Raymond van Barneveld desperately wanted to have a fitting final year of a glittering professional darts career. Things haven’t gone to plan.

After announcing his impending retirement from the game, van Barneveld was dumped out of the World Championship by Darius Labanauskas. 2019 hasn’t shown an improvement. The five-time world champion has reached a World Series final and a Players Championship final, but otherwise looks set to miss out on most PDC majors.

“This is the worst year of my career,” was van Barneveld’s frank admission to Live Darts.

“Everyone is saying ‘Ray, come on, come out and enjoy it’. But it’s not like that.

“I got back from scratch to play Pro Tours or qualify for European Tours, otherwise I’m not on TV.”

Not-so-fond farewell

Van Barneveld has been a staple of the big PDC tournaments, and is a crowd favourite. But there’s now a real risk of him missing out on a lot of final outings. A European Championship spot will likely elude him, though the Dutchman will play at the World Series Finals in Amsterdam. It’s an ignominious end for one of the game’s all-time greats.

“To end like that, it’s a bit harsh. It’s hard to handle,” said the Den Haag ace.

“You want to say goodbye to everyone. Of course, the PDC have given me a wildcard for the Premier League, and some (other) wildcards. And I think I deserve it.

“Others say ‘no, you don’t deserve it’. OK. I put darts on the map in Holland, I had so many good tournaments. I’m pleased that the PDC gave me this opportunity.”

Michael Cooper/PDC

Photo: Michael Cooper/PDC

Back to basics

The World Series did provide some respite at least. Barney reached the NZ Darts Masters final, losing 8-1 to Michael van Gerwen. Two Australian jaunts were ended by Peter Wright and Rob Cross. The Dutch icon’s final Oceanic memories are largely positive ones.

“I tried to go back to my old setup. Target copied that setup…I’m really pleased with the new darts,” van Barneveld said.

“I’m not there yet, to beat guys like Michael [van Gerwen] or Peter Wright, or Rob Cross. They’re still one level higher than me at the moment.

“The crowds in Australia and New Zealand were brilliant, they supported me big time.

“That was fantastic, I had a smile on my face.”

Logging off

Even during the interview, van Barneveld is treated to a shout of ‘Barney Army’ from a passing fan. His popularity is timeless. But social media has proved a breeding ground for criticism – and, at times, abuse. The 52-year-old has stepped away from all of that.

“I’m aware of it [social media criticism].

“I’ve skipped social media now for the last six weeks,” van Barneveld revealed.

“I’m more comfortable, I’m relaxed now. I don’t read all the things. We all know my private life is upside down as well.

“My management is doing Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram. I just read the nice things!”

Photosport/PDC

Photo: Photosport/PDC

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Author: Ed McCosh