Becoming ‘mecca’ of darts world

Darts ace Michael Smith
Darts ace Michael Smith
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St Helens is now second only to Stoke in producing world-class darts players, and there are scores of potential stars of the future coming through the ranks.

Stephen Bunting, Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith are already starring on the oche on the world stage and local A180 boss Karl Holden reckons there’s plenty more top St Helens darts players to come.

Dave Chisnall

Dave Chisnall

All three competed in the recent PDC World Championships - with Bunting, 29, beating Smith, 24, before bowing out in the quarter finals.

Dave “Chizzy” Chisnall, 34, was a finalist in the rival BDO World Championships in 2010 and Bunting claimed the Lakeside crown in 2014 before switching to the PDC.

Karl said: “St Helens has always had top county players but the town is definitely going through a boom-time in the darts world at the moment.

“The fact that there are several top class players in St Helens will hopefully breed more success. Not only does it give younger players something to aim for, it also enables them to test themselves against better quality players.

“I think the year Dave Chisnall got to the BDO final really caught people’s imagination and lads like Stephen and Michael have kicked on from there.”

Karl told how up to 50 local youngsters regularly attend a local darts academy and admitted “there are a few good ones coming through”.

But he admitted that throwing 180s and hitting doubles for fun on a practice board is very different to winning big matches under the glare of the TV cameras.

He said: “I’ve known plenty of players who could beat anyone on the practice board or down their local pub - but put them in front of the cameras and it’s a different kettle of fish.

“It takes a special type of player to handle that sort of pressure because any hint of nerves and you’ll miss your target.”

But which of St Helens’ current top three players does Karl think is most likely to claim the coveted PDC world title?

“Dave Chisnall has always had all the natural talent in the world and Michael Smith works incredibly hard at his game,” he said.

“But Stephen Bunting is probably top of the pile at the moment and has already won the BDO crown.”