PETER WRIGHT has hailed his brave wife Jo as the inspiration to end his Betfred World Matchplay torment.
The 2020 World Champion continues his bid for a first title in Blackpool against Joe Cullen tomorrow night.
But Wright, 51, admits his biggest concern is wife and hairstylist Jo who underwent a serious spine op on Thursday. But remarkably she will still be at the Winter Gardens to oversee his wacky colourful mohican makeovers.
He said: “It’s well known that Jo has had dreadful back problems for some time now. She’s now had three spine ops in three years.
“After spending so many months in really bad pain she’s had a second op called an Alif replacement of disc s1-15 which is a spinal fusion and inserting a titanium disc and screws.
“But Jo insisted on coming straight from the op to Blackpool. She will have a walker with her to help her stay mobile.
“Jo said she’d rather be at the Winter Gardens because if she’s not I will just worry like I did throughout the Premier League.
“It’s going to be a very tough few weeks for Jo and we have a Plan B that if she can’t stand up for long she’s going to teach her dad to do my hair under her supervision!
“If Jo can do that for me and travel through the pain barrier, that’s my inspiration to get results in the Matchplay.”
Wright has got an excellent record in the £700,000 summer tournament without ever lifting the Phil Taylor Trophy.
The closest he has got to glory in Blackpool was losing out in an emotional final to Taylor in his final Matchplay clash four years ago.
Wright was left in tears that night but has vowed to finally get it right in the Winter Gardens – especially in front of fans again.
He added: “I’m so happy that we will get a full house again next week. The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable. I think all the players will feel a massive lift from that.
“It’s going to be extra special at the Matchplay because the fans are right behind the stage and are very noisy. I like it like that.
“The one thing we will need to get used to is the heat again. The forecast is very warm and the Winter Gardens is usually roasting on the stage under the lights.
“We’ve spent the last 18 months playing without fans in really cold arenas, so the heat will be a new thing.
“In the last six years I think I’ve made two semis, two quarters and lost a final. I went out early last year but that doesn’t count because it was in Milton Keynes!
“Seriously though, I’ve been close but it’s definitely a trophy I want. When I played Phil in the final it was too emotional for me because that was his stage at the Winter Gardens and his final match there.
“Next time I cry on that stage I want it to be tears of joy and the way I’m playing right now, I know I can do it.”
EDDIE HEARN has admitted his dream is for the world champions’ prize cheque to rise to £1milllion during his reign.
The Essex promoter took over the running of the PDC three months ago following the retirement of his dad Barry in charge of Matchroom Sport Group.
Barry, 73, was the driving force over two decades in adding glitz and glamour to the oche and growing the sport to unprecedented levels of success.
Yet his son Eddie, 42, known for his high-profile boxing events has big ambitions for the sport.
Legendary star Phil Taylor picked up £60k for winning the 2005 world title but that figure was raised to £500k when Gerwyn Price won the 2021 Sid Waddell Trophy in early January.
He said: “The great thing about my old man is that all he ever thinks about is how can we provide more opportunities for dart players. How can we make them wealthier, how can we reward them?
“During the Covid period the PDC didn’t touch prize money, they continued to provide opportunities for players.
“I would love to make the World Championship a million pound first prize, that’s the general crazy plan that we’ll always talk about in board meetings.
“People relate prize money to the stature and size of the sport. If you ask a man in the street how much you get for winning the Worlds in darts, he’d probably say about 10 grand or 25 grand.
“So we have to make sure that people are aware of that. People can’t believe how much darts players make. But that’s going to continue to grow from a grass roots level.
“You can follow a dream as a kid to be a footballer. But it’s unusual for a kid to dream of being a darts player. But we know if opportunities are there to play on TV and win major prize money, it does become a more fruitful career.
“I think the job they have done on prize money is sensational. The Ally Pally is the flagship event and it should always remain that way.
“New territories that are coming in and looking to make a splash, want to make a splash with a big prize pool which ultimately is a fantastic opportunity for the players.”
While Hearn is the new PDC chairman, the running of the sport will remain in safe hands with trusted and long-standing CEO Matt Porter.
Hearn also made it very clear that there are absolutely no plans to take the World Championship away from the Ally Pally, no matter how much money was offered elsewhere.
He added: “In this position I am in, I have too much respect for the sport and Matt Porter, my old man and the board to come in and say ‘yeh we’ve had this opportunity from the middle east, we’re off’. I’d be overruled anyway. That’s because people care too much.
“This is very similar to the Crucible with the World Championship snooker. We’ve had so many opportunities to take that to China. And absolutely not is the answer.
“If I went to the board and said take the World Championship away from the Ally Pally, they’d look at me like I was mad. I wouldn’t even suggest it. That’s the beating heart of the sport.
The commercial beating heart of the sport is the World Championship. That’s the showcase event that creates the most sponsorship and TV revenue. To lose that would be a poor decision.
“For us it’s about development in different countries, it’s about the global expansion of darts. There is a mentality of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, that can be quite a dangerous mentality in the same space.
“I did look at darts a few years ago and think how much more growth is there? I’m so envious as head of the boxing department at the numbers, the viewing figures. Darts smashes boxing to pieces.
“You look at the viewing figures on Sky and they are unbelievable. But it still has a little bit of a stigma with execs and TV networks.
“The profile of the sport is something we need to keep working on. People don’t understand, until they come and see it, they are not believers.”
GERWYN PRICE admits he could have gone “nuts” after missing out on the Premier League because of testing positive for Covid.
The World Champion is preparing for his second set of Super Series events next week in Coventry after returning to the oche last month.
But Price, 36, revealed that it had been hard to watch the Premier League after being ruled out on the opening day because of the virus.
He said: “It’s not been too bad, it’s been a bit stressful watching one or two of the games in the Premier League.
“But I’ve kept myself busy. If I didn’t have my property business I probably would have gone a bit nuts.
“Having three months off has really set me back quite a bit. I needed to play especially in the Premier League, that’s my practice.
“I don’t practice very often at home. To miss out on three months of top class practice has certainly set me back.”
The Iceman was finally back in action at the Super Series last month and admitted there was a bit of rustiness to start with, adding: “There definitely was on the first couple of the ProTours. But the confidence is back and that’s all that matters. You need confidence in this game and it’s bak in abundance. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I’m World Champion, World No.1. I’m playing well so there’s no reason why I can’t win every single tournament. I’m in them to win them. Years ago you sort of doubt yourself but not anymore.”
Despite missing out on the Premier League he was happy to see fellow countryman Jonny Clayton pick up the title.
He said: “I get on really well with Jonny. If I don’t win anything, I’m happy for him to win things.
“He’s the one I support more than anyone else. I’m chuffed to bits for him but I’m here to knock him back off!”
GLEN DURRANT revealed he was “battling demons” after pulling out of the ProTour because of a confidence crisis.
The three-times World Champion has endured a shocking 2021 after being relegated from the Premier League as defending champ without a point.
Now Durrant, 50, is taking a few days off after a disappointing week at the PDC Super Series Players Championship in Milton Keynes.
He said: “With regret I’ve pulled out of the Pro Tour. I’m battling my own confidence demons right now and after 30 years in housing I’ve never shirked a challenge, but I’m throwing in a sickie. I’ve apologised to PDC and sponsors but I’m thinking of me right now.”
Durrant hasn’t been the same player since winning the Premier League on his debut last autumn with a final victory over Nathan Aspinall.
The Middlesbrough star went down with Covid-19 soon after that glory and has failed to deliver any sort of form since.
He has strenuously denied that it’s any long-term effects from the virus and has since sought advice from former player Wayne Mardle.
He added: “The Premier League went from the ecstasy of winning it to an absolute nightmare of an experience.
“I have been working on the mentality side of things; my manager very kindly set up for me to chat with someone over a 12-week period. I’m a massive fan of the coaching of Wayne Mardle and he’s sent a few suggestions as well. There’s so many people want to help you get you through this and think it’s a quick fix.
“It’s a technical issue which I’m working on. There’s no quick fix, but I know what the problem is and that then leads to the anxiety and tension in my throw.”
SIZZLING Alan Soutar will be cheering on Scotland in England but won’t be changing his walk-on tune to new Tartan Army anthem Yes Sir, I Can Boogie!
The red-hot fireman has been one of the biggest stories of the PDC this year after reaching the UK Open quarter-finals and qualifying for the World Championship after winning almost £20k in ranking money.
Now Arbroath ace Soots, 43, embarks on the latest ProTour Super Series in Milton Keynes on Monday with one eye on Steve Clarke’s men.
He said: “I’m especially passionate about the national team. I think Monday is massive for us. That’s the two lesser favoured teams if you like, if we can get something from the Czech Republic, then you never know next Friday!
“We are massive underdogs against England and Croatia. But a win on Monday and then a draw out of one of the other two games and we’ll get through.
“I’m toeing the oche on Monday at 2pm when the game starts. I have to switch off from football and focus on darts, but I’ll check as soon as I can.
“On Friday I’m actually travelling from Milton Keynes to London for one of my sponsors. I have packed my tartan trousers and my Scotland top. I don’t know if I’ll make my flight home!
“The buzz around Scotland and the social media, everything feels amazing. Everyone is coming into work with the retro football shirts on. I just bought the 1982 yellow strip. I love the patriotic nature of Scotland and the fans during a major championship.
“Obviously the Tartan Army have adopted Yes Sir I Can Boogie as their theme. But I can’t have it as my walk-on for the World Championship because it’s too slow. Also the Ally Pally won’t be full of Scots in London in December. I’m probably changing my walk-on song to fire-related for my job like Disco Inferno by The Trammps.”
Soutar admits that he has the right mentality to deal with his leap into the PDC big time after serving in the military in some of the toughest conditions.
He added: “I was a commando with the Royal Marines. I was more in the peace-keeping forces in the 90s and early 2000s, that was in Bosnia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. But we saw quite a lot of horrible stuff, especially in Kosovo.
“But I feel that the fire brigade is a worse scenario because I deal with death a lot more. You are with people, trying to save them.
“A lot of things don’t bother me, I have perspective about what is important in life. I have the right temperament to deal with darts.
“It’s a state of mind. My wife Amanda always says to me that I’m maybe cold and have a stone heart, emotionally.
“I can just switch off and just play darts, it doesn’t really bother me that it’s Peter Wright or Dave Chisnall, they’re just the same as me. I know they have got higher profiles but I know I can play at a 100 average level. I just need to do it at the right time against these players.”
Soutar remains super-cool about his progress and it will be new era for him in Milton Keynes with his own Mission Darts.
He added: “My management have crunched the numbers and looked at the FDI Index and they talked about 10 grand being the qualifying mark for the World Championship in years gone by and obviously past that.
“To be honest I like to play things down but in the back of your mind you want to push yourself as far as you can.
“Now that I’ve had a taste of it and I’ve been in the room and seen everyone, I’m now quite confident going down to these events.
“It will be different this week. I have just changed to my new Mission Darts. This is a new thing for me. For 25 or 30 years I’ve played with Steve Beaton’s darts. I’ve changed two or three times when Steve has changed.
“But these are my new darts designed for me. I’ve been practising really well, so I’m happy and there’s nothing negative in my head for Monday.
“I obviously am looking for a top 64 place, that’s the first milestone if you like.
“But the World Matchplay is the next major. I would need a monumental effort to get into that, win a ProTour and get £10,000 on my rankings to close the gap. I’m not a million miles away but it would take something very special.
“My modest goal is to catch Lisa Ashton. I’m 79th in the rankings, she is 78th. It’s one place above and £2,000. Obviously you want to be as high as you can, but I will take one place at a time.”
GERWYN PRICE vows he is “still the man” as he gets set to return to the oche after a three-month absence.
The world champion was ruled-out of the Unibet Premier League after a positive Covid-19 test just hours before his opening match.
Price, 36, admits he’s been “angry” at having to watch from the sidelines as fellow countryman Jonny Clayton won the league and £250k jackpot.
Now he returns for the PDC Super Series next Monday and admits: “I’m still the man. I’m world No.1, I’m world champ. I haven’t played for three months, people can win tournaments without the world champion in. Jonny’s a fantastic player but I believe if I was in it, I would have won it.
“I’m just angry at not being able to play, not angry at any of the players or at the dartboard. I’ll go out and be myself. You need to have aggression but it needs to be controlled aggression. If I’m going out there frustrated and wanting to prove a point, then I’m just going to go backwards.
“I’ll be myself and do what I’ve done over the past couple of years and try and win games.
“It is what it is. I’ve had to deal with it. Yes I’m disheartened and a little bit peed off. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve just got to be a bit more positive and look forward to the rest of the year.
“I was doing the same thing week-in, week-out. All I was doing was going to work outside, doing some patio work with my brother. I never changed anything, I was seeing the same people. It’s just a weird virus and it can just get you unannounced and anybody can get it.”
Price also admits that he is looking forward to playing in front of fans at the World Matchplay next month and getting the boos after being forced to practice in his kitchen.
He added: “I don’t care if I get cheers or if I get boos. As long as I’m up on that stage playing, the crowd is there and the atmosphere is there. That’s all I’m looking forward to.
“I’ve had boos as good as the worst of them, I’ll just deal with it again. As long as I’m not sat in my house, or on a digger or hitting walls down, I’m just looking forward to getting darts back in my hand.
“I’ve been practising really well in my kitchen. You don’t win games, tournaments or majors from your kitchen. You need to do it on the main stage or on the ProTour. I need to get back into it playing against the best, getting that confidence back. Not that I’ve lost any confidence because I haven’t played. It’s just anxious times not knowing how I’m going to play in the first one or two games.”
Price does property renovation away from the oche and admits he’s fortunate that he had something to take his mind off the Premier League.
He said: “I was laying a lawn at the end of a project. I’m lucky that I had things to take my mind off everything else. If I was just sat in the house, overthinking everything I would have gone nuts. I’ve been a bit too busy.
“I think over the past two years I haven’t been 100 per cent darts, maybe only 80 per cent. But I’m going to put properties on the back burner for a couple of years and give darts 100 per cent concentration which will be quite dangerous I think.”
WAYNE WARREN thanked kind-hearted fans for a replica BDO World Darts trophy – after the original was taken away by police.
The Welshman won the last BDO World Darts Championship in London in January 2020 and kept the trophy at home for 12 months.
Yet South Wales Police turned up at his door four months ago, demanding that he hand back the silverware to BDO chairman Des Jacklin.
Roofer Warren, 58, was also paid £77,000 less in prize money compared to the 2019 champion Glen Durrant.
However a week ago Oche revealed exclusively that an online whip-round on GoFundMe raised £2,112 and close pal Wayne Dobinson of Shownights.com used the cash to create an exact replica.
Now we can reveal the full dramatic interview…
What is your message to the darts community?
Wayne Warren: “Well, to be honest I cannot thank people enough. For people to respond to the GoFundMe page as quickly they did, it goes to show the feeling of the community of darts people. I was overwhelmed when me and Wayne (Dobinson) had a chat about it. I didn’t think it would kick off. But when he got back in touch to say what was raised, I couldn’t believe it. It’s the way I have been treated and the way I have now been treated by a certain person, it’s completely turned around. I cannot thank the man enough.”
What was it like when the police knock on your door and ask you to hand over a trophy you won?
WW: “Well, I can remember the day as it was yesterday. It was a Sunday morning. A knock on the door. Two police officers there. They asked to come in. My little boy, he was five then he was hysterical. He run up the stairs. Alright, I know the police, they don’t bother me, but to have them in my house, as being world champion as well. Even my neighbours were wondering why there was a police van outside. They just went but to have them back after that when we were sitting down eating lunch and there was a van of them. Three got out of a van. One got out of a car. Well the people in my street must have thought I had done a murder or something. I really felt down. My boy was frightened, it was awful, he still brings it up to this day.”
How many police officers?
WW: “There was a woman police officer and a male police officer. They came in. They took all this and that. When they left we thought it was the end of it. The Cup was on our table. We were having Sunday lunch then. It was 2.30pm or 2.45pm. Knock on the door again, they were three big policemen. They was one who was about a sergeant, the policewoman and another big heavy guy. They had all these taser guns on them. I thought: ‘What? I haven’t done anything wrong’. They came in and said we have to take the Cup. The main man said they had to take it. I had no option. If I didn’t give the Cup over they were going to arrest me.”
How humiliating was that?
WW: “Very, very. As being world champion, people have looked up to me in my locality. And they know me. I really felt very small then. It went round like wildfire, I was having phone calls all night. I was having text messages all night. How could I respond to that? I was down. I felt down for a while. I was on a high for so long. And then it was taken away overnight. Then you know what the Jacklins done, they drove down and alright, they took it to humiliate me, put it on Facebook. That was the last straw. The last straw. There was a while, it was in a police station. Going back to the police then, we had the police officer’s number, she promised me and (my partner) Nicola that we would keep you in touch anything going. We left it go about 5-6 weeks. We tried to get in touch with her. We never spoke to that police officer from that day to this. She wouldn’t answer her phone. Nothing. Until I saw the Cup wrapped up on his property. I was fuming, absolutely fuming.”
Worst moment of your life, career?
WW: “Worst moment of my darting career. Yeah, because you only dream of winning things like this at my age. And I was looking forward to my next couple of years. In fact I was going to finish work for a year, I was going to finish work. That was the plan. See what I could get out of it. But obviously I had nothing out of it. Then lockdown came and I was back full-time work. To take that off me like they did. I was never going to keep it, that was the thing, I was never ever, ever going to keep it. That is a fact. But I don’t see why they should have had it either. I had more right to keep until it went someone else than he does.”
During lockdown you never got to show it off?
WW: “I’ll tell you want, I took it to two places. I took it to Romania and to Slovakia. The two tournaments I did. I didn’t take it to Scotland. That was it when lockdown came in.”
Plans for the trophy now?
WW: “It is coming with me everything. Yeah, I have got quite a few exhibitions lined up. I am up in Scotland for a week and it is coming up there with me. I have told them about it. The guy there is over the moon I have this and bringing it up. So the people can have their photo with it. And so it should be. I am still world champion. Well the BDO has finished. I will always be the last world champion of the BDO. To have this back here. It is overwhelming to be honest. When they were booking me up, they were asking: Will you be bringing the trophy? I said, yes. Then it all came out, the police had taken it. So then there was no trophy. I had all these exhibitions. Not cancelled but put back to different dates. Now I have this, they will be on the case. If I was one of them, I’d want a photo with the Cup. It’s great.”
You have the World Seniors Championship to look forward to next year…
WW: “Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I read about the Seniors World Championship. I am really looking forward to it. I am current world champion as well. It’s a lot of expectation on my shoulders, which I like. Who knows what comes out of that? There is nothing to say I cannot win that either. I am looking forward to it. There is MAD darts as well. This trophy is not mine to keep. It is the people who have donated money towards that. It will be a great cause for everybody if it can go towards MAD or a WDF tournament.”
Has this given you a spring in your step?
WW: “Yes, it has to be honest. I have been excited to receive this. I have been down in the dumps for a bit because with this Covid. I played in the Modus live league the other week and did okay. I didn’t play to my potential. I have been kicked in the guts, my confidence has been low. I haven’t been playing darts as I have put things into my own work. No money coming in. The plan was to have the year off. Who knows, with the money and exhibitions, I may never have worked again. This now has put me a massive spring in me. I cannot wait to get back out there. The response I have had on social media to me personally, it has been unbelievable like. Even my local club they want me to take it to them to have photos with it. The whole team and all the rugby boys. They want me to take it to them as if I have won it today. I will take it over tomorrow night and have old photos again. I cannot wait.”
Is this closure for you or will your world champ always be tainted by this?
WW: “I think it will always be in the back of my head, the way I have been treated. Getting the police to the house. Things like that. Having this now, it will phase that out quietly. Even every day I think about that. Why me? The way I am treated. I can say forget them, forget that, this is the future now.”
Are you still bitter about the money when you walk up a ladder to work every day?
WW: “Yeah, when I get out of that bed. I work a lot locally and 7am I am out of the house. Freezing cold mornings. I think to myself, why, why? If I had won that title, I’d never work again. There you are. I have worked even more. People are not letting me forget about it as my local, it’s only a small village, everyone asks me: Have you had your money yet? I don’t think it will ever be forgotten back in my local village. People continuously ask me. They ask me: Can you do anything about it? I have this day-in, day-out. It has quieten down a bit now. But since this has been social media it has kicked off again. Have you had your money? I have a MAD belt, like a boxing belt. The police asked me what that was and I said that is nothing to do that with that!”
It was just a novelty act, a multi-coloured mohican, style over substance.
He was even called a ‘clown’.
But boy has Peter Wright proved everyone wrong.
And don’t be fooled by the ‘plastic Jock’ tag. Wright might be based in Suffolk and sound more Bernard Matthews than Billy Connolly but his heart beats blue and white Saltire after his early life in West Lothian.
Wright admits his burning passion for Scotland was born after his mum RAN AWAY with him when he was just three years old.
He revealed that one night his young mum Jean took him away 40 years ago leaving West Lothian for London.
Wright, 49, has never met his father, who was in jail when he was born, and has lived an almost nomadic lifestyle since his mum left Scotland with him in 1973.
In truth, he is a total contradiction of persona v personality. The oche punk look could not be further from his real character.
He’s quiet, reserved and verging on shy, very softly spoken and emotional.
Wright was close to tears when he told me: “My mum was 16 when she had me and my dad was in jail.
“But her sisters didn’t think she was up to bringing me up at one stage and they were apparently talking about taking me off her.
“So my mum decided one night to just run away with me to London when I was only three.
“It was obviously a very difficult time for her but that’s the only reason I left Scotland.
“We were in London until I was 18 and then I’ve lived in so many places since then – Suffolk, Norfolk, Cheshire, Ayrshire.
“I’ve probably turned out for more counties in darts than any other player – I’ve represented all the places I’ve lived in.
“I’ve settled in Suffolk now and my mum lives above my wife’s hairdressers down with us. But my heart still remains in Scotland.
“My true identity is that I am Scottish – I’ve got Scottish blood running through my veins.
“I’m passionate about my upbringing. I was only taken from Scotland so my mum could keep me.
“I’m happy to tell my story now and hope people realise that I am a true Scot. I hate it when people say I’m not. I’m proud of my country and even prouder to represent it.”
Wright burst on to the scene seven years ago by reaching the World Championship Final and has since been consistent at the highest level, his finest hour in 2020 taking the title at the Ally Pally.
Ask anyone about darts and where once they’d talk about Eric Bristow or Phil Taylor, now they say: “That bloke with the colourful, spiky hair.”
Wrighty admits he grew up watching the likes Ziggy Stardust and Boy George which inspired the hair – and the best is yet to come on the oche.
He said: “I wanted to win the World Championship, that was the goal obviously. It wasn’t about proving people wrong, just for personal satisfaction.
“I know what people have said about me, I know people thought I was just a novelty and a weird haircut.
“When I was young I experimented I did have some sort of mohican and I used to colour the back of my head with food dye!
“In the charts then were David Bowie, Boy George and all that lot all dressed up as well.
“It was my idea of colouring my hair for darts. It was the Blue Square UK Open and I decided to have blue hair for it, I think that was 2009.
“But I always believed in my own ability. The hair, the clothes are just my stage persona. That’s what prepares me for matches, my warpaint if you like.
“I liked to learn from other players, watch the top guys such as Phil, Michael (Van Gerwen), Gary (Anderson) and Adrian Lewis and pick up their best points.
“I always go out to keep improving and that’s brought me to where I am now. But there’s a lot more to come.”
On his day, Wright has the ability to beat anyone in the world.
The ‘clown’ won the world crown. And he wants more.