Nathan Aspinall has made a rapid rise to the top – but his darting career very almost bottomed out.

It hasn’t been a cakewalk for the Stockport ace. The former World Youth Championship runner-up picked up a PDC Tour Card in 2015, but lost it in 2017. Aspinall quickly won it back, but competing in a packed field was a tough ask. Everything has changed in a whirlwind 12 months.

The Asp is now the reigning UK Open champion, a World Championship semi-finalist and, as of July, a World Series winner. Speaking to ITV Sport in a Las Vegas casino just before his successful tilt at the US Darts Masters crown, the 27-year-old admitted that he’d taken a monumental gamble.

“The risk I took to be where I am now is massive,” said Aspinall.

“Not just for me, but for my family.

“But it’s paid off! I’ve worked hard, put the hours in, and I’m reaping the rewards now.”

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

“I was struggling”

The extent of that risk may surprise some who have followed Aspinall’s burgeoning career. In the middle of 2018, he had failed to get past the last 16 or earn more than £1,750 (at the UK Open) at any tournament since qualifying from Q-School a few months before.

“It was really tough. The middle of last year, I had no money whatsoever.

“I was struggling to get by, struggling to even pay for my weekends away,” he revealed.

It took some intervention from manager Martin Foulds to get Aspinall back on track. A timely loan would prove to be the catalyst for Aspinall’s success.

“The week before the Pro Tour that I won [Players Championship 18 in Barnsley], I said ‘I have to pull out. I haven’t got any money to go with’. And that’s how bad it was.

“If it wasn’t for my manager – Martin is a great guy, and a friend as well as a manager – he gave me some money, to help me out.

“I repaid him by winning that tournament, that weekend, and from there I’d pushed on.”

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

No doubts

The money on offer in the PDC is truly life-changing, for players able to grab their opportunities. Since his Players Championship win, Aspinall has collected a whopping £275,200. £100,000 came from his World Championship run, with the same amount collected for winning the UK Open in Minehead.

With money no longer at the forefront of Aspinall’s mind, the world number 13 can focus on making his way to the top of the tree.

“Since the Worlds, the money trouble has gone. I feel like I can beat anyone now, whereas six months ago, I had doubts.

“Now I believe I’m one of the best players in the world of darts,” the Asp asserted.

“I’ve worked hard to get to the level that I’m at. I’ve still got more to give – I’m playing well on stage at the moment, at European Tours, but I’ve still got another gear up.

“I’m just trying to find that little bit more, taking the big shots out at crucial times, and get that extra one, two per cent.

“If I keep going the way I’m going, I’m hopeful that at the back end of this year, when the TV events come, I can pick up another title.”

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Author: Ed McCosh