Premier League darts has been a huge success. The opportunity to see ten of the best players, across a single raucous night, in huge venues has proven an important driver in PDC darts being the showcase for the professional game. Crowds, in the tens of thousands, flock to buy tickets for the biggest professional exhibition/competition.
There is a healthy debate each year regarding who should be selected to play? Fans have favourites they would love to see in the biggest show. Even supporters of darts’ other code, The BDO, can’t help but wonder how their own players would match up, adding a little spice to the debate.
Discussions regarding how players from differing eras would have done, against the players of today, are commonplace. With modern conditions and advantages would they be able to hold their own or even outdo today’s superstars?
This divides quite nicely into two golden ages. The current, Sky Sports & PDC driven, times and the original 1970/80’s golden age which proved hugely popular and provided many of the templates for the success of today. Players from both eras are held up as icons and whilst some of the debate is, understandably, generational it is not the only factor in deciding who would make an ultimate league.
The skill factor of the players, the simplicity of the game and the intimate and dramatic nature of the competition, the characters and emotions, or lack of, of players at any time. These factors explain the popularity of TV Professional darts. The Premier League is about showing all these assets, to the maximum degree, in a single night and over the entire league. With finals night being the ultimate showdown.
With all that in mind, who would make an all time ten man line up, how would the generations match up? How would the league progress? Who would triumph?
The Line Up.
1 – Phil Taylor: With 16 World Titles and a huge volume of major wins across the generations there is no doubt that Taylor would be the first name on the sheet. His overall skill level is simply unsurpassed and the Premier League distance is just long enough to show it. His competitive, or matchplaying, spirit is also beyond question, winning matches and titles from almost every position and against all types of opposition. The only dip would be the entertainment level, Phil entertains through excellence and offers little more.
Skill Factor – 10, Matchplay – 10, Entertainment 7.
2 – Eric Bristow: Five World Titles, a ruthless competitor and the founder of the feast in terms of entertainment. A prime Crafty Cockney would be the biggest draw of the event and many would be desperate to see him bestride the event with the cocky brilliance of his pomp.
Skill Factor – 8, Matchplay – 10, Entertainment – 10
3 – MVG; A career slam of major titles and one of the driving forces upping the standard in the current era. Able to destroy any opponent MVG would also provide the clearest modern versus classic era battles. Not untouchable especially if dominated.
Skill Factor – 10, Matchplay – 8, Entertainment – 8
4 – Jockey Wilson; Twice World Champion, the totally unpredictable Jockey, would add to the event just by being in it. Yet viewing old footage reveal that he , and other past champions, were capable of 100+ averages even using old equipment. The short format of the these games and Jockey’s sheer determination would mean shocks, sublime spells and probably defeats as well. Adding great drama, to the proceedings, especially in the Scottish venues!
Skill Factor – 8, Matchplay – 8, Entertainment – 10
5 – John Lowe; World Champion in three separate decades and a multiple winner in all formats. The ultimate example of the classic stylist. Totally unflappable and the first 9 dart TV hero. Lowe would provide huge contrast to some of the modern players. His battle with Taylor would also carry great interest in a contrasting way.
Skill Factor – 9, Matchplay – 9, Entertainment – 7
6. John Part: Darth Maple is a three-time World Champ across both codes. In his pomp his fluent style and deadly play would have seen him compete in any era against any opponent. Articulate and interesting when discussing the game, his media savvy may also add to the proceedings.
Skill Factor – 8, Matchplay -8, Entertainment -8
Gary Anderson: Double World Champion in an era containing MVG, Taylor & Lewis, to name but three, Gary brings phenomenal darts and differing laid back attitude. I suspect he would relish the opportunity to match with a variety of players from across time. Can have off nights as well which adds to the unpredictability.
Skill Factor -10, Matchplay – 8, Entertainment – 8
7. Bob Anderson: World Champion and three-time World Master. The Limestone Cowboy has already shown he could compete with the best from both codes across both of darts great era’s. With a phenomenal professionalism, and will to win, in many ways Bob is the perfect example of a pro dart player. Reaching the semi’s of the PDC worlds in his late 50’s and winning the League of Legends in 2008 demonstrate his often underestimated ability. The shirts, the point and the grit would all add the entertainment as well!
Skill Factor – 8, Matchplay – 9, Entertainment 8
8. Adrian Lewis: Jackpot is another double World Champ and just like Gary he achieved them back to back. Another in the modern style who hits big scores for fun. But how would they adapt to the matchplay skills of the some of the other players in this league. Adrian has been known to go missing or suffer bouts of frustration. I am sure this would not have gone unnoticed by others in the group. When inspired, Ade is a great entertainer with flash shots and a fun, quick-fire style.
Skill Factor – 9, Mathcplay – 8, Entertainment 8
9. RVB: Despite 5 world titles I had difficulty putting Raymond into this league. The important elements of entertainment and grit have been lacking recent times from the Dutchman. Then I remembered the very best of Barney, winning World Titles in both codes, pushing Phil to ever greater heights and the ability to defeat MVG in big games even now!
Skill Factor – 9, Matchplay – 8, Entertainment 7
10: Dennis Priestley: Despite hot competition, for the final place, it must be The Menace. World Champion in both codes, gritty competitor, revolutionary in the art of switching (18’s in his case). With Phil and Part the only member of the Older guard who has Premier League experience. Loved by all fans.
Skill Factor – 8, Matchplay – 9, Entertainment 7
This league would be very competitive and every great show needs interval entertainment ( think Riverdance!). Special guest would be exhibition doubles.
BDO vs PDC “The Entertainers”
Tony O Shea & Daryl Fitton vs Wayne Mardle & Peter Manley.
How Would it Go?
The above all time league would provide superb nights of drama and high quality competition every week with shocks and maybe even a bit of needle! Ultimately, with every player being in their prime, the last four would be very hard to pick, as would the elimination pairing, but here goes.
The two Johns would bow out at this stage. Lowe at his best was unbelievable consistent and would have battled in every game. I am not sure he would have had quite enough of a 2nd gear when needed. Part may get off to a slow start playing many of those who he idolised. This would see Dennis Priestley survive as he would start strongly although this would fade he would have the points on the board.
The second section of the League would possibly be the most exciting. Most of the big rivalries and cross era clashes would be seen again, this time each would have settled and be aware that elimination was at stake. I would guess that it would come down to the last week with many outcomes still at possible.
Finally though, the combination of skill, ego and sheer determination would see a Semi Finals between Eric Bristow & Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor vs MVG.
=1 Eric Bristow & Phil Taylor
3rd Gary Anderson
5th Bob Anderson
6th Adrian Lewis
8th Dennis Priestly
Semi 1 – Eric succeeds by getting away well and thoroughly enjoying the massive crowd and atmosphere. Gary would catch fire later but Eric would get home reasonable safely.
Semi 2 – A belter this one, MVG would be out of the gate and into the lead early. But the chance of playing Eric on the biggest stage and in front of the biggest crowd would prove a huge inspiration to Phil. “The Power” ups the gears and produces a stunning spell mid match. MVG can not quite match the sudden burst and Phil wins by a couple.
Each man in his absolute pomp, Eric enjoying the benefits of what he built and Phil suffering under the huge pressure that Eric exerted. Phil settling down and out playing Eric mid match. Eric however is less easily worn down and uses every tactic and psychological ploy to knock “The Power” out of his stride.
A last leg decider is certain to be the result. The chance to be crowned the best ever, head to head, would prove the only inspiration The Crafty Cockney needed.
Winner of The (All Time) Premier League : Eric “The Crafty Cockney” Bristow.