On February 16 2006, Raymond van Barneveld stood before the Blackburn crowd, and made his Premier League Darts debut.
13 years on, the five-time world champion could be making his Premier League Darts farewell. If he does, it’ll be a dream farewell. Thousands will fill the Ahoy Rotterdam to form an almighty Barney Army. It might even help him get the points he needs to keep the dream alive a little longer. Judgement Week starts here, a day before Judgement Night.
Bully Boy’s escape plan
The man who van Barneveld will be looking to consign to elimination is Michael Smith. It wasn’t long ago that Bully Boy was on a high, having reached the World Championship final. Now he is battling for survival, and the one-point advantage over his Dutch rival feels critical. A win over Gerwyn Price would ease the elimination fears nicely. After a peak in form of his own, the Welshman hasn’t done so well lately. In fact, if he loses and van Barneveld wins later, it might be Price who is in danger of a second successive relegation. This could be a tense one.
There shouldn’t be any such tension for James Wade. Any lingering doubts about his ability to reintegrate into the Premier League have been quashed in style. The Machine will head into Judgement Night in the play-off spots should he beat the eighth contender of the season. That opponent is Dimitri van den Bergh, who many feel will one day be a regular. It’s hard to tell what sort of performance he’s going to put in. The Belgian might get away with that against someone other than darts’ Mr Consistency.
Rob Cross is the Premier League table-topper going into the Dutch double-header. Voltage takes on Mensur Suljovic, which has enjoyed a meteoric rise into the play-off spots. That’s followed by Michael van Gerwen taking on Peter Wright. Mighty Mike could go into this one knowing that he can’t reclaim top spot, but he already has enough motivation knowing that he owes the Rotterdam crowd a better showing than last year’s back-to-back defeats at the Ahoy. Wright has drawn four of his first seven games. Draws need to become wins – but a tie would do for tonight.
The last game of the night is the veritable four-pointer. Raymond van Barneveld needs to win to survive. He knew that last week, when he saw off Max Hopp. Now he needs to do the same against Daryl Gurney. Superchin surprised everyone by recovering from a pair of thrashings by taking three points off Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen. At this point, who knows what the Northern Irishman will do? One thing Barney can rely on is the fervent support of the Rotterdam faithful. If he’s going to get a first win over a regular Premier League Darts contender, it has to be now. It’s do or die time for the Dutch icon.
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Night Eight schedule
Gerwyn Price v Michael Smith
James Wade v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Rob Cross v Mensur Suljovic
Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld v Daryl Gurney
StandingsTags: Daryl Gurney, Dimitri van den Bergh, Gerwyn Price, James Wade, Mensur Suljovic, Michael Smith, Michael van Gerwen, PDC, Peter Wright, Raymond van Barneveld, Rob Cross
Author: Ed McCosh