Chris Dobey on a rocky 2020 and looks ahead having recaptured some form

He’s one of a supremely talented crop of North East representatives on the current PDC circuit. Currently sat at 24 in the Order of Merit rankings, ‘Hollywood’ Chris Dobey is gearing up for a year in which he believes he can go above and beyond to get back to his best, whilst maybe pushing on for that elusive first ranking title.

2020 was a turbulent campaign for all, but none more so than Dobey. A poor showing at the PDC Winter Series was an admittedly particular low point for the Bedlington man, but he found renewed confidence towards the back end of the year at Alexandra Palace before starting the current year off in the newly formatted Masters.

“It was definitely not the best year.

“Obviously the circumstances didn’t help, we were knocked down European Tour wise, we didn’t have as many and that’s where you make your money. It helps big time towards the big TV competitions. Unfortunately for myself, I only made two or three of them which wasn’t enough for the European Championships and obviously the big TV events.

“I think the Winter Series was the worst time in my career. I didn’t play well at all, lacked a bit of confidence. I went back home to put things right, started putting a bit more time in. I played in the Players Championship finals against Madars (Razma) but didn’t get the result I wanted. I felt good after that game, so I changed a few things, like the points on the darts and it helped me regroup my scoring and my doubles were going in.

“I took that into the World Championship and I felt I played well, just Daryl (Gurney) played that little bit better.”

As many struggled to come to grips with the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, Dobey felt it was a contributing factor as to why his form stumbled.

“The first lockdown I felt alright because I didn’t know what to expect, I was online playing three or four online competitions a day. I adapted well to the online stuff early doors. When we went back on tour after the first lockdown, and then the lockdown after that, that was where I found it hard because I got the taste of the ProTour stuff again and coming back to play online stuff after you’ve gone back on the tour is hard to adapt to.

“I think that’s where I struggled to put the time and practice in, because we didn’t have anything planned, no dates, and we didn’t know when we were going to be playing.”

His 2021 World Championship campaign really seemed to reignite the Hollywood spark to which the darting spectrum has become so accustomed since his burst onto the scene in 2015.

Dobey only managed to reach round three, but produced some scintillating darts across his ties with Jeff Smith and the defeat to Daryl Gurney that has really instilled a sense of optimism heading into the new season.

The tie with Smith was a particular highlight, mentioning that at 2-0 down to The Silencer was a key moment of really having to dig deep and trust the ability that he strongly knew he was capable of.

“I knew what to expect against both Jeff and Daryl. Both completely different players. I felt I played alright against Jeff even at 2-0 down, and could’ve been 2-0 up myself. I gave myself a little talking to at the second break, went in and Dean Williams was there. He said ‘calm down’, obviously he’s nice like that and I didn’t want to get wound up because I knew I could still win the game.

“I’ve been there and done it and been in that position many times now, and I’ve come back and won them games. I knew I was capable of doing so. Once I got the first decent finish to win the set, I felt good and comfortable.”

With the recent Ladbrokes Masters field enhanced to 24, this opened the door for Hollywood to showcase his talents on a TV stage once more; a chance he relished, beating reigning Matchplay champion Dimitri van den Bergh before losing to James Wade in round two.

“It was great, and it was a nice surprise because it wasn’t expected. It was a privilege to play in, obviously the circumstances were still the same with no crowd but the game against Jeff at the Worlds was the first game without a crowd so I kind of struggled. I put my focus into the competition, tried new things, slowed some of my game down, played with earplugs in to stop my mind wandering. I tend to get caught mind wandering, and I think that helped me a lot. I felt alright.”

The 2021 darting calendar is full steam ahead this weekend as the PDC Super Series rolls into the University of Bolton Stadium for four days of action in the opening Pro Tour event of the year. The home of Bolton Wanderers was most recently an iconic home for the UK Open, which this year will keep it’s traditional format at the temporary Milton Keynes home instead of Minehead.

Nonetheless, Dobey is keen to make a positive start on tour, and is excited for the FA Cup of Darts to take shape at the beginning of March.

“It’s nice to play proper darts again in the same venue, get some normality back. This is our bread and butter, the ProTour stuff. It’s what we’re all there to play for. It’s going to be great to be back, there’s some new faces who played well at Q School so it will be good to see them on tour.”

“I like these ones because you’re staying on site. You can roll out of bed and land in the arena. I like these formats, but I much prefer the 12pm start to the 2pm start as you have more time to chill on a night.

“The UK Open was like that in Bolton (multi-board), but I didn’t get to play there. My first year in the UK Open was at Minehead, so it’s going to be new to me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Ahead of play, Dobey wants to banish any doubts on whether or not he is capable of pushing on to secure that first title. He’s been there or there abouts in a number of events, and he feels there is no better time than the present to really make his presence known in the winning circle of the PDC.

“I want to win something, it’s all I’m lacking. I went through bad patch after bad patch and I’ve got myself out of that. If I can hopefully win something, then that’ll push me into the top 16. I think I managed to get up to 18 in the world, and obviously the Euro Tours got knocked on the head so we didn’t have them to play for which bags the money up on the rankings. 

That was a bit disappointing for myself because I felt good in my game to get into those Euro Tours. Hopefully we can get a few of those up and get myself back up them rankings.

“I don’t want to be known as a nearly man. I’ve made four finals now and lost each of them. I know I’m capable of winning. I’ve proved it up and down the North East where I used to win them quite regular and they’re hard competitions to win. I believe in my own ability, it’s just on the day.

“You have some good days, and some bad days where it just doesn’t go. You’ve got to have that little bit of luck along the way, and I think I haven’t been getting any luck whatsoever the past few months or so. If I play well and get some luck along the way, who knows.”

Not only is Hollywood out to capture his first title, he also has the task of defending a fair amount of prize money on his ranking from 2019. Most notably, he battled to make the World Matchplay field, as well as making a World Grand Prix semi-final, a Players Championship semi-final, a Euro Tour final and a World Championship last-16.

A significant amount at stake, but Dobey isn’t fazed and believes he can reproduce a fine season.

“I missed out on the Matchplay last year, but to be fair it helped because I’m not defending that but it was two years ago where I made my debut which I’m defending. As long as I can get a good start, it puts myself in a decent position to sneak into those Matchplay rankings.

“Then again, I’m defending a semi-final at the Grand Prix which I think is £25,000 as well, so I’ve got a lot of money to defend. I also made a Euro Tour final, along with the Matchplay and Grand Prix semi, and a Players Championship semi final, and a Worlds last-16. There’s a fair bit to defend, but I believe in myself and I’m more than capable.”

Dobey’s father, Gordon Dobey, was a talented darts player himself, and with an important couple of months ahead, Dobey Junior insists he is focussed more than ever despite some heartfelt parental guidance.

“To be fair, he’s always given me grief! He says, ‘you need to start winning’. But he did have a few good things to say, he knows how good I am and I know how good I am. It’s just one of those things, everyone goes through a bad run of form whether it’s now or next year. I think that was the worst time in my career, and it’s something to look back on to make sure I don’t find myself in that position again. I’ve focussed more instead of letting my mind go wandering.”

He’ll have the inspiration of a Newcastle Premier League walk-on and a ProTour recorded nine-darter to look back on as he initiates his charge up the Order of Merit; form he also hopes will catch the eye of the hierachy to put him in contention for invitational events down the line.

“I’ve watched it back quite a few times, it keeps popping up, along with the nine darter I hit on the tour against Davey Prins. They keep flashing back, they’re good memories and you can’t have days like that every day so it’s good to look back on what I’ve done. There’s no reason why I can’t do it again.

“If I can get my game together, and start playing as consistent as a few years ago, I feel I should be recognised. I’ve been on the cusp a couple of times before, just missed out, but I’ve had the taste of the Premier League and the Masters so I just want to go out and perform like I have in the past, and be consistent. I feel I’m getting there, these Super Series for example are a great help.”

His own personal form is a variable he can alter; but one thing he is desperate to change is the fortunes of his beloved Newcastle United, languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League.

“It’s painful. They play alright against the higher teams, but aren’t getting the results. It’s games we should be winning that are painful to watch. The joy of being a Newcastle fan!”