We know darts fans love to dress up and party, but hankies will still be at the ready as they prepare to bid an emotional farewell to Phil Taylor, who retires at the end of the 2018 World Championships.
Can ‘The Power’ produce a fairy-tale finale by landing his 17th crown at the ripe old age of 57?
Here’s Adrian Clarke with the lowdown on what to expect at the notoriously raucous Alexandra Palace…
Those of a sentimental persuasion are dreaming of a last hurrah for Phil Taylor, and don’t write that tantalizing scenario off completely.
His name will be sung from the rafters throughout this brilliant 18-day event, and although his best years are well behind him, the legendary champ remains a live contender to go all the way.
I believe Taylor is one of just four players that can realistically claim this title.
In this, his ‘long goodbye’ season, ‘The Power’ has won a couple of tournaments, including the prestigious World Match Play in Blackpool, so at 12/1 walk off into the sunset with the trophy, there are definitely worse flutters to have.
Taylor’s form in the run-up to the World Championships has also been decent (he made the semis at November’s Grand Slam of Darts) but it’s some time since he last took apart one of the big boys.
While the Ally Pally stage is sure to inspire him, to make it to the showpiece final on New Year’s Day the legend might have to beat James Wade in the round of 16, Gary Anderson in the last eight, and Peter Wright in the semi-final.
It’s not been the kindest draw.
He will be hoping some of the big guns are toppled in the early rounds.
Mighty Michael van Gerwen is the obvious choice at 4/6.
The defending champ has been awesome in 2017, and tops the PDC money list with £1.73million – over double the earnings of second-placed Peter Wright. He is by far the strongest player in the tournament.
MVG has a tricky round one clash to negotiate against fellow Dutchman Christian Kist, the 2012 BDO world champion, who is rated 16/1 to produce a colossal upset. But if he sidesteps that obstacle he should have few problems reaching another final.
Getting involved in the betting market for the second quarter of the draw looks like it could be fun.
It’s a section that contains a lot of good players, and three who are regarded as dark horses to go all the way; Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic and Rob Cross.
None have great pedigree at Ally Pally, which makes me wary of selecting them to win the title, but each has won at least one big competition in 2017. They’ve had the best seasons of their career so far.
Cross, 27, a former electrician has been the story of 2017, reaching the latter stages of several events, including the final of the European Championships, and is fifth favourite for the tournament at 14/1. It would be a fairytale if he lands the big one.
To win their quarter of the draw and reach the semi-final Cross is 33/20, Suljovic 5/2 and Gurney, the World Grand Prix champion, is a best price of 3/1.
Gary Anderson and Peter Wright are the other two stars who must be considered contenders, but I find it hard to justify tipping either to lift the trophy.
Two-time world champion Anderson has not pulled up too many trees this season, and the flamboyant Mohican-headed Wright is touch and go to make the oche after being rushed to hospital at the start of December with suspected gallstones.
On their day they can challenge ‘Mighty Mike’, but it doesn’t feel as if either is in the right shape to see off the outstanding Dutchman.
Call me an old romantic but I can genuinely see Taylor fighting his way towards the final for a potentially classic match up that would send Ally Pally fans into a state of beer-fuelled delirium.
You can get odds of 33/10 on that happening.
Hand on heart, though, I can’t see Van Gerwen getting beaten. This is his time.
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