St Helens darts aces prepare for world title challenge

The world championships start this week
The world championships start this week

Michael Smith knows where the finishing line is, but he is still to cross it as he bids to lift the Holy Grail of Darts.

The 29-year-old St Helens ace - beaten 7-3 by Dutchman Michael van Gerwen in the final of the £2.5m William Hill World Championship 12 months ago at London's Alexandra Palace - will be hoping to go one step further at the dawn of the New Year and bring the coveted trophy to St Helens for the first time.

Smith is listed as fifth favourite by the sponsors at 22/1 to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy with defending champion Van Gerwen red-hot favourite at 5/4 followed by on-song Welshman Gerwyn Price (5/1), Peter Wright (14/1), and Rob Cross (16/1).

St Helens compatriot Dave Chisnall, who is quoted at 28/1, cannot be ruled out either after a fairly successful year in which he reached the World Grand Prix of Darts Final last month and also produce some other impressive performances.

The third local challenge, Stephen Bunting, is not considered as much a threat to Van Gerwen's title as the two other local lads, but despite odds of 150/1 he is capable of competing with the best on his day.

All three will enter the event in the second round but at this moment in time don't know who they will face.

Smith is awaiting the result of the first round tie involving 65-year-old Singapore legend Paul Lim and Bewdley's Luke Woodhouse; Chizzy plays the winner of the Vincent van der Vort-Keane Barry clash in which the former will be odds-on to progress at the expense of the 17-year-old Irishman; and Bunting lies in wait for either Arron Monk of Andover, or Spain's Josie Justicia

The tournament, which boasts representatives from 28 nations ranging from England to Brazil and Australian to the USA, starts on December 13 and runs until New Year's Day 2020.

It will also be screened by Sky Sports while talkSPORT'S live commentary will be supplemented by live updates on talkSPORT throughout the event, as well as exclusive interviews.

Commentary will be provided by a stellar line-up, including Nigel Pearson, John Gwynne, Ian Danter, Chris Mason and Paul Nicholson.