandra Palace may have been his tipping point. But few would begrudge the Aussie taking the available Premier League spot.
There are a couple of other familiar faces who may also fancy a Premier League return. Dave Chisnall showed a personal resurgence in 2018 and, as a big scorer, always provides entertainment. In the same vein, former finalist Adrian Lewis could be given another crack. With a kinder draw, Jackpot may have got a lot further at the Ally Pally. But that is also a reminder of where he currently sits in the world rankings.
Other members of the world’s top 16 are outside bets for a place. Ian White is the world number 11, and can beat any player in the world at any time. Yet that doesn’t seem true when he’s on the stage; a diabolical major record may count against him. The same goes for Darren Webster, whose form dipped at the wrong time last year. Joe Cullen had a clear run at the World Championship semi-finals, instead crumbling at the first hurdle. Had he gone on a run in December, he’d have been knocking at the door. One of the standout performers of 2018 was Jonny Clayton. The Welshman deserves to be in the running, at least. And Stephen Bunting replaced Anderson at the Masters – could he also replace him in the Premier League? The Bullet would certainly get a good reception in Liverpool.
The PDC is constantly championing its young talent, and there are plenty of prodigies who’d leap at the chance of a Premier League berth. Dimitri van den Bergh is always in the mix. Other dark horses would be Jeffrey de Zwaan, Luke Humphries or PDC Young Player of the Year Max Hopp. The latter would be a massive boost of the PDC’s hopes of piquing German interest. Nathan Aspinall made the semi-finals of the World Championship and also won on the floor, so has pedigree. The call would probably come a bit early for the Asp.
Then again, if you’re losing a popular Scottish cult hero, you may as well go for a like-for-like substitution. John Henderson, anyone?
It is a huge disappointment to darts fans everywhere that Gary Anderson won’t be gracing Premier League stages this year.
But it’s comforting to know that the PDC has quality in abundance.
Author: Ed McCosh