The 2021 Premier League Darts begins on Monday 5 April.
Here at Online Darts, we’ll preview every player’s chances in the tournament, and what to expect from them throughout the event.
Next in our preview, we look at The Masters winner, Jonny Clayton…
It’s February 2020.
The Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff is buzzing for the latest challenger to join the Premier League, Jonny Clayton.
Clayton walks onto a hero’s welcome, complete with Tom Jones’ Delilah as the soundtrack. He then runs into an inspired Michael Smith, who produced the performance of his campaign to thrash him 7-1.
After the match, if you’d told The Ferret that he’d make his full time debut in this competition next year, he’d have scoffed at you.
But, such is the rise of the Welshman, he comes into the tournament not just making up the numbers, but arguably the most in form player in the world.
Masters title sees Clayton in Premier League Darts
My first ever Minehead weekend was the Players Championship Finals in 2017. There, a then unknown to me Clayton came through Gerwyn Price, Stephen Bunting and then a number one seeded Rob Cross, to shock everyone and reach his maiden PDC TV final.
He then ran into Michael van Gerwen, who had not lost on the Minehead stage for three years, and sure enough, MvG cruised to his third straight Players Championship title.
Since that weekend, The Ferret had largely gone under the radar until 2020. A Masters quarter final, beating the Green Machine in round one. A UK Open semi final, his first last four appearance on TV since the Players in 2017. Another semi final, this time at the European Championship.
The signs were there that Clayton had rediscovered his mojo, and then came the 2020 World Cup of Darts. Him and Price represented Wales, and that weekend, Clayton in particular was sensational, as he helped his country to be World Champions for the first time. Then, at this year’s Masters, with the final Premier League spot up for grabs, The Ferret seized the opportunity.
He beat Jose De Sousa and Michael van Gerwen to make Finals Day, before hitting 10/11 checkouts to come from 9-6 down and beat James Wade in the quarter finals. He held his nerve in a last leg decider against Peter Wright in the semis, his third of the weekend, before winning 11-8 against Mervyn King to claim his first ever PDC TV title, and the last spot in this year’s Premier League.
Jack “Gobby” Garwood gives his prediction on what we’ll see from Jonny Clayton in this year’s Premier League, and where he will finish:
What a nine months this man has had.
Since that World Cup Victory, Clayton has been producing the darts of his career so far. The form man in the world right now, the Ferret has been tearing up Pro Tours at will.
Much of the conversation around Clayton will centre on two aspects.Will he give up his job and play darts full time? Will he be able to carry this form in to the Premier League? Because if he does, he’s surely a title contender in his first ever outing as full time player.
At some point in this campaign, we’re going to see Clayton get out the blocks in ridiculous fashion with an average way over the 106 mark, it’s just what he has been doing. We’ll know if he’s title material by the way he closes that performance out.
“There are no longer many weaknesses to his game”
The year is barely three months old, but Clayton has already won three titles. As well as The Masters, he’s taken home two Pro Tour titles at the Super Series, the only player on the tour to do so. At the UK Open, only an inspired performance from Krzystof Ratajski got rid of The Ferret, otherwise he’d have probably won that too.
The man from Pontybreem has always had the talent, but it’s been his consistency that’s let him down. Not now though. His scoring is up there with the very best, as is his doubling. He’s more than capable than averaging well over 100 on the Pro Tour for the day, and he no longer fears the TV stage either. There are no longer many weaknesses to his game.
This is even more staggering when you consider that the Welshman still works as a plasterer, and still wants to work. Whether he will be able to though, particularly if he wins this event, is another question.
Jonny Clayton now looks to cap off a remarkable six months, which has seen him become one of the most feared players on the tour. Consistency is key in the Premier League, and there are not many more consistent players right now than The Ferret.
Will the lights shine too brightly for him in his first proper experience in this event? Perhaps, but as many in the darting circle say time and time again,
Never. Underestimate. A Ferret.