Rob Cross is the former electrician who burst on to the darts scene as an amateur little more than a year ago and is now among the favourites to be this year's PDC World Champion. Betfair went to meet him...
"I’ve been fascinated in the build-up in the last couple of months how all the other players are so excited about it. It’s the one that everyone wants."
Hi Rob. Are you still pinching yourself or did you always think you could be this good?
A bit of each really. I believed in myself that I could win more games than I would lose, and I guess I've just taken to it - but I still don't think I could have predicted quite the way it's gone.
Behind any overnight success there's always a lot of time and work, though?
That's strange because I actually gave up playing darts for three years after my little boy was born. I was 20 when he came along, and then I started just playing down at the pub again, until my uncle half forced me to go to Norwich to play the qualifiers in the Rileys, and it was just sort of life changing.
You were an electrician?
It was anything, domestic, building sites up in London, I worked a bit around Mayfair and places like that. It wasn't too bad but I don't miss working outside in this weather!
So it's been life changing but how have you tried to stay the same?
I'm quite adamant it won't change me as a person. I've got a good backing behind me with my management team, and my family are all down to earth. I might play darts on TV now but really I've not changed. I think if I did get carried away with it I'd get complacent, and then it would be all over before you knew it.
Tell us about your family.
There's Georgia my wife, my son Leyton is six now, and I've also got two little girls Imogen who is three and Madison who is seven months. They are my inspiration.
So your debut at Ally Pally coming up. Are you nervous?
I'm a bit buzzy for it. Everyone asks how I will get on, but everything is new this year. When I've walked into any of the big events I've never been there before. I'm looking forward to it, it's been good to have a bit of a rest. I think at the Players Championship I was a bit worn out if I'm honest, but I'm going in fresh again now.
Worn out? Is that the travelling, the hot TV lights, why do you think that was?
I wouldn't say it gets you physically, it probably gets you mentally. I believe the game is 90% in your mind anyway, it is how strong you are to do stuff under pressure. It takes you out, you can feel tired because your brain feels tired.
Has that been the biggest challenge of your first year on tour?
Yes, it's all been new and I've had to change things drastically. Sometimes you come home and you think: "That weekend never went to plan". Then I try to think what I can change to make it better. I've carried on like that. For instance your eating times are all over the place. I can't eat too late before I play because it makes you feel sluggish, and I've started to change my diet too.
Yes, I just want to feel fresher - eating fatty food does you no good. I never used to really eat fruit and I've started to eat a lot. You feel better in yourself. I know it sounds silly that you change things like that and probably people looking in will think it's an easy life, but it is quite demanding if you are going to take things seriously. If you want to do well you have to sacrifice certain things.
What do you know about the famous Ally Pally atmosphere. Have you ever been to watch?
I haven't actually, so it is all going to be completely new. Apparently the stage is quite big, but I've been fascinated in the build-up in the last couple of months how all the other players are so excited about it. It's the one that everyone wants. Just talking about it now is giving me tingles.
You start against either Seigo Asada or Gordon Mathers. Will you go to spy on them?
Not really, although I'll probably be at the venue when they play so I'll maybe have a look, but it is more about what I do. Everyone is there for a reason, but as long as I make sure I am right and my preparation is right I have no excuses not to play well.
Michael van Gerwen is the odds-on favourite. Tell us about him.
I think he's fantastic, the best on the planet at the moment. I've bumped into him quite a lot in the last three months, and his attitude and his demeanour towards the game is first class. It's a winner's attitude all the way through.
On the subject of winners, it is Phil Taylor's last year.
Yes and there will be a lot of emotional support for him. I saw that at Blackpool how the crowd was with him. He's another who has been phenomenal. I met him for the first time at the Grand Slam this year. He's a nice guy and so special for what he's done for the sport. I think it will be a bit emotional but as a darts player yourself you can't get sucked into that, you have to be there to do your own job.
You've done it well too. After such an amazing year is it time to step up to the next level and win a big one?
In fairness I think that's what I've lacked this year, dealing with the TV exposure and the breaks and everything. I think that might have cost me a few of the bigger tournaments. I think I'm learning to handle that now so the next goal is to win a TV major and then kick on for more.
No better one to start with than this one?
It would be amazing, wouldn't it? Easy does it, though, as the footballers say we'll take one game at a time.
We wish you well and we've a free £50 bet with winnings to a favourite charity to say thanks for your time.
Great, I support St Michael's Hospice near my home in Hastings, and I'm a Chelsea fan so I'm going to back Antonio Conte and the boys to win the Champions League at [30.0]. Barcelona might be a tough draw but in one off ties they could beat anybody.
The William Hill World Darts Championship will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports Darts channel from 14 December-1 January.