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Changes are afoot in the PDC; the major tournaments are being sponsored by ever more obscure companies (what the Dickens are Speedy Hire doing sponsoring darts?) and the names no longer roll off the tongue, as the upcoming Sky Bet Mobile World Matchplay demonstrates.

In fact several of the majors do not currently have a sponsor (the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts, Players Championship, World Cup) which reflects the global economy and must be a continual struggle for Barry Hearn and his team to find backers. Watch out for the ‘Domino’s Pizza UK & Ireland Championship League Darts’ coming soon to a laptop near you.

That is all away from the board and regardless of any suspected financial struggles darts is reported to be booming so prize money continues to rise. £400,000 is up for grabs in Blackpool next week, with a quarter of it going to the winner.

The World Matchplay is generally considered to be second only to the World Championship and a favourite of many fans. The ornate majesty of the Winter Gardens is an unlikely darts venue but is a sight to behold and a pilgrimage that all darts fans should experience.

In keeping with the sea change away from the oche there is a strong whiff of change on it. Phil Taylor is no longer the domineering force we have gotten used to and although he still goes off 11/8 favourite with tournament sponsors, Sky Bet, now is the time to take him on in the tournament he loves.

Since Rod Harrington’s back-to-back titles in 1998 & 1999 Taylor has won this event nine times out of eleven to add to his two wins in 1995 and 1997, giving him eleven in total and making this tournament his own.

Interestingly, on the two occasions another name went on the trophy (James Wade in 2007 and Colin Lloyd in 2005) Taylor did not contest the final. The two players who defeated The Power (John Part & Terry Jenkins) went on to lose the final; so knocking out the world’s best player does not always bring home the bacon.

There are two ways to look at the World Matchplay this year – either it is the continuation of the end for the established regime, or it is the beginning of a revival for the likes of Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld. I suspect it is the former and the World Matchplay will see a new name etched on Sunday 24th July.

Barney has never triumphed in Blackpool, runner up last year is his best finish. The previous year he did not even qualify amidst the infamous kidnap ordeal that eventually came to light. He has never lost to first round opponent, Steve Brown, but there’s a first time for everything and the Dutchman is vulnerable to the fast emerging Bristolian.

Should Barney overcome the tricky first hurdle of The Bomber it is likely to be at least one of Paul Nicholson and James Wade in the next two rounds. Unless the new Unicorn darts that he has been tweeting about (3001 in 27 darts in practice) have transformed his game the world number six will find it difficult to make inroads at the Winter Gardens.

Phil Taylor has not won a major TV tournament in almost a year and is losing his grip on the full house he recently possessed. He is the defending champion of course (he demolished Steve Beaton, Kevin Painter, & Simon Whitlock en route to the final last year), and will go off favourite once more, but his pre-tournament odds lengthen as each one passes.

His first round opponent, by contrast, has had the year of his life. Since turning professional and earning his PDC tour card Mark Hylton has improved with each glimpse we get of him. Qualification for the Grand Slam of Darts in November was followed by reaching the Last 16 of the World Championship and then the quarter finals of the UK Open in June (including a 9-0 whitewash of Andy Jenkins). The world number 39 is making his Blackpool debut but  will provide a stiff challenge for the defending champion. With Mervyn King, Simon Whitlock and Gary Anderson lying in wait, Taylor’s route to a twelfth title looks tough.

So if we are expecting a new name on the trophy, who is on the shortlist?

Straight away we have to include reigning World Champion, Adrian Lewis, and reigning Premier League champion, Gary Anderson, based on form and ability rather than Blackpool pedigree. I’m still not convinced by the consistency of either player and pre-tournament it still feels like a coin toss given Lewis’s struggle to find consistency and Anderson’s recurrent double trouble.

Lewis’s six visits to Blackpool have produced a mixed bag – two first round defeats and best of a semi final – while this will be Anderson’s third attempt and he has yet to get past the Last 16. Both are genuine contenders on ability alone and the bookies have them second & third in the odds. If they hit form, nobody can stop them and a repeat of the Ally Pally final is likely.

Lewis opens against a guy who thrives on the TV stage so Kevin Painter is a tough draw first up. Anderson tackles Andy Hamilton, a player who is surprisingly on the slide and is desperate for a good showing.

Of course it might not be a new name on the trophy; James Wade won it in 2007 and comes into this fresh from lifting the UK Open in which he had to start in Friday’s first round and go on to be last man standing after a gruelling weekend of action.

The Machine is 9/1 fourth favourite and offers good value in the opposite half of the draw to Taylor. His recent mental problems were put well and truly behind him in Bolton and if the smile is still there Blackpool could see more happy times for the world number three. Jamie Caven won’t roll over in round one, however, and the dangerous Dave Chisnall could be lying in wait in round two.

Simon Whitlock’s time will surely come in a major and there is no reason why it can’t arrive this week by the seaside. Heavy scoring and clinical finishing are the Aussie’s trademarks but I suspect the Premier League took some wind out of his sails and my feeling is that he won’t bounce back just yet, recent 9-darters aside. Whitlock is on stage last at 10pm on Tuesday and given his sluggishness with late starts his first round opponent, Peter Wright, will fancy his chances of an upset.

A player at twice the odds of Whitlock who looks a more solid bet is Geordie Aussie, Paul Nicholson. Sky Bet have the Chorley based 11th seed at 25/1 which looks too good to ignore. Luck of the draw beat The Asset in Bolton where he fell to eventual winner, James Wade, after putting out Anderson and Taylor in successive, exhausting rounds.

Nicholson prepares well, is bang in form, and is reasonably local to Blackpool. His 2010 Blackpool debut ended early with a limp 10-3 defeat to Steve Beaton but he is a very different animal this time around. With a major already to his name, the Players Championship in 2009, a second is in his sights this week.

A Wade-like knack of pulling out the shots and finishes when needed under (sometimes immense) pressure is an ability that will enable Nicholson to stand with the best at the top of the sport and contend in major tournaments. He will have to it the hard way again though as the seeding puts him in the potential path of Barney, followed by Wade, followed by Lewis if he can get past Colin Osborne in round one.

A case can be made for Mark Webster, Terry Jenkins, Mervyn King and Vincent van der Voort (recent VvdV tweet: “Why is darts so easy when you practice? Hope to bring this form to Blackpool”) but I don’t see a winner coming from this quartet in the leg race format of the World Matchplay.

Further down the betting there are three players at 50/1 who are worth keeping a keen eye on; they represent much better value and may well see a little of my money.

John Part’s quality is undoubted and his lean period is over. With titles and solid form in 2011 the twice beaten Matchplay finalist can prolong his fine run by at least matching his 2002 & 2005 final appearances. He tackles Mark Webster in round one which is arguably the tie of the round.

Local boy, Wes Newton, is desperate to do well in his ‘home’ major but has yet to taste victory at the Winter Gardens. Last year’s tie break loss to Alan Tabern was a killer but 2011 has seen The Warrior’s stock rise dramatically. World number eight and UK Open runner up is just reward for being one of the tour’s form players and Newton is a contender again this week. Wes will hope to finally get the ball rolling against The Pieman, Andy Smith.

Final mention goes to a player who has the talent to go a long way and won’t be starting tournaments at 50/1 for much longer. Since finishing as runner up to Martin Adams at Lakeside in 2010 Dave Chisnall has met every new challenge with aplomb.

Chizzy secured his PDC tour card at qualifying school with ease, banged in a 9-darter within weeks, has already claimed some major scalps, and reached the UK Open quarter finals in June. That first title is within reach and it could be a major; it could be this one. Mark Walsh will not be relishing his opening game.

These major tournaments are becoming increasingly difficult to call, as neatly illustrated by Wayne Mardle’s tweeted prediction, “It’s easy to make a case for most of the players; most have a chance.”

This is a reflection of the gap closing between Phil Taylor and the rest. It makes for tricky betting but a much more exciting sport. Long may it continue.


Winner – Gary Anderson
Runner up – Paul Nicholson or James Wade
Each way – Dave Chisnall, Wes Newton
First round picks – John Henderson, Denis Ovens, Steve Beaton, John Part

Beat The Tipster!

Don’t forget there is still time to enter our Beat The Tipster competition. This time around we have drafted in a Mystery Guest Tipster as our regular Tipster is on holiday (not in Blackpool).

All you have to do is predict the outcome of all the matches in Blackpool and should you beat our Mystery Guest  Tipster you will be in with a chance of winning a personalised darts shirt or a new set of darts. The Mystery Tipster’s first round predictions are below so get your thinking cap on and perhaps take a cue from our preview above.

Phil Taylor v Mark Hylton


see head 2 head

Wayne Jones v Scott Rand


see head 2 head

Wes Newton v Andy Smith


see head 2 head

Mervyn King v Justin Pipe


see head 2 head

Simon Whitlock v Peter Wright


see head 2 head

Ronnie Baxter v Denis Ovens


see head 2 head

Gary Anderson v Andy Hamilton


see head 2 head

Colin Lloyd v John Henderson


see head 2 head

Adrian Lewis v Kevin Painter


see head 2 head

Vincent van der Voort v Alan Tabern


see head 2 head

Terry Jenkins v Steve Beaton


see head 2 head

Mark Webster v John Part


see head 2 head

Raymond van Barneveld v Steve Brown


see head 2 head

Paul Nicholson v Colin Osborne


see head 2 head

James Wade v Jamie Caven


see head 2 head

Mark Walsh v Dave Chisnall


see head 2 head


World Matchplay Draw | World Matchplay Schedule | World Matchplay Roll of Honour

World Matchplay History & Related News | World Matchplay 2010 Results

World Matchplay PDC Preview

Sky Bet Outright Odds

Phil Taylor 11/8

Wes Newton 50/1

John Henderson 100/1

Gary Anderson 11/2

John Part 50/1

Jamie Caven 125/1

Adrian Lewis 7/1

Dave Chisnall 50/1

Denis Ovens 125/1

James Wade 9/1

Mark Walsh 80/1

Wayne Jones 125/1

Simon Whitlock 12/1

Ronnie Baxter 80/1

Steve Brown 125/1

Raymond van Barneveld 16/1

Colin Osborne 100/1

Justin Pipe 150/1

Paul Nicholson 25/1

Colin Lloyd 100/1

Andy Hamilton 150/1

Mark Webster 25/1

Kevin Painter 100/1

Peter Wright 250/1

Terry Jenkins 33/1

Alan Tabern 100/1

Mark Hylton 250/1

Mervyn King 40/1

Steve Beaton 100/1

Scott Rand 500/1

Vincent van der Voort 50/1

Andy Smith 100/1

Sky Bet First Round Matches Odds




Terry Jenkins 1/2

Steve Beaton 13/8


Wayne Jones 8/15

Scott Rand 6/4


Vincent van der Voort 8/13

Alan Tabern 5/4


Mervyn King 4/9

Justin Pipe 7/4


Adrian Lewis 2/7

Kevin Painter 11/4


Phil Taylor 1/20

Mark Hylton 8/1


Mark Webster 4/7

John Part 11/8


Wes Newton 8/13

Andy Smith 6/5




Paul Nicholson 4/9

Colin Osborne 7/4


Ronnie Baxter 8/11

Denis Ovens 11/10


Mark Walsh 6/5

Dave Chisnall 4/6


Colin Lloyd 8/11

John Henderson 11/10


James Wade 2/9

Jamie Caven 10/3


Gary Anderson 1/6

Andy Hamilton 4/1


Raymond van Barneveld 4/11

Steve Brown 9/4


Simon Whitlock 1/6

Peter Wright 4/1