UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall is aiming to show his Unibet Premier League credentials when he takes on Michael Smith in a repeat of their World Championship semi-final on Thursday night.
The Stockport star earned a call-up as one of the nine 'Contenders' to replace Gary Anderson during the opening nine weeks of the campaign off the back of his stunning run at the Alexandra Palace, which ended against eventual runner-up Bully Boy in an exhilarating last-four encounter.
Since then Aspinall continued to underline his star potential with impressive performances in this season's Players Championship events, including an eye-catching 6-1 victory over Michael van Gerwen, before reaching a career high by landing his first major title at the UK Open.
Defeating both Gerwyn Price and runner-up Rob Cross on a memorable final night, with a 170 checkout to finish, proved he has what it takes to deliver against the very best on the big stage and he wants this run of success to continue at Nottingham's Motorpoint Arena on Thursday night.
He told www.pdc.tv: "I couldn't believe it when I got the call, I was buzzing. I'd seen that Gary had pulled out but never in a million years did I think that I was going to get a call-up.
"When I heard, I was really happy for the PDC to put me in and give me an opportunity to show what I can do. I've got to grab that opportunity with both hands and show everybody what I can do.
"In all honesty it would have been nice to have played Michael van Gerwen, because he's the best player in the world, but to play Michael Smith after the semi-final game that we had is nice.
"It should hopefully be another good game. The semi-final was a great game - Michael played phenomenal darts so hopefully on Thursday night I can get my own back on him.
"People want it to be another exciting game and I'm sure it will be."
The 27-year-old has been thrust into the limelight with that triumph, and he admitted: "My name was getting about after the World Championship run, but now I've won my first major a lot more people know who I am.
"I'm not just getting brought on as a contender, I'm getting brought on as a major winner, so I'm really looking forward to the walk-on!"
Reflecting on the reaction since his UK Open triumph, he admitted: "It's been manic! I had a little bit of a homecoming on the Monday night when I got back, and I've been doing a lot of interviews and spending time with the family when I can as well as practising.
"It's been really busy but that's what we do it for. I'm still trying to get my head around the whole last three months really, I've not had time for it all to sink in.
"It's been a whirlwind few months for me but now I'm out to show that I belong in the Premier League.
"I've been in the World Championship semi-finals, won a major and am in the top 16, and none of it's really sunk in. At the moment it's all a bit of a blur to be honest."
Aspinall is now focusing on the clash with Smith in Nottingham as a showcase for his own credentials as the newest member of the sport's elite.
"I want to go and show people what I can do," he adds.
"I'm going to enjoy it and hopefully it's going to be the most enjoyable game that I've played in my career so far, in front of a massive crowd.
"I know I won the UK Open, but my performances weren't my best so I want to play at the level I know I can play at and prove to everyone that I'm worth a shot in the Premier League next year."
Premier League: Week Six Fixtures
- Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith
- James Wade v Mensur Suljovic
- Rob Cross v Raymond van Barneveld
- Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen
- Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
2019 Premier League Darts Table
- Wade P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 LegD +11 Pts 7
- Cross P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 LegD +8 Pts 7
- Van Gerwen P 5 W 3 D 1 L 1 LegD +7 Pts 7
- Price P 5 W 2 D 3 L 0 LegD +7 Pts 7
- Wright P 5 W 2 D 2 L 1 LegD +3 Pts 6
- Suljovic P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 LegD -5 Pts 4
- Gurney P 5 W 2 D 0 L 3 LegD -10 Pts 4
- Smith P 5 W 1 D 1 L 3 LegD -5 Pts 3
- Van Barneveld P 5 W 0 D 2 L 3 LegD -10 Pts 2