Premier League Darts: Phil Taylor prepares for last play-off appearance
|Betway Premier League Darts play-offs|
|Date: Thursday, 18 May Start: 19:15 BST Venue: O2 Arena, London Coverage: Live text commentary of the semi-finals and final, followed by report, on the BBC Sport website and app|
When Phil Taylor puts away his darts for the final time after the 2018 PDC World Championship, an era of sporting greatness like few others will come to a close.
The former sheet metal worker from Stoke-on-Trent has won everything the sport has to offer multiple times - setting records which may never be broken.
The 16-time world champion announced in January that 2017 would be his final year on the circuit after three decades of darting dominance.
On Thursday, the 56-year-old will take part in his last Premier League play-offs against the top-three ranked players in the world.
Taylor is ninth in the PDC Order of Merit after scaling back his tournament appearances over the past couple of years.
He will be competing against world champion Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright at London's O2 Arena - arguably the best four throwers on the planet, despite Taylor's position in the rankings.
Six-time champion Taylor is heading into the event, with a £250,000 prize for the winner, in a relaxed mood.
"It's a marathon. The world championship you can win over 10 days. This one is near on five months," he told BBC Radio Stoke.
"I'm not going to put myself under pressure, I've just got to go out there and enjoy it now.
"I've been doing it for 30 years so it doesn't matter anymore. I'll be out there trying my best and I'll be gutted if I get beaten, but I'm not going to sulk about it. I'm not going to chuck myself in the Thames."
'Psychedelic Sid' does everything right
First up for Taylor in search of his seventh crown is world number three Wright.
The colourful Scot has been in superb form in 2017, winning his first major ranking event - the UK Open - in March, and recording the second-highest televised average of 119.50 in the Premier League in Exeter.
"Peter Wright has done well," Taylor added. "Psychedelic Sid I call him. He's dedicated, he does everything right, he's a tough cookie. He's learnt his trade, he's done his apprenticeship. When he first came over he was getting beaten 6-0, but he's learned."
Taylor may be retiring at the start of 2018, but the Englishman said he would still be closely involved in darts.
"I feel brilliant, I'm looking forward to it, I can't wait," he said.
"When I say retire, I'm going to be doing other things, working probably 100-odd nights next year, so I won't be retiring from work, I'll be out there touring.
"When I come back from Dubai [Darts Masters on 24-25 May] I'm not doing the world pairs so I've got three weeks off. I've not had three weeks off in 10 years."
Wright is appearing at his first play-offs and said it was "immense" to be competing against three legends of the game.
"I've seen these great guys win it in recent years and I want to be one of those great guys too," the 47-year-old said.
"You have to believe in your own ability and that what you do on the practice board, you can do on the stage against him and anyone else in the world."
It's time for business - Van Gerwen
The other semi-final sees group winner and world number one Michael van Gerwen take on world number two Gary Anderson in a repeat of January's World Championship final.
Reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen is favourite to lift his third title.
"It's time for business now," the 28-year-old said. "They know what they have to do to beat me if they want to win the tournament, but I need to make sure I hold them off by playing some good darts and putting them under pressure.
"It's four good players and you can't let them have a sniff of the trophy, because if you give them a finger they will take your hand. I want to win the trophy again and it would be really special if I can."
Anderson, Premier League champion in 2011 and 2015, will be looking for revenge over Van Gerwen after the Dutchman beat him in front of his home crowd in Aberdeen in the final week of group fixtures.
"It would be nice to win it again and if I play well I've got a good chance," the Scot said.
"You've got to beat everyone that's in front of you and whoever turns up on the night is going to walk away with the trophy.
"It's always going to be hard anyway but it's going to be interesting because it's Phil's last, it's Peter's first time here and both me and Michael have won it twice, so it's all to play for."
2017 group stage stats
- Highest average - 119.50 - Peter Wright v Adrian Lewis, week 5, Exeter
- Highest checkout - 170 - Michael van Gerwen, Adrian Lewis & Gary Anderson
- Most 180s - 71 - Dave Chisnall
- Biggest win - 7-0 - Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis, week 13, Birmingham
- Highest tournament average - 104.68 - Michael van Gerwen