BEWARE the “wounded animal” ... and especially one that’s just wild about Blackpool.
That was the warning from darts supremo Barry Hearn ahead of the Sky Bet Mobile World Matchplay tournament, which gets under way at the Winter Gardens this Saturday.
The Professional Darts Corporation chairman is referring to world No.1 Phil Taylor, who is bidding for a fourth successive matchplay crown in the resort and his 12th in total. Taylor, who has always described Blackpool as his favourite venue, hasn’t won a televised UK tournament since last year’s Winter Gardens showpiece and has been preparing for the Sky-televised event away from the spotlight in Tenerife.
Hearn said: “Phil’s a wounded animal, and despite his recent form he always rises to the occasion for this tournament, but with Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson and James Wade all winning majors recently they’ll be fancying their chances.
“This is the strongest field we’ve ever had for the tournament, because you’ve got the world’s top 16 and the 16 form players from the circuit from the first half of this year. The standard has continued to rise this year.”
Also finalising his preparations is local hero Wes Newton, who has been practising hard at home since returning from exhibitions in Ireland on Tuesday.
Newton must wait until day three (Monday) for his first match against Andy Smith.
The stage inside the Empress Ballroom is now being constructed, with the Sky crew arriving today to rig up their equipment to cover the event in 3D.
Tickets for some sessions are still available direct from the Winter Gardens box-office or via Ticketmaster on 0844 8561111.
n Don’t miss your souvenir World Matchplay pull-out in Saturday’s Gazette.