Rob Cross doesn’t feel disrespected about being the rank outsider for Premier League glory – and even admits his odds could be almost doubled.
Voltage is 33/1 to lift the prestigious trophy for the first time and complete the career Triple Crown in just his fifth year on the PDC circuit having already won the 2018 World Championship and the 2019 World Matchplay.
However, most fans and pundits are expecting the 30-year-old to become embroiled in a relegation battle rather than challenge for the play-offs and he’s second favourite behind Glen Durrant to be relegated at Judgement Night, just like he was last year.
His poor Premier League campaign, which followed two successive years of finishing in the top four, was just one of many major disappointments in a difficult 2020 both at home and on the dart board but now he’s feeling much happier now on both counts.
Cross, who lost his grandfather to Covid last year and also experienced other family problems that he feels affected his game, also believes he can revel in the underdog role once again.
The 2019 Premier League runner-up said: “To be honest I think the odds should be that big based on my form over the last year and they could even be 50/1!
“But just like in horse racing, if a horse runs at 100/1 it doesn’t know the price on its head and just goes out there to try its best. So I won’t let those odds bother me either. If anything, it will inspire me.
“I have no problems being an underdog again either. You look back to my first year and I was underdog every week and it didn’t serve me too badly. It’s nice to be in that position because nobody is expecting anything from me. They all expect me to be relegated.
“The pressure is off and I can go out and play with the desire that I want. If I get my game right, I can definitely finish in the top four.”
Sporting Life columnist Paul Nicholson, who also commentates on the ProTour for the PDC, was one of the few experts to pick up on Voltage’s improved action compared to last year and even tipped him to win the UK Open.
Cross, who also won the European Championship in 2019, hopes continued improvements will help him reach the level he once reached in the not too distant past, saying: “Paul Nicholson was right to say my throw has got better but since the UK Open it’s improved even more and if I can get it silky smooth I can hit as many 180s with the best in the world and finish like the best in the world. I do have the complete game in there.
“Obviously I’ve seen my great performances of the past again on Darts Gold from time to time but I live in the present and I’m working so hard to turn my life around at home and on the board. Who knows I might even play better than I did in 2017 and 2018.
“I still don’t feel I’ve won as much as I could have at my peak but it’s down to me to set that record straight and win more majors.”
Cross, who lost his grandfather to Covid and also experienced other family problems that he feels affected his game, insists being happier at home is just as important for darts performance and practice as it is in all walks of life.
He said: “The last 18 months have been tough but I do feel like I’m coming out of the other side, the mist has gone and I’m starting to be myself. I’ve been steady this season but not yet hit that extra turbo gear.
“My practice is going well, I’m doing crazy things and the biggest change is I’m enjoying it more. I wasn’t enjoying it last year and had a lot of commotion behind me. Now that’s gone I’m enjoying the practice and when that’s happening its easier to put the hours in. When you know you’re doing it on the practice board, there’s not much difference taking it to the game board.
“I have a lovely routine which is something I used to speak about a lot in my first year when I was playing properly and well. I’ve been able to rekindle that.
“I’ll admit a lot of problems at home have emptied out. Hopefully we can see a new Rob now the love for the game is back.
“The love for the game had disappeared for about a year. Don’t get me wrong there were times when I’d go out there and feel passion for it but overall I felt flat walking into tournaments.
“People watching at home don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes and in the past when I was playing well, that side of my life was going great. I’ve always said when things are going perfect at home they go perfect on the board.
“Where is your main life? Mine is darts as a job but what affects you at home affects your job and it’s the same for everyone. Arguments at home affect people going into work because it’s in your brain. I couldn’t ask for my home life to be any better at the moment.”
Cross isn’t remotely bothered by those critics who claim he was lucky to be in the Premier League when the likes of James Wade have missed out.
He said: “Everyone has an opinion in life so it doesn’t bother me. James Wade obviously has better form than mine and was brilliant in winning the UK Open but there are other players he could have overtaken.”
“In the last year I played some of the worst darts of my life and I knew I was better than that. Now it’s about putting the record straight for me and my family rather than the keyboard warriors or critics.”