By Phil Lanning
RAYMOND van Barneveld admits he’s still a bad loser and thanks his new love Julia for a return to the darting big time.
The Dutch legend makes an emotional World Championship return to the Alexandra Palace tonight against tricky Filipino Lourence Ilagan.
Five-times World Champ Barney retired in tears two years ago after a first round defeat to Darin Young.
He revealed: “Julia gave me so much love and understanding, she is always there for me. She told me to have belief in my head, you are a five-times world champion, the fans adore you.
“I can’t give you an explanation why the crowd loves me. Maybe because I try to be myself. If I’m hurt then the whole world sees that, it’s not an act. He doesn’t blame anything, I blame myself.
“But maybe I’m sometimes too hard on myself. I just want to have fun at the moment, I love being on stage. I’m still a sore b*****d when I lose, that will never change.
“But it’s getting better, I can sort it out better. I was normally straight away texting people, I don’t do that now.”
It’s been a rollercoaster 24 months for Barney but after a year out during lockdown he returned to win back his Tour Card in January.
But since then he has won a Players Championship, collapsed at another event and now qualified for the Worlds, two years after his sad defeat to Young. But he believes the year off did him good.
He added: “I wasn’t myself, it was a disaster for people around me. You keep losing, you keep losing faith. I was devastated by that last World Championship.
“I was trying to visualise what it must feel like to lift that trophy again and be in the final.
“The floor was literally gone beneath my feet. I couldn’t believe that Darin Young beat me. I thought ‘Wow is this really the end?’
“When I came back I thought I can’t retire like this. It doesn’t feel right to say goodbye to the fans like this. Maybe there was always a small voice that said in my head, you’ll get another chance.
“From that time I was completely done. Then of course I met my old manager and the road to come back started.”
But after a sensational return with a Players Championship victory, his career looked bleak after the worrying collapse on stage in Milton Keynes.
He added: “Everyone thought it was something to do with Diabetes. It wasn’t.
“We went to see him and at the door he looked like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. He had really lost it.
“So I was in shock. He’d had a stroke so the ambulance took him and then they stabilised him. I was in panic mode because the next day I had to go to Milton Keynes.
“After the previous ProTour in Bolton I was still on course to qualify for the Matchplay. So it was really important for me to go but it didn’t feel right, I felt guilty.
“I spoke to my mum, she said go, he’ll be fine. Then I get there and get beat in the first round, second round got beat in the first round. So more guilt comes in your system and also stress because I was asking myself ‘what am I doing here, you don’t need to be here’.
“On the third day I got to the second round and was beaten. On the last day I played Ryan Searle and he beat me 6-1. I then had to mark another match. I had to wear a mask, you can’t breathe right. Then I just collapsed. I felt strange and then bang on the ground.
“It was something to do with food, I didn’t have much salt in my body. It was all due to stress and I felt guilty.
“When I then sat up I went again. I think it took one and a half hours laying on the ground. After that I was fine.
“It was a big shock, I didn’t know where it was coming from.
“It was frightening. Even six weeks after I was walking along and I felt like I’m going to get it again. It was like having a panic mode in your system. Now I’m fine.
“But I thought here we go, that’s my career. Later in Germany I had the same. I won my first game 6-1 and I felt it again and thought ‘what is this’.
“Then I started getting some fitness and eating properly. You realise you are just a human being.
“It all went so fast, press around you, getting the tour card. I had to deal with my mum as well cancer this year, my dad bowel cancer. It was tough to deal with.
“They are OK but my mum is still not well, her face is all swollen up, she has to go to the hospital and have an oxygen tank. But every week I had to travel again.
“It hurts inside that you can’t be there for your mum and dad.
“But I made the decision and I stand by it. It feels good to be back. The only way is up.”
Images by Taylor Lanning.