Michael Smith is eager to put his recent World Championship woes behind him, in pursuit of his first major title.
The St Helens born thrower admits that it was perhaps his yearning for that illusive major title last year which resulted in the disparity in his televised and untelevised performances.
“TV [competitions] were fine. Off TV was where I was struggling a bit. I was just more focussed on trying to get a major.”
Smith cited the World Championships and the World Matchplay as his significant achievements in 2019, losing out to Michael Van Gerwen and Rob Cross, respectively. ‘Bully Boy’ jested that his highlight of the year was: “Probably losing all the finals!”.
At the 2020 World Championship, Smith bowed out in the second round, after finishing as runner up in the previous year.
“It wasn’t that hard [to take] because I had too much going on behind the scenes to keep my mind away from losing the match. I had a lot going on with sorting my team out and management.”
The current world number five recognises that his lack of preparation ultimately cost him this time around.
“Preparation really [is what went wrong at Alexandra Palace], behind the scenes stuff again. I still had all that going around my head, and it was finally sorted about an hour before my game so that was sort of keeping my mind away from it and preparation wasn’t the best.”
The story of this year’s World Championship was when history was made by the lovable Fallon Sherrock. She became the first woman to beat a man at the tournament defeating Ted Evetts 3-2, before knocking out number 11 seed Mensur Suljovic in the following round 3-1.
Smith was admirable of Sherrock’s achievements, stating: “It’s going to make it [the women’s game] a lot bigger. Especially with Lisa Ashton, as well, winning her tour card at the Q School, it’s just going to go from strength to strength now.”
The PDC’s new cover girl, Sherrock, sees her efforts rewarded with a ‘challenger’ spot at this year’s Premier League, which hosts darts’ elite – a tournament which Smith is delighted to take part in again for a third consecutive year.
“I can’t wait. Its one of the best but one of the hardest [tournaments]. It’s four or five months away where you only get Tuesdays at home, but that’s what we all want to get up there for.”
The first tournament in the darting calendar, The Masters, starts on 31st January and ‘Bully Boy’ is chomping at the bit to get back on the oche.
“I’ve had six weeks off since the World’s which has been weird. I’ve never ever spent six weeks at home, so I just want to get back going again.”
With the season due to start again and The Masters fast approaching, the 29-year-old sets his sights on his first major title and outlines his ambitions for the coming year.
“Hopefully, I’ll get a major this year. That’s the main dream. I want to give a good account of myself.
“I want to get past relegation in the Premier League and get in the final four. Then a big strong UK Matchplay and just play my best really and bring out my best game in everything that I do play in.”
— Oche! Magazine (@MagazineOche) December 15, 2019
In the first round of every televised darts tournament, Smith wears the red and white shirt of local charity, St Helens Autism Support, and will kickstart 2020 in the same fashion.
“There were no ties or partnership at all between us. My nephew has autism, so I just wanted to do something for him, and I see what care my sister gets for him.
“I thought if I could do something as well with my shirts and putting money into the charity then I could maybe get more people aware and get better funding for the kids as well.”
Smith also aims to auction off two of these shirts for the charity in the coming days, so keep an eye out on Bully Boy’s twitter for more information.
To support St Helens Autism Support, please visit their JustGiving page.