This Premier League Darts season has pretty much had everything.
Nine dart finishes from both Jonny Clayton and Jose De Sousa. Ridiculous fight backs from seemingly implausible positions. A new guard look like they’re ready to step up, only for Michael van Gerwen to produce three straight wins and go back to the top.
Now, with just four nights of the regular season to go, fans will return to the event for the first time in over a year. This, is the icing of top of the cake.
Fans back for the first time in 2021
Remember the excitement of when the World Darts Championship was supposed to have a crowd in every night at the Alexandra Palace? Then came the announcement that London was placed into tier 4 restrictions, meaning that the only evening to take place in front of fans was the opening night.
If we’ve learnt one thing since the majority of sport has gone behind closed doors, it’s how much sport needs fans. The top sports stars are performers. They want a crowd to be dazzled by the skill they put on show. They feed off the energy that they give.
Every gasp, every roar, every important moment. The reaction of the fans gives the energy for the players to feed off. Every darts event in particular needs fans, but the Premier League needs them more than most.
Going to a different city, selling out the biggest arenas in the UK, Ireland and Europe, playing in front of thousands every single week. That’s what makes the Premier League special. While the Contenders/Challengers series was in play in 2019 and 2020, they showed the difference they can make. John Henderson drawing against Michael van Gerwen in Aberdeen? Chris Dobey getting a point against Mensur Suljovic in Newcastle? Put that against the three Contenders nights behind closed doors when last year’s tournament restarted, and you’ve got your answer.
When the fans take their seats on Monday in Milton Keynes, it will be 438 days since the Premier League played in front of a crowd, on Thursday 12 March 2020 in Liverpool. On a hopeful road to normality for the World Matchplay in July, fans being back for this event is a massive step.
Race for Premier League Darts Play-Offs hots up
What makes the return of fans especially brilliant, is that we’ve got a Play-Off race which could go to the wire.
Michael van Gerwen leads by two points, and needs one win to all but secure his place on Finals Night. However, the rest of the top four looks absolutely wide open.
Nathan Aspinall and Dimitri Van den Bergh looked certainties to be in the Play-Offs. However, a stumble from both sees them requiring two wins to get to 19 points. That’s been enough to get you into Finals Night since 2013.
Then that comes that fourth spot. Jose De Sousa currently occupies it, with Jonny Clayton just behind him. However, Gary Anderson has won his last two straight games, and sits just two points from fourth.
A fantastic night awaits in Milton Keynes. Jonny Clayton v Gary Anderson. Dimitri van den Bergh v Jose De Sousa. Nathan Aspinall v Michael van Gerwen. Those three games will set the tone for the week’s of all the six players still remaining in the Play-Off race. In particular, Aspinall v MvG, a contest who both have said how much they miss the fans, should be a particular highlight.
We’ll probably come away from night 13 with more questions than answers as to who will make the Play-Offs. However, after a Premier League that began with Gerwyn Price testing positive for COVID-19, more twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride, and now the return of fans, would you expect anything less?