Premier League Darts: Why nine players replacing Gary Anderson isn't such a bad idea after all

Nathan Aspinall
Nathan Aspinall

Our darts expert Chris Hammer assesses the PDC's decision to replace the injured Gary Anderson with nine weekly guest invites during this season's Premier League.

The PDC's idea to replace Gary Anderson in the Premier League with nine different players on a weekly basis is as creative as it's proved unpopular with the masses on social media.

Chairman Barry Hearn is probably clinging onto the old cliche of 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' amidst the rage that has seemingly come of this boldest of moves but will this latest example of the organisation's desire to showcase some of its newer stars to bigger audiences win the critics over as the season unfolds?

Many fans have previously called for the Premier League to be shaken up one way or another - yet when this news broke, the default reaction was to name a former participant who they thought should be given yet another chance on this roadshow. That would have hardly been visionary. But perhaps it was simply just the 'right' thing to do.

Prior to the original field being announced back in December, I was rooting for an fresher line-up than usual rather than the same faces and although that didn't really happen I obviously accept the argument that the top nine (plus Barney of course) are generally the biggest crowd pullers due to their years of sustained success.

But Anderson's injured-enforced decision to pull out then gave the PDC a problem they decided to turn into an opportunity for nine grateful fresh faces to grasp.

Why no straight swap?

If the PDC had made the most logical decision and just called up Simon Whitlock, who many felt was unlucky to have been overlooked originally despite being ranked ninth on the Order of Merit, then there would have been few complaints other than a lack of imagination.

There was even a strong case for the ever popular Dave Chisnall following the encouraging signs he showed during the World Championship and Masters, suggesting that he's potentially on the way back to his best. And a similar case could be made for Adrian Lewis.

We'd have all moved on very quickly with any of those options.

However, why are we actually feeling sorry for them and their bank balances? They've had plenty of shots at it in the past and it's hardly holding back their careers given there are no ranking points available and they would have been unlikely to win it anyway.

They will have also considered throwing in a youngster like Dimitri Van den Bergh or Luke Humphries for the entire campaign or a more established name on the cusp of the top 10 such as Ian White or Joe Cullen.

But at this point you've got a long list of names developing and how do you decide who's most deserving?

Answer: You call up nine players who'd regard a guest role as an opportunity to taste the Premier League experience, gain some more televised exposure, play in front of a huge crowd and, of course, earn some extra cash.

Why these nine?

Aside from Durrant, who only won his PDC Tour card last month, the lowest Premier League guest on the Order of Merit is Luke Humphries at 57 so clearly there's a lot of players between him at Whitlock who'll feel they've been unfairly overlooked.

But when you're picking players subjectively to help sell out arenas for what is effectively a lucrative exhibition tournament, you have to be more canny than just going off the rankings.

There can be no qualms about including such a high-profile name such as Durrant after what he's achieved in the BDO while the performances of Nathan Aspinall and Humphries at the World Championship showed they have what it takes to be in the Premier League line-up as a permanent fixture one day - and nobody can deny Dimitri van den Bergh is a fast rising star of the future.

As for the others, well, the luck of the venue draw was instrumental.

Max Hopp and Jeffrey de Zwaan are fortunate Berlin and Rotterdam were on the calendar in the opening nine weeks - as was John Henderson with Aberdeen, Steve Lennon with Dublin and Chris Dobey with Newcastle - while Yorkshireman Joe Cullen surely would have got picked had Leeds or Sheffield come prior to Judgement Night.

Like it or not, these local favourites will help generate a louder atmosphere on their nights and that's a big part of this whole exercise. Why send Ian White to Rotterdam, for example, if he's not playing for points and the crowd won't be overly excited to see him?

Points standing against guests

Firstly, let's remember that all nine of the permanent participants have easier games against a Gary Anderson replacement than the man himself!

That's not to say the concerns around points being accrued in matches against these guests have no merit, because quite clearly some opponents will be deemed more desirable than others, with world rankings ranging from 20 right down to... unranked!

Joking aside, three-time Lakeside king Glen Durrant does represent one of the shortest of straws for Daryl Gurney while James Wade has it tough with Dimitri Van den Bergh - as has Rob Cross with Jeffrey de Zwaan on Judgement Night.

You could get a situation, for example, where Barney misses out on the play-offs by one point to Michael Smith because he loses to Max Hopp in a partisan Berlin whereas Bully Boy took care of Nathan Aspinall in the neutral venue of Nottingham.

Also, these guests don't have the same pressure as the players who are trying to earn points to reach that top four - not to mention avoid the now sole relegation spot.

To have one player motivated by points and their opponent driven by prize money and pride is also an intriguing dynamic and I can't tell anyone who's against this that they're wrong.

Good or bad?

This will be an unpopular conclusion but overall I'm just about in favour and opened minded enough to give it a chance.

We've got to remember that while the Premier League is still one leg of the 'Triple Crown' alongside the World Championship and World Matchplay, it's still essentially a glorified exhibition, with only the world's top four ever qualifying for it by right.

If any big event can be toyed, tinkered and experimented with, it's this one.

All these newly invited players have the talent and crowd support to help produce some great matches to cherish over the coming nine weeks and that, of course, is what it's all about.

Premier League Darts 2019: Dates, fixtures, venues & results

Night 1, February 7
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • James Wade v Raymond van Barneveld
  • Gerwyn Price v Daryl Gurney
  • Chris Dobey v Mensur Suljovic
  • Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
  • Peter Wright v Rob Cross

Tickets: 0844 493 6666 or click here

Night 2, February 14
SSE Hydro, Glasgow
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Peter Wright v Michael Smith
  • Rob Cross v James Wade
  • Raymond van Barneveld v Gerwen Price
  • Daryl Gurney v Glen Durrant
  • Mensur Suljovic v Michael van Gerwen

Tickets: 0844 395 4000 or click here

Night 3, February 21
3Arena, Dublin
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Gerwyn Price v James Wade
  • Steve Lennon v Peter Wright
  • Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
  • Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
  • Mensur Suljovic v Raymond van Barneveld

Tickets: 0818 719 300 (Ire) or click here

Night 4, February 28
Westpoint Arena, Exeter
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Luke Humphries v Gerwyn Price
  • Daryl Gurney v Rob Cross
  • Mensur Suljovic v Peter Wright
  • Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
  • Michael Smith v Raymond van Barneveld

Night 5, March 7
BHGE Arena, Aberdeen
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Michael Smith v Rob Cross
  • Daryl Gurney v James Wade
  • Mensur Suljovic v Gerwyn Price
  • Raymond van Barneveld v Peter Wright
  • Michael van Gerwen v John Henderson

Tickets: 08444 77 9000 or click here

Night Six, Thursday March 14
Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • 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

Tickets: 0843 373 3000 or click here

Night Seven - Thursday March 21
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross
  • James Wade v Peter Wright
  • Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
  • Michael Smith v Mensur Suljovic
  • Max Hopp v Raymond van Barneveld

Tickets: 030 20 60 70 88 99 (Ger) or click here

Night Eight - Wednesday March 27
Rotterdam Ahoy
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Gerwyn Price v Michael Smith
  • James Wade v Dimitri van den Bergh
  • Rob Cross v Mensur Suljovic
  • Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen
  • Raymond van Barneveld v Daryl Gurney

Tickets: 0900 300 1250 (Ned) 0031 88 123 24 25 (Outside Ned) or click here

Judgement Night - Thursday March 28
Rotterdam Ahoy
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Daryl Gurney v Mensur Suljovic
  • Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price
  • Rob Cross v Jeffrey de Zwaan
  • Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen
  • James Wade v Michael Smith

Tickets: 0900 300 1250 (Ned) 0031 88 123 24 25 (Outside Ned) or click here

Fixtures for Nights Ten-16 will be confirmed following Judgement Night.

Night Ten - Thursday April 4
The SSE Arena, Belfast
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 028 9073 9074 or click here

Night 11 - Thursday April 11
M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 0344 8000 400 or click here

Night 12 - Thursday April 18
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 029 2022 4488 or click here

Night 13 - Thursday April 25
Arena Birmingham
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 0844 338 0338 or click here

Night 14 - Thursday May 2
The Manchester Arena
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 0844 249 1000 or click here

Night 15 - Thursday May 9
The FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 0114 256 5656 or click here

Night 16 - Thursday May 16
First Direct Arena, Leeds
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Four Matches

Tickets: 0844 248 1585 or click here

Play-Offs - Thursday May 23
The O2, London
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

  • Two semi-finals and a final

Tickets: 0844 856 0202 or click here

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