By Phil Lanning
MICHAEL SMITH smashed his hand punching a toilet door during his World Championship final debut – now he wants to break his title hoodoo.
The St.Helens hurler has finished runner-up five times in major finals and will face either Ron Meulenkamp or Lisa Ashton in his Alexandra Palace opener later this week.
But Smith, 31, believes he has conquered his anger issues thanks to a new mindset and a farm to keep calm.
He said: “I just like to get on with it, I’m not one for hanging about. That’s just the way I am. I try not to show any emotion, and when I do people say, ‘Look, he’s giving up already.’
“You can’t please everyone – and as long as I know my game is heading in the right direction, everyone else can do one.
“I broke my hand in the World Championship final against Michael (van Gerwen) when I was only 2-0 down, but that was just frustration and it was the only way I could let it out.
“If I shout and scream my head off up there, people just slate you anyway, so it’s easier to do it behind closed doors so no-one else knows.
“I’m happy because I’ve got the game to push anyone. I need to get my game head on because last year I had to wait until the last session before Christmas to play my first game. I was looking forward to Christmas, lost just before Christmas and had the worst one ever.
“I spent the next three weeks clearing out the horses’ paddock because I had nothing else to do.”
The former World Youth champ admits that his new farmhouse gives him the peace and quiet to get away from the pressures of the oche.
He added: “We’ve got two horses, two swans, five dogs, two tortoises, 29 chickens, 17 ducks and four geese. And I’ve just got permission to keep pigs as well.
“We’re looking at farming as a side business because you don’t know how long you’re going to be playing darts, or how far downhill you could go.
“I want to open a cafe where everything is free range and it all comes from my backyard, so by the time we’ve added some pigs we’ll have everything to cover a full English breakfast. I’d probably call it Bully Boy’s – I might as well put my name to it.
“I’ve got four turkeys – three female, one male – we’re going to keep one of each, and the other two are called Christmas Day Dinner and Boxing Day Dinner.
“Don’t get me wrong, darts is my main focus and I’m not going to stop until I lift that World Championship trophy. I might win the UK Open or the Grand Slam first, but the World Championship is the one I won’t stop until I’ve lifted it – even if I’m still talking about it when I’m 109.
“But I do know that if I won it this year, it would take five years off my target to retire.
“I’m sick of being the bridesmaid and I won’t touch the trophy until I’ve won it. That’s the way I look at it – I’ll only touch it when it’s mine.
“Am I the best player never to win the world title? James Wade gets asked that question every year, but he’s in a different category – he’s won 10 majors, I haven’t won any yet. I’ll have to keep my mouth shut for now.
“The best player never to win a major? Well, I’m in the same bracket as Terry Jenkins there – and we’ve even got the same nickname as well!
“But I don’t stress about it – good things come to those who wait, and although it is getting a bit frustrating now, I know there will be other chances, and when I do get that first one, I’ll be doing what Jonny Clayton has done this year and winning two, three, four of them.
“Even on the Pro Tour floor tournaments, I could never get past the last 16 – until one day when I did, and now I’ve won 15 or 16 of them.
“That’s what it will be like when I get my first TV title: I’ll get on a roll. I’ve been to seven finals so far and I’m trying to get rid of the demons of all those near misses.
“The worlds is the best one because you don’t know what you’re going to see – you’ve got traffic cones on one side, nuns on the other, and I can’t wait to get back to Ally Pally with the fans.”
Images by Taylor Lanning and Dagmara Smith.