Coming into night nine of the Premier League Darts campaign Raymond van Barneveld is looking to add to his two-match win streak and get a firm grip on his semi-final hopes come May.
The Dutchman has produced back-to-back stunning performances to thrash Gary Anderson and put a stop to Michael van Gerwen’s record-breaking winning streak.
Van Barneveld is possibly the most frustrating figure in darts. His throwing action is as smooth as a Rolls-Royce and, when he is in the mood, his heavy scoring and combination finishing is enough to leave the very best reeling – as it did with Anderson in Rotterdam.
However, ‘Barney’ has often been accused of lacking in focus at times leading to uninspiring performances. This tournament he looks different.
The World Championship defeat to compatriot van Gerwen hurt the legendary darting Dutchman. Mulling retirement after averaging 109 against ‘Mighty Mike’ and still being on the end of a 6-2 hammering van Barneveld looked like he would follow his old rival Phil Taylor into a farewell tour and gracefully bow out.
Now, the old van Barneveld looks to be back. After collecting a huge four points in the last fortnight Barney sits third, just two points off top spot. Van Barneveld kicks off Judgement Day’s slate of games in Cardiff against a poorly performing James Wade.
The five-time world champion can put himself in a commanding position heading into the home straight of the competition. Having shown that he can beat the two best players on the planet the rest of the league will be put on red alert that the Netherlands native can still threaten for the major titles.
The big game mentality of Barney looks to have returned. He fed off the rocking Rotterdam throng to leave Anderson bemused in a score line that was in no way reflective of the match. Van Barneveld simply hit the big checkouts and punished the slips from the Flying Scotsman.
Seven days later the momentum carried over to Manchester as Barney produced arguably the performance of the tournament as he raced into an early lead against current World Champion van Gerwen, only to see Mighty Mike reel off four consecutive legs to lead 4-3. In recent times that sudden surge from a player would have seen van Barneveld’s head drop and his focus shift from hitting the big shots to pulling disgusted faces at the board.
However, the big Dutchman held off the world number one. Van Barneveld has often had big games and knocked off a rival in a match. However, for him to do it in back-to-back weeks against the world number two and world number one respectively is a sign that the marauding darting icon is as big a threat to the Premier League crown as any player remaining in the tournament.