Premier League Darts makes its return to Liverpool on tonight (February 10), with St Helens’ Michael Smith chasing his first points of the year on home turf.
The M&S Bank Arena hosted a night of the Premier League’s annual tour every year between 2008 and 2020.
But due to Covid-19, Merseyside was missed off the list last year.
Now, though, the best players in the country return after getting the league underway in Cardiff last week, where the competition’s new format was debuted.
Now, eight players will compete in weekly best-of-11-leg knockout tournaments, with the night’s winner, runner-up, and semi-finalists earning points in the overall league table.
Local player ‘Bully Boy’ Smith is one of those chasing his first points after exiting in the quarter-finals last week but feels motivated to be playing in front of a local crowd.
“I can’t wait – 15-minute drive for me, that means I get to stay in my own bed!” he said.
“That’s just a bonus but being back home is always nice.#
“Some of my old schoolteachers and friends that I don’t really see as much when I’m travelling come to watch, so I’m really looking forward to this one.”
Smith faces ‘The Ferret,’ Jonny Clayton in the quarters this time, but can take some solace from the fact he got the better of the reigning Premier League champion in the last 16 of the World Darts Championships in December.
Also lining up on the oche is the current world champion, Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright, who takes on Michael van Gerwen.
Wright got off to the perfect start last week, cruising to victory and a £10,000 bonus on the opening night, whilst ‘MvG’ exited at the first hurdle, in a not so desirable start to his quest for a record-equalling sixth Premier League title.
The winner of Smith vs Clayton will then take on the winner of Wright vs van Gerwen in the first semi-final.
In the first of the other quarter-finals, “The Machine,’ James Wade, goes up against ‘The Rockstar,’ Joe Cullen.
Wade is the league’s veteran player, having featured in 12 tours, whilst Cullen is making his debut in the tournament this year, having claimed his first televised title at the Masters last month.
And finally, ‘The Iceman,’ Gerwyn Price, faces up against his rival Gary Anderson – ‘The Flying Scotsman.’
The pair have history dating back to 2018’s Grand Slam of Darts final, when Price’s characteristically loud celebrations during the match caused Anderson to react with a mid-match shove.
The winner of Wade vs Cullen will then play either Price or Anderson in the second semi-final, on the way to the Liverpool’s grand final.
(Featured image credit Sven Mandel Creative commons licence)