Gerwyn Price: 'Iceman' keen to ditch bad boy image and reach world number one
Gerwyn Price says he is determined to leave his image as the bad boy of darts behind him and hopes to become the sport's world number one.
The Welshman is second favourite behind Michael van Gerwen to win the PDC World Championship, which starts on Friday.
Price, 34, has reached the last three televised finals of ranking events with increased support after months of jeers following a gamesmanship row.
"At the beginning, I didn't mind the boos but it went too far," he said.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Price added: "I don't mind a bit of fun and a joke, the pantomime villain stuff, but to have boos week in, week out and then on vital doubles is a little bit below the belt."
Former rugby player Price called for calm and pledged to tone down his oche antics after an early exit from the World Grand Prix amid persistent boos in Dublin two months ago, and crowds have been more appreciative since.
"In Ireland, it took its toll and got on top of me, and I had to make my feelings clear. Since then, it has been a lot better," said Price, who goes by the nickname 'The Iceman' and walks on to Vanilla Ice's 'Ice Ice Baby'.
He was found to have brought darts into disrepute after clashing with Gary Anderson in the Grand Slam of Darts final last year over what the Scot viewed as slow play and over-exuberant celebrations by his opponent.
Price was also investigated over his antics when beating Australian Simon 'The Wizard' Whitlock in the quarter-finals. He was fined a total of £20,000, which was halved on appeal.
The BBC revealed after the final that a crackdown aimed at deterring gamesmanship in the sport had seen Price warned about his future behaviour.
"Defending the Grand Slam and making the last three major TV ranking finals has been a good end to a difficult year," says Price.
"Maybe the crowd have helped me in the last two tournaments - getting off my back certainly helps.
"You need different characters in the game and I know I'm not to everybody's taste, but if I don't like someone, I don't boo them."
From darting runs to darting glory
Price hails from the south Wales mining village of Markham, only a couple of miles from where rock band the Manic Street Preachers grew up.
His initial design for life was rugby - playing as a hooker for Welsh Premier Division rugby union sides Neath and Cross Keys, as well as a stint with Glasgow Warriors and rugby league for South Wales Scorpions.
Around five years ago he began combining rugby with darts after discovering he could throw arrows as well as passes.
"When I left school, my first job was at Markham Rugby Club where I used to hoover up, and clean the glasses. The owner used to have a little throw in the club but I was never really any good," he said.
"I never knew I could throw darts until the start of a Friday night pub league, and I got better.
"I gave the rugby up to earn a couple of quid but never thought I'd be in the top four in the world and I believe could one day become world number one."
He is currently ranked third, having won more than £500,000 in prize money this year with a string of successes, including defending his Grand Slam of Darts title last month in Wolverhampton. He would earn another £500,000 by becoming world champion.
He says the financial security has helped him relax - that triumph last month included a semi-final victory over Van Gerwen, his first win against the world number one at the 20th attempt.
"A lot of it is down to other pressures. Years ago, you wanted the money, now I'm chasing the trophies and don't think about the money," he says.
"At the start, it costs £100 to enter tournaments, there's travel, accommodation - you've forked out £450 before you've even left the house. It's just how you think about the game.
"That's why Michael is so good. His bank balance is pretty healthy, so he can relax and play darts.
"I'm not scared of him any more. A couple of years ago I would have been worried but I wouldn't be fazed at all if I was to play him."
Can Price end his Worlds woe?
In five previous appearances at the World Championship at Alexandra Palace, Price has not made it past the third round.
This time he begins his campaign on 19 December against the winner of William O'Connor and Marko Kantele, and says the format - first to three legs wins a set, first to three sets, in the early rounds, wins the match - may not suit his game.
"It could be the set format. You could win the match in legs, and lose in sets," he said.
"In match play, I prefer knowing I have so many legs to get through. I don't think I'm comfortable with the little sprints."
It is not, he suggests, a tournament he is preoccupied with winning.
"If I was to retire now and never win the worlds, it wouldn't be a major issue," he said.
"I've won a major; I've had nine-darters. To come from my background, I would have bitten your hand off to have done that.
"A lot of good players aren't world champions. Look at Jimmy White in snooker, what a player he was. I have a good career, a good living."
'No disrespect but the women aren't as strong'
The World Championship will once again see women taking on the men - with Fallon Sherrock and Mikuru Suzuki earning places in the 96-strong field.
It seems only a matter of time before a female player will beat a man at the tournament, although Price insists he has no fears on that front, despite a scare against Japan's Suzuki in Wolverhampton last month.
He hailed her as a "fantastic player" after she shared the opening six legs, including a 116 checkout, before Price prevailed 5-3.
"I was confident I was never going to lose - I always believe in my ability," he insisted.
"No disrespect, but the women in the game aren't as strong and I'm beating the best men week in, week out.
"There is a lot of pressure on you to do it. It was different to play a woman - you just have to deal with it. I'd rather play a woman than Michael van Gerwen."