PETER WRIGHT will tonight bid to become Scotland’s first new world champion of what promises to be a momentous sporting year for his homeland.
Livingston-born Wright has proved to be the headline act of the 2014 Ladbrokes PDC World Darts Championship where he faces odds-on favourite Michael van Gerwen in this evening’s final at the Alexandra Palace in London.
Suffolk-based Wright, who moved south of the border as a young child but remains proud of his Scottish roots, has produced a series of high-quality displays to book his place in darts’ showpiece occasion where the winner will receive £250,000.
The 43-year-old, who had previously never progressed beyond the third round of the world championship, has also lit up the tournament with his garish garb and equally colourful sculpted hairstyles. “Peter is trying to make a name for himself, trying to look different,” says Wayne Mardle, the former five-time world championship semi-finalist and now Sky Sports analyst, who has known Wright since they were both youngsters on the darts circuit.
“But the good thing about it is that he can play. There’s a saying in golf about ‘all the gear, but no idea’. It’s the same in any sport. Peter looks like an explosion in a paint factory, but he can throw darts. I’m not so sure about his hair, mind you.
“Peter has been incredible in this tournament. He has been the best finisher, the best scorer and the one who has held himself together better than anyone. There have been no lapses of concentration at all from him. There are no faults in his game and he has been like that for the past year. He just hasn’t been rewarded like he has this week in terms of results.
“Something has just clicked for him. Suddenly, the throw is easy and the mentality is there. I’ve known Peter since we were young lads and he has always been a decent player. But the last 18 months have been an absolute whirlwind for him. He has just been magnificent. I’ve noticed he doesn’t mess around with the other players socially like he used to. Now he seems to have thought ‘Look, there’s money to be earned here and I’m going to go out and get it’.
“He annihilated Simon Whitlock 6-2 in the semi-final, which was already the biggest game of his life so far. If he was going to fold, it would already have happened. He’s got the game and mentality now to play well in every match. I can’t see Michael running riot in this final. Peter will not let that happen.”
Wright is bidding to become Scotland’s third ever world darts champion. The late, great Jocky Wilson triumphed in 1982 and 1989, then Les Wallace claimed the British Darts Organisation crown in 1997. Since the sport split into two rival governing bodies in 1994, no Scot has won the Professional Darts Corporation title which is regarded as the elite version.
Dutchman Van Gerwen, runner-up in the final to Phil Taylor last year, is the reigning Premier League champion and widely considered as the sport’s most exciting current talent. But Rod Harrington, the 1995 world championship runner-up and now Sky Sports pundit, believes the 24-year-old faces a genuine test of his credentials against Wright.
“It’s not going to be a walkover for Michael,” said Harrington. “We know what he can do…he is electrifying when he gets on a run. But if Peter gets in front, then we may see a different player.
“I really don’t think Peter is going to be fazed by it. The world championship final would faze a lot of players, but not Peter. I think he’ll be calm and ready for it.
“The first couple of sets are so important for Peter. In the semi-final, I noticed there was absolutely no shaking of his flights when he pulled his darts back. There were no nerves there. If he can do the same in the final, he’s got a great chance.
“Peter is one of those guys who is very serious about the sport now. I’m on the tour with the players week-in, week-out and I see the progression of them all. So it’s not a surprise to me at all to see Peter in the final.
“This is not a fluke performance from Peter. He changed his darts coming into this tournament, which we all thought was a mistake, but because of where he is in his mind, what I’d call a very happy place, he’s been fine. I think Peter will push Michael all the way, but if I’m pressed for a prediction, I’m going for Michael to win 7-5.”
• Sky Sports will show the final of the Ladbrokes Darts World Championship exclusively live in HD and 3D, tonight from 8pm.