Dave Chisnall has praised the inclusion of St Helens pal Michael Smith in the 2016 Betway Premier League - admitting that he tipped the youngster for the top almost a decade ago.
Chisnall first met Smith on the darting circuit in St Helens when the teenager was starting out in the local leagues.
Smith went on to join the PDC circuit 18 and became the World Youth Champion in 2013, and has cemented his place inside the world's top ten in the past year to earn a Premier League debut.
“I'm over the moon for him,” said Chisnall.
“I felt he'd get in this year because he's a fantastic player and he deserves all the success he's had.
“He's done St Helens proud and I've always known he could do it, since I saw him at 16. He was getting a lot of knock-backs then and I told him to ignore them, and look at him now - he's in the top eight in the world.
He’s done St Helens proud and I’ve always known he could do it, since I saw him at 16. He was getting a lot of knock-backs then and I told him to ignore them, and look at him now - he’s in the top eight in the worldDave Chisnall
“I could see how good he was when he was 16, and he wasn't even a big-hitter like he is now, he was just steady and straight.
“He has come a long way and proven how good he is.”
Chisnall was a semi-finalist in last year's Betway Premier League after finishing second in the league table to Michael van Gerwen.
He has since landed a nine-dart finish at the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts, and lost in the final of last week's Unibet Masters as he closes in on his target of claiming his maiden televised title.
“Last year was good,” added Chisnall.
“I played steady darts all the way through the season. When you're playing on TV every week, you know where you stand and it keeps you in form and in practice on the big stage.
“I was one of the favourites to be eliminated so I was very pleased with how it went, and it turned out to be a great year. I don't think I've played my best darts all the time since, but sometimes you aren't at your best and winning.
“I know I can do better and hopefully this year will bring the best out of me. I've set a goal this year to win a few tournaments, including one on TV.
“I know it will come and I just need to make sure I put in the practice and this year I'll be doing more than ever.”
Chisnall lost in the semi-finals of last year's Premier League to eventual champion Gary Anderson, who survived three missed match darts from his rival before snatching victory in the deciding leg.
Chisnall refuses to dwell on the loss.
He added: “It wasn't meant to be. It wasn't my time then, so hopefully I can get to The O2 again and beat him if we play again!”