It's all down to Ally Pally for the biggest darts bash of the year as the PDC World Championship starts this week. Betfair went to see in-form Gary Anderson to get some tips...
Hi Gary and good to meet you. So how is your preparation going?
If I'm honest, I kind of misjudged it. I spent a couple of weeks up in Scotland and thought I had several weeks of practice when I got back, and then realised it was only a few days. So I've been back and doing three hours or more a day to make sure I'm ready.
Oh dear. But does that take some nerves away or make it worse ahead of the biggest event on your calendar?
In a way it's actually ok for me. I'm the kind of player who doesn't get too deep into it all. I've always believed that it is what happens on the day which counts for the most, and while of course you have to do the work and the practice, you can't stress about it too much. You have to turn up and enjoy it.
You've done an awful lot of work to improve in the last year, though.
It was a big moment for me last year coming away after Christmas after I had lost to Michael van Gerwen. I was feeling that I was losing matches against guys who shouldn't have given me any trouble at all and I knew I had to do something about it. The secret has been to start to just enjoy playing darts again. I realised I was getting too stressed about matches, and so I just tried to get myself back to basics. That means just playing darts. It is the same board wherever you are. I spent time down at the pub with my mates and it is fun and it doesn't feel like work. I've just come back from three hours there now and I feel like my form is good because of that attitude.
How does the mechanics of practice work. Golfers have a swing coach, and video analysis, and all that sort of technical stuff. With the increasing amount of money at stake has that come into your sport yet?
It might well have done with some of the younger players, maybe some of them have mind coaches and things like that too. I wouldn't know because to be honest it wouldn't be something I'd look at. I'm pretty old school. I just think the more you play the better you'll be.
Tell us about Ally Pally and the atmosphere.
It's just fantastic. I think they've sold out every session for the whole tournament, and you get everybody there having a good time with all their fancy dress and so on. It's such a great venue.
Do you have any technique to ignore that crowd or do you embrace it and enjoy it?
The best way is winning. When you are playing well and winning matches, honestly, you are just in your zone and you don't hear any of the other noise at all. You might as well be playing in an empty room. When you're struggling, believe me you can hear every last word that somebody says about you.
There are good chances for you it will be the former. You're in a good place after winning the Players Championship.
I feel like I've got better and better all season, I've obviously brought my ranking right back up to the top four, and that just sealed it off. But it's been good all year - I won seven events on the Pro Tour and with the standard of the players out there now that isn't easy. Any one of them is capable of winning on their day. I feel like I can win the World Championship one year, it's the ultimate dream, and if it can be this year then that would be fantastic.
The nearest you got was losing to Adrian Lewis in the 2011 final, so I suppose that year is both a high and a low in your memory. Tell us about it.
You're about right. Adrian still reminds me about it every time I see him so it would be good to get my own back this time. I feel it can happen, why not this year?
It's well documented you've had a difficult couple of years in your personal life, but you are a new dad now. Is that helping?
Little Tai is brilliant. He's eight months old now and you can't believe how time flies. That's one of the toughest things, being away every week at tournaments from Tuesday to Sunday so you only get a couple of days at home, and you want to treasure that time when the little ones are growing up. If nothing else I know the price of Pampers when it comes to what to spend my prize money on!
As ever Phil Taylor is favourite on the Betfair Sportsbook, although reigning champion Michael van Gerwen is closely priced. Who do you see as the main opposition?
They are the big names, but like I said earlier the standard of all the guys is so high that you can't make anybody a guaranteed winner. I start off by playing the winner of two qualifiers - Mark McGrath or Scott Kirchner - and I don't know anything about either of them except that if I don't play well, and if they do, either of them can beat me.
Do you need to scout them, then, or is all that matters just you and the dartboard?
Oh, I'll watch them. They play each other on Saturday and I'll make sure I see the game. I want to know how they play, what sort of speed they throw at, just to get a feel of the tempo of the match you are likely to be in. Like you say it is just you and the dartboard but that doesn't mean you don't want to be prepared.
We hope it goes well, and we've a free £50 bet with winnings to a favourite charity to say thanks for your time.
Brilliant, thanks. I'll nominate the Bristol Children's Hospital which does an amazing job for sick kids from all over the West Country where I live. And while I'd like to back myself at 7.513/2 for the World Championships I'm not allowed to, so instead I'll go into snooker and back John Higgins to win The Masters in January at 40.039/1. One Scot supporting another.
*Sky Sports is broadcasting the William Hill World Darts Championship exclusively live on the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel - channel 404.