Raymond van Barneveld may be in his PDC swansong, but he hasn’t yet lost the eye of the tiger.
After a woeful start to his final year in professional darts, Barney’s hopes of an Ally Pally farewell appeared irretrievable. But a run to the Players Championship 8 final has him back in the running. In the Premier League, a slide towards elimination could yet be averted. Victory over Max Hopp in Berlin means van Barneveld is just one point behind Michael Smith with two games left.
Both come in Rotterdam, where the Dutch icon is revered, and can always count on boisterous support. The five-time world champion first plays Daryl Gurney on Wednesday, and then takes on Michael van Gerwen on Thursday’s Judgement Night.
“You never give up – there is always belief,” van Barneveld told pdc.tv.
“To play for this amazing crowd in Rotterdam, always in orange, is hard for your opponents but you still have to play your A-game.
“I need two wins to maybe survive and even with two wins I’m not 100 percent sure yet. Hopefully I can manage these two wins.
“Anything is possible, as long as you play your best game. The weekend in Wigan did me good to reach a final again.”
Zero to hero
Van Barneveld’s early struggles were not helped by revelations about the end of his marriage becoming public. From 2019 seeming like a low point in his storied career, recent performances suggest that there’s fight left in the 51-year-old.
“It’s hard for me in my private life at the moment. Last weekend in Wigan helped me realise I can still play this game, reaching the final against Adrian Lewis and hitting 20 180s that day.
“Suddenly you go from zero to hero and start believing and thinking you still can do that,” he said.
“There is still hope”
On his Premier League success over Hopp, van Barneveld claimed that Gurney’s earlier win against van Gerwen had not affected his preparation. Barney struck a superb 170 checkout en route to a 7-3 success against the German favourite.
“I never felt pressure,” the Dutchman asserted.
“I can’t blame any other player because I was playing bad myself. You have to play proper games yourself, keep focusing yourself.
“Maybe Max was a little bit nervous – it was his first time in the Premier League and in front of an amazing crowd, I love to play in Germany.
“He had a fantastic finish in the first leg and he let me in. I got back with a 170 and I’m happy with the win. There is still hope.”
Author: Ed McCosh