AHEAD of Thursday’s Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts night at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, Phil Taylor has revealed he is working ‘harder than ever’ in his bid to reclaim major honours.

Taylor’s form has been the subject of great debate in recent weeks, after he was a quarter-final loser in the Ladbrokes.com PDC World Darts Championship – the first time in 15 years he had not reached the final – and lost two of his opening three Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts games.

The 13-time World Champion has opted to change darts since the New Year, and believes that he will eventually hit back as a better player than he ever has been.

“I love winning and I practice to win,” said Taylor, who meets Peter Manley when the Premier League Darts visits Coventry.

“As far as winning tournaments goes, who knows? Maybe I’ll win a few more, maybe I won’t, but it won’t be for the lack of trying.

“I’m working harder than I’ve ever done and that’s respect, because the other players are doing it.

“I practice with Adrian Lewis sometimes for three or four hours a day, and sometimes he goes back and does another two or three hours – I can’t do that, I’m shattered after four hours!

“The youngsters can beat me on fitness but I’ll keep trying.”

He added: “I’ve changed a few things and it’s not going to work overnight but I’m not worried.

“It’s making me try harder and keep practising. I’m playing fantastically in practice but I’m not good enough yet, so I have to practice harder now.”

Taylor went through the opening three years of the Premier League unbeaten before coming out on the losing side to James Wade in week one and, last Thursday, to Terry Jenkins in Manchester.

“I didn’t play well enough against Terry,” he said. “I was a little scrappy in the middle and lost concentration but Terry was superb and his doubles were great.

“It’s nice to see him back playing the way he can and the way he played was the way you have to if you’re going to beat me.”

Taylor’s change of darts has been mirrored by Raymond van Barneveld, who has won his first three matches after returning to the darts with which he won the Ladbrokes.com World Championship just over a year ago.

Van Barneveld also won the Blue Square UK Open and Las Vegas Desert Classic last year before suffering early exits in the PartyBets.com Grand Slam of Darts and World Championship after changing to a new set with a ceramic grip.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with the other darts,” admits van Barneveld, who faces Jenkins in Coventry.

“I played with them for two-and-a-half months, I played well and had a nine-darter in Germany but they didn’t make enough of a difference.

“I didn’t have a good result in the Grand Slam of Darts, the German Darts Championship or the World Championship and I had to do something to start believing in myself again.

“I had won 11 tournaments with the old darts, and I went back to them.

“You never know what the future brings, but for now I’m sticking with these darts and I’m pleased with them.”

Jenkins’ win over Taylor was his first in the 2008 Premier League, and he admitted: “I really needed that because I have been struggling.

“I’ve been playing really well, but I needed something to happen to get me back on, and I think that will do it – there’s nothing better that you could do to get your confidence back than beat Phil.”

The night, being held in front of a 3,000-plus capacity sell-out for the first darts visit to the Ricoh Arena, also sees Wayne Mardle take on Adrian Lewis and unbeaten James Wade face World Champion John Part.

Canadian Part knocked out Wade 5-4 in the quarter-finals of the World Championship six weeks ago, and the 24-year-old is out for revenge.

“He’s a fantastic dart player and if I’m not at my best I won’t win – but I owe him one from the World Championship,” said Wade. “I’ll be ready.”

Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts
Night Four, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
John Part v James Wade
Wayne Mardle v Adrian Lewis
Peter Manley v Phil Taylor
Terry Jenkins v Raymond van Barneveld

Live on Sky Sports One from 7.30pm on Thursday 21 February

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