PDC World Darts Betting: The pain that will drive The Power

Concentration . . . Phil Taylor says darts is his escapism
Concentration... Phil Taylor says darts is his escapism

Phil Taylor has revealed the personal heartache in the background as he prepares for this year's World Darts Championship. Ralph Ellis believes if anything it will make him a stronger favourite for his 17th title...

"Taylor at 3.185/40 to win the title, given that he has often started the championship odds-on, is cracking value."

The night after my mum passed away I was due to cover a game at Portsmouth. Everybody told me to ring in and say I couldn't do it. But I went. I think I wrote one of my better match reports.

Later I hung around in the cold beside the Fratton Park pitch to catch a word with Blackburn's Benni McCarthy. It was one of the best interviews I ever did too - I got the South African to open up in a brutally frank way about how he'd let the collapse of a summer move to Chelsea mess with his head and ruin his start to the season.

Amazingly that's seven years ago now and I still miss my mum, and come to that my dad who passed away a couple of years later - essentially from a broken heart because he was on his own. I covered a game the day after he went, too.
That was at West Ham, where we'd gone together when I was a kid. For once I joined in from the press box when the fans were singing 'Bubbles'. And I wrote well that day, too. I'm lucky because I do a job I love, and both times going to work was a great way to forget about everything else that had just happened.

The point of this is that I know where Phil Taylor was coming from yesterday when he talked about his own problems away from the oche as this year's PDC World Darts Championship approaches.

Phil might be The Power, but there are some things that nobody has any power over. His 74-year-old mum Liz is currently in hospital and isn't expected to get better. Taylor is braced for things to get worse in the next week or so. He knows his mum might not be around to celebrate a record breaking 17th world title.

But that's where the professional bit comes in. Whatever is going on in his personal life, as he says, when he starts to play darts he has only one focus. "It's escapism for me," is how he explains it. "For those days you are in a tournament it takes your mind off it."

He said that at the Tuesday morning press conference to launch this year's Ally Pally event. The night before the papers had been warned he wouldn't be there alongside champion Michael van Gerwen. That was because he spent Monday night at his mum's bedside. But when she rallied, he got down the motorway to East London and did his job.

Now it might seem heartless to discuss the betting for the World Darts in this context. But then that's my job. And it strikes me that Taylor at 3.185/40 to win the title, given that he has often started the championship odds-on, is cracking value.

The top performers at any sport produce their best when they are relaxed and don't feel under pressure - and playing darts will be exactly how Taylor can forget the other issues in his life. He'll enjoy the challenge of doing his job properly, but won't get stressed because - record 17th title or not - it won't be life or death.

That, sadly, will be happening elsewhere.

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