For those that think multiple winning Darts legend Phil Taylor is on the way out, the new man to take his mantle could well be fiery Dutchman Michael van Gerwen.
He is the youngest player in history to win a major televised tournament in either the BDO or the PDC, winning in 2006 at the age of just 17.
Much was expected of the Dutchman at that age, but he couldn’t quite find the momentum to build on potential following his decision to join the PDC in 2007.
The talent was always there it just that he lacked the winning mentality to really take on the big boys in the game – that has all changed in 2012. “Mighty Mike” has stepped his game up to another level and won his first major in the form of the World Grand Prix and then was only beaten in the final of the Grand Slam of Darts.
Renowned as a player who thrives off the big occasion and scores with big shots, Van Gerwen, came of age in that World Grand Prix victory. He came from 4-1 down against Mervyn King to win 6-4, going on a run of winning 15 out of 18 legs to win the trophy, and with it the first prize of £100,000 in his back pocket to take home.
He then went on beat Phil Taylor 10-5 in their second-round match of the William Hill Grand Slam of Darts. Some fans thought that night when the old master met the new one. He eventually lost in the final to Raymond van Barneveld 16-14 but showed at the moment he is the current best player in world darts.
He also joined the elite of players to have thrown a televised nine-dart finish earlier in the year when he delighted the crowd in the World Matchplay against Steve Beaten.
The Dutchman is such an aggressive scorer in the big matches and his nine-darter was arguably the fastest we are ever likely to see. Such is his form at the moment, if he deals with the occasion at Ally Pally, then he could repeat the nine-dart feat in the World Championships. Keeping an eye on the odds that Ladbrokes offer could be a play to consider.
According to the markets, the Dutchman is the most fancied player to provide a test to Taylor.
He is second favourite in the betting at 4/1 with Ladbrokes and has seen significant support from well informed sources according to the Darts odds compilers at the firm. As the tournament approaches there is a feeling that his price could contract further as the support comes in nearer to the first round.
The basis of the market support obviously stems from his performances in 2012 rather than his previous efforts in this tournament.
His best effort at Ally Pally was in last year’s World Championships, where he made it to the last 16 after surprising both Colin Osbourne and King in the opening rounds.
He was eventually knocked out by Simon Whitlock in the last 16 but had darts to win the match that day and went down fighting 4-3. In fact, if you look through the past record books, even in 2008 the Dutchman proved his capabilities by getting to within one dart of beating Taylor in the first round, which would have probably ignited the spark that his career went through in 2012.
So, the big question is – can the Dutchman really throw down a challenge to the more established players? Absolutely. Is he a backable price at 4/1? That is up for debate. He is currently the form-man in terms of this competition and will be a strong favourite whoever he faces, bar Taylor, but he may lack a bit of experience to go all the way.