After the final of the 2015 World Darts’ Championship is concluded on 4 January, the announcement of the 10 Premier League players for 2015 will take place on stage. The 10 players competing over the 16 weeks for the £200,000 first prize will be made up of the top 4 ranked players on the Order of Merit, 4 wildcards chosen by Professional Darts Corporation and 2 wildcards chosen by hosts Sky Sports.
Assuming that the current Order of Merit top 4 of Michael Van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson is secure, who are the 6 who deserve to join them? With the quality on the tour at the moment, you could argue a case for as many as 14 players but these are the 6 I believe have deserved to join the battle.
Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright
Currently ranked number 5, Snakebite brought quality, entertainment and controversy, not to mention great hair, to the Premier League last year in his debut appearance.
Last year’s Premier League highlights included convincing wins over both Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis on his way to a 5th placed finish. 2014 saw Wright really turn up on the circuit, following his World Championship runner up performance with strongly consistent performances across the year. The popularity and entertainment that an ever improving Wright brings to any tournament should see him a definite inclusion.
James ‘The Machine’ Wade
Absent from last year’s tournament after 7 straight years in the Premier League, Wade well publicised his “devastation” at being left out. Such disappointment shouldn’t be repeated this year after The Machine’s red hot form throughout 2014.
After an appearance in the final at the 12th Player’s Championship of 2014, Wade won the Gibraltar Dart’s Trophy, his first title since 2011. His good form continued, narrowly losing the Grand Prix final after a run including only the second ever double-dart nine dart finish. Winning the Masters for his 8th PDC major tournament title dispelled any doubt for his inclusion in 2015’s Premier League.
Dave ‘Chizzy’ Chisnall
The other of the two Premier League debutants in 2014 along with Wright, Chizzy had a good if not spectacular tournament. Having improved over 2014, Chisnall will be keen to return for 2015 to build on his tournament last year in which he finished 7th with a tournament high 64 180s.
Testament to his improvement is the fact that 2014 saw his career best performances in the World Matchplay, Grand Slam, European Championships and The Masters. His high scoring and consistency should see him gain a place for 2015.
Raymond van Barneveld
5 time world champion and last year’s Premier League winner. The ever popular Barney with his ‘Barney Army’ following is a sure bet for one of the two Sky Sport’s wildcards due to his box office attraction. Despite dropping out of the top 10 for large parts of the recent years, there is no doubt that the Dutchman can still do the business on the oche.
His form hasn’t been great in 2014 with a 117.88 average in his World Cup doubles being one of relative few highlights. That said, nobody would deny Barney the chance to defend his title.
Terry ‘The Bull’ Jenkins
2014 has seen a resurgent Bull win a Player’s Championship event and finish runner up in both the UK Open and the European Championships. The loser of nine major televised finals is an unwanted record that will surely be broken soon with Jenkins either wiring or hitting nine dart finishes for fun and averaging 100+ across much of 2014.
Jenkins last Premier League appearance was a while back in 2011 but he has history in this tournament finishing runner up in 2007.
Stephen ‘The Bullet’ Bunting
With just one year under his belt on the PDC circuit after switching from the BDO, Bunting’s PDC ranking of 28th at the time of writing is somewhat misleading. Once Bunting has a full two year ranking cycle under his belt, there is no doubt he’ll be knocking on the door of the top 5.
Reaching two quarter finals and a semi-final as well as defeating Van Gerwen, Taylor and Wade in his first year in the super competitive PDC circuit is no mean feat. Some would argue that his inclusion is too early but the weekly league format would favour his consistency and see him mount a credible challenge.
The above six would be my choice although, as acknowledged above, there are arguments to be made for a selection of others. Thornton, Whitlock, Hamilton, Newton are all names that would usually walk into such an illustrious tournament although their lack of inclusion in my roster is evidence of the stratospheric competitivity on the circuit.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.