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The Big Interview with Chris Thompson
York’s chairman of the darts board Chris Thompson tells DAVE FLETT he is ready to take on the world’s best.
WHEN you have beaten eight of the top ten darts players in the world – and among those scalps is a certain Phil Taylor – it is no wonder that Chris Thompson is full of confidence going into his first-ever World Championships.
The Acomb arrows ace defeated Taylor in Las Vegas back in June of this year but the 15-time world champion is in good company.
Others that have been shot down by the “Hitman” during his time on the PDC circuit include young guns James Wade and Adrian Lewis.
Experienced pros like Merv King, Terry Jenkins and Ronnie Baxter have also lost to the Minster Law legal executive while world number 13 Colin Osborne – Thompson’s first round opponent tonight – only boasts a 50-50 win record against York’s top player.
Raymond van Barneveld and Simon Whitlock, the world number three and four respectively, are the only elite players yet to be toppled by Thompson.
With van Barneveld potentially waiting in the third round, though, the Crescent WMC player could yet get his opportunity to claim a famous victory over the Dutchman.
Thompson is due to take to the renowned Alexandra Palace stage at 7.10pm tonight in front of the Sky Sports cameras and cannot wait for his big moment on the oche.
He said: “It’s been a bit weird over the past week watching and thinking that will be me soon but (fellow qualifier) Mark Hylton had a good win over Steve Beaton on the first night and the likes of John Part have also been knocked out since. That shows the seeds are there to be beaten.
“As I’ve said before, just getting there was the problem for me in terms of nerves, but now I’m really confident and have grown more so by the day ever since the draw was made.”
Thompson travelled south on Monday having agreed a sponsorship deal with Best Western’s Mostyn Hotel in Marble Arch.
He has been told he has a bed for as long as he stays in the competition but will return to York for Christmas Day regardless of tonight’s result against Osborne.
Thompson has also been at the Ally Pally for the last two evenings, cheering on fellow Yorkshire-based qualifier Joe Cullen, from Bradford, in his game against Premier League star Jenkins last night.
York’s world number 56 has had to wait until the tournament’s seventh day before making his bow but, rather than growing twitchy, has welcomed the extra time to prepare properly.
Following hugely-beneficial practice sessions with Rawcliffe-based PDC pro Martyn Turner, Thompson has enjoyed the chance to familiarise himself with his North London surroundings as well.
“I’m not really bothered that I’ve had to wait longer than most to play my first-round game,” Thompson pointed out. “It’s given me more chance to practise and focus.
“Practising with Martyn has been perfect because he’s my best mate and a great darts player. Playing tonight also gave me the chance to watch Joe and get a taste of the action.
“I couldn’t have done that if I was playing on the first night.”
Thompson believes too that being involved in tonight’s first match represents an advantage over players who have been placed later on the bill, adding: “I know what time I am on.
“Joe was on third last night and didn’t have a clue when he would be playing. It could have been any time from 8.15pm to 9.30pm but I know I have got to be ready for 7.10pm and that’s a big help.”
Middlesbrough-born Osborne’s most notable career achievement, thus far, was his run to the 2009 UK Open final but, despite his lofty ranking, he only boasts two PDC titles to his name – the 2009 Players Championship and the 2008 UK Open North-East qualifier.
Thompson has met him twice before with the pair enjoying a win apiece and the Hitman is undaunted ahead of their next meeting, saying: “I don’t remember beating him but, in the one that he won, it was 6-5.
“He checked out on about 88 when I was waiting on 64 so there was hardly anything in it. He’s consistent and does not have many bad games.
“On television, though, he’s never really done anything flash. He’s pretty steady away and, if I can get on top of him early doors, he’s not the best for coming back from behind.”
Should he progress past Osborne, the former Yorkshire captain is seeded to meet Jamie Caven in the second round with the winner likely to face five-time world champion van Barneveld – a possibility Thompson is already savouring.
“I’m looking at having a good run,” he told The Press. “Jabba (Caven) is a really good mate of mine but he’s lost to me the last three or four times we have played.
“I’ve known him for 15 or 16 years on the county circuit and I think he’s only beaten me once. I said before I wanted Barney in the first round but it looks like I might meet him in the third now.
“That would mean he’s probably playing well but it would still be a dream come true to be up against him at Ally Pally and we would have to silence the Barney Army with the White Rose Army.”
Thompson also hopes the North London crowd will respond to his all-important choice of walk-on tune.
While Osborne struts his stuff to EMF’s Unbelievable, Thompson has opted for a song true to his Northern roots to announce his arrival on to the main stage.
“I like to come out to ‘Happy Hour’ by the Housemartins. They were a local band from just up the road in Hull and I was 18 when the song came out and really liked it.
“I always use it in county competitions and it’s catchy and should get people going. There are one or two problems in terms of getting permission to play it tonight though and, if I can’t have that, I’ll go for ‘Come On Feel The Noise’ by Oasis.”
The World Championship is a different format to that used during the rest of the PDC calendar with sets used to determine results instead of total legs won.
That gives players more scope to survive a poor spell in the game and Thompson is unperturbed by a change to the norm, reasoning: “If you lose the first three legs, you are only 1-0 down instead of 3-0 down.”
A 500-1 shot to win the competition with sponsors Ladbrokes, Thompson’s odds at his local Coral bookmakers in Beckfield Lane have been slashed to 400-1 with the shop’s punters fancying a flutter on a man who first won the York individual title at the age of 16.
In the past Keith Deller famously won the final as a qualifier in 1983 and, as recently, as 2008, Kirk Shepherd reached the final.
Thompson will also be drawing on the success of his boyhood hero Jocky Wilson as he throws for World Championship glory.
“Jocky was always the player I wanted to win when I watched the tournament as a kid because his determination was great,” Thompson enthused.
“I’ve had his biography since I was 12 and reading things like he came down from Scotland to his first World Championships with just £12 in a handbag inspires you in terms of knowing what can be achieved.”