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PDC World Darts Championship Preview

The PDC World Darts Championship will have added Welsh six appeal this year – thanks to a record number of Welsh entrants.

Forget Christmas songs on the radio or cheap tinsel and wrapping paper in the market stalls, you really know you’re feeling the winter warmth of the yuletide spirit when the world’s best step up on the oche and there’s wall-to-wall darts into the New Year.

Former world champion Gerwyn Price and last year’s Premier League winner Jonny Clayton will lead the Welsh challenge, but there are four other members of the darting dragonhood.

They are: former world champion Richie Burnett, Jim Williams, Robert Owen and Lewy Williams.

That figure beat the previous record of five Welsh contenders last year, when the title was won by Scotland’s Peter Wright, a year after Price’s triumph.

The Welsh public’s expectation will mainly be on Price, who is considered second favourite with many, behind three-time champion Michael van Gerwyn.

But the dark horse might be Price’s PDC World Cup of Darts teammate Clayton, who is backed to make the quarter-finals by most pundits, but may not travel to Alexandra Palace with quite so many hopes on his shoulders as Price.

Clayton enjoys a current PDC ranking of world No.6 and The Ferrett could just be the man to back to burrow deep into the tournament, even though 2022 has been a difficult year after his superb 2021.

There were signs of Clayton coming back to his best last month when he reached the semi-finals of the Players Championship Finals before losing to Rob Cross, although the plasterer from Pontyberem refuses to let himself get weighed down by his own expectation.

“I am a massive believer, in if it’s meant to be, it will be,” says Clayton.

“I try not to think too much ahead. You are playing the elite of the world and they are trying to do what you’re trying to do as well,

“If it’s your day, it’s your day. When you are competing in the PDC tournaments, nothing comes easy. You have to go out and win titles by working hard and performing. Titles don’t get given to you.

“But there is no point in heaping pressure on yourself. If I play my best, that’s great and if one of these guys is better than me on the night, then I can live with that, also.”

Clayton is arguably in the easiest side of the draw but does not make his first appearance until he meets either Steve Beaton or Danny van Trijp on December 23.

Price starts his campaign earlier – on Monday, December 19 – when he takes on either Luke Woodhouse or Vladyslav Omelchenko in his second-round entry.

The former Cross Keys rugby player – who once fired in line-out throws as a hooker with Cross Keyes – admits it was a difficult adjustment when he won the world title in front of empty tables back in 2021 when Covid restrictions on crowds were still in force.

“It has been a rollercoaster. During the last three or four years there have been lots of ups and downs,” says Price.

“I have doubted myself a few times and sometimes you want to give up, but you just keep going.

“It’s nice to win the World Championship once, but to become multiple World Champion – that’s my next goal, and there’s no reason I can’t win another three or four before I retire.

“I’m going to sacrifice as much as I can for the next seven years. I want to try and get everything ready for retirement at about 45.

“I’m not going to give darts up completely. I’m just not going to do ProTours or European Tours. I will stay in the TV events as long as I can, but I’ll start doing a lot less.”

Before Price enters the scene, though, there will be the ghost of Christmases past when Burnett faces Adam Gawlas in round one on Saturday.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge for Burnett since he became world champion back in 1995, an era when rugby union was still amateur and darts was not quite the glitzy showtime it is now.

Burnett has come through qualifying for the first time in eight years and takes his place among the world’s elite at the age of 55 – proof, if it were needed, of his determination and resolve.

Once nicknamed the Prince of Wales, he then went by the brilliant label of, The Dartist Formerly Known as Prince (with apologies to Prince fans).

Burnett says: “I can be a stubborn person, but I’ve always believed in myself.

“There are no grey areas with me, it’s either black or white so if I can keep playing to the level I know I can, I’ve got every chance and I know that.”

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