Leading darts referee Russ Bray is once again placing his faith in Phil Taylor to take more top honours by landing this year’s Premier League.
After tipping the Stoke-born legend to win this year’s PDC World Darts Championship, the Soham-based official feels it will be case of more of the same in the McCoy’s-sponsored competition which gets under way tonight in Belfast.
The 16-times world champion ensured he will be entering the event, which is played over 15 weeks by 10 of the PDCs leading players, by landing this year’s Betfair World Cup of darts with England team-mate Adrian Lewis in Hamburg, Germany, on Sunday.
“Although Phil will face a tough challenge he is hard to go against as his form at the moment is tremendous as showed at the World Cup,” said Bray.
“You can’t discount the likes of Raymond van Barneveld, Simon Whitlock, and Gary Anderson, who has won it before, but I have to go with my gut feeling and that is to side with Phil.”
With the competition expanding from eight to 10 players for the first time in its history the Essex born referee believes this year’s tournament will produce an even higher standard of darts.
“It is going to be pretty interesting having 10 players taking part instead of eight and the games promise to be cut throat,” said Bray. “I think it will be the best Premier League competition we have ever seen.”
This year’s format will also see the relegation of the two players sitting at the bottom of the standings after the opening nine weeks of play.
With that in mind Bray, who is to officiate his first Premier League match when the competition reaches Bournemouth on February 21, has singled out the two players he feels could face an early exit.
“At the end of the day no one wants to be relegated and it is a really tough call to say who will end up being relegated as they are all top players,” said Bray.
“But I think that Wes Newton and Robert Thornton might find it a little bit more difficult as they won’t be used to the size of the crowds, where as the others will know what to expect.
“With it being a short format style of play you need to get points on the board early and although both Wes and Robert are world class players I could see them struggling early on.”