1983 World Darts Champion Keith Deller MBE provides his picks for this year’s Premier League ahead of the official announcement of the 2024 line-up on Thursday afternoon.
Selections one to four are based on the PDC’s Order of Merit, meaning that World Champion and new world number one Luke Humphries, Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Nathan Aspinall are all guaranteed to be amongst the final eight.
But which of the other contenders in the pack will make the cut?
Our resident Darts expert gives us his picks…
|1st on OOM*
|Michael van Gerwen
|2nd on OOM*
|3rd on OOM*
|4th on OOM*
|Keith's 1st Pick
|Keith's 2nd Pick
|Keith's 3rd Pick
|Keith's 4th Pick
*OOM (Order of Merit)
Luke had every right to feel aggrieved after missing out 12 months ago, but my word, what an attitude he has shown in bouncing back from that disappointment in the most emphatic fashion! He won numerous European Tour events in 2023 and finally got his hands on a major televised title at the World Grand Prix in October. He backed that up by winning the Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals before making it four big TV titles with that absolutely outstanding triumph at Alexandra Palace. Luke is the new World Darts Champion and the current world number one and, for me, is absolutely the one to beat in the 2024 Premier League.
Mr Premier League, Michael van Gerwen! No player in the history of the sport have lifted more Premier League titles than ‘Mighty Mike’. He’s featured in 11 editions of the competition, reached the final an incredible nine times and has won seven of those, including the 2023 staging. He will be bitterly disappointed in the way his season has ended - he should have won the Players Championship Finals, before surrendering to Luke Humphries, whilst he was way below par in his defeat to Scott Williams at Ally Pally. The world number two will be determined to bounce back in fashion in a competition that he loves more than anybody else.
Michael Smith hasn’t won a televised title since capturing the world crown last January, and he knows he has got to get back to his best if he is to end that run in the coming months. Michael is secured of a spot in the final eight by virtue of his world ranking (number three), but he hasn’t been playing like the third best player in the world for a while now, and he will know that. He’s changed darts in recent months, which hasn’t aided his cause, but he has got to find that rhythm and groove again soon because the competition is fierce. He reached the semi-finals last year and he is going to really have to go some to equal that run this time around.
Some may be surprised at the fact that Nathan Aspinall has moved up a couple of places in the Order of Merit, especially given his early exit from this year’s World Darts Championship. But, the fact that Peter Wright and Gerwyn price have lost so much prize money after defending it at the worlds, Nathan has benefitted from that. For me, he’d have been a pick anyway, even without his top four ranking, because he won one of the major titles this past season in the World Matchplay, and if you pick up one of the big ones then I feel you are fully deserving of a spot in the Premier League.
It’s quite incredible that Luke Littler has only just partaken in his second televised event, and even more incredible that he should be a shoe-in for a spot in the Premier League final eight. But how can anybody deny him of a spot in the competition after his remarkable and historic run to the final of the World Darts Championship on debut? The powers that be may opt to look after him given the demands of playing in this competition and his huge lack of experience on the big stage, but if he can be included, then he simply has to be. The crowd would love it and I'm convinced that he’d give as good as he gets across the game weeks and be a serious contender come Finals Night. If the PDC opt not to include him however, then this spot, for me, should go to Chris Dobey.
Incredibly, Gerwyn Price hasn’t won a major televised ranking title in three years now, with his last triumph coming in the 2021 World Darts Championship. Of course, he has won other titles since then, including a handful of European Tour titles as well as the World Cup of Darts and World Series of Darts Finals, but he will be more eager than ever to get back to winning ways in the competitions that matter most. He was crestfallen after being dumped out of the World Championship in the third round, but he has history in the Premier League having reached the final 12 months ago. He may not be an automatic selection this time around after dropping out of the top four, but there’s absolutely no doubt that he will be included in this year’s line-up.
Another player whose titles have dried up in recent times, but a player who has recently served a timely reminder of the quality he possesses. Rob was superb in reaching the semi-finals at Ally Pally and only the sheer brilliance of Luke Littler denied him a spot in another big final. Rob is a top quality operator and has cemented himself in the top ten of the Order of Merit with consistent performances in the big tournaments. He's reached the final of both the Masters and Grand Slam of Darts over the past 12 months, and whilst he has missed out on a place in the Premier League in each of the last couple of years, for me, his recent form is good enough to justify his selection for the first time since 2021.
The eighth and final spot is the trickiest for me, because there will be plenty of people championing the likes of Dobey, who would be first on my reserve list, Jonny Clayton and Dave Chisnall, as well as a handful of others, but Peter Wright just about gets my vote. I know that he’s been way off par this year, but he still won a major ranking title with the European Championship, meaning he is one of only a few players to have captured a major trophy in each of the past four years. Look, his Premier League record has been hugely disappointing having reached the playoffs on only one occasion since 2017, but he still boasts that X factor. He’s a big pull and fans still love to see him on the Premier League stage. He knows he has to improve this year, and whilst there are many hoping to see somebody else given a Premier League opportunity, I’d be sticking with Peter this time around.
The confirmed line-up will be announced by the PDC at 16:00 (GMT) on Thursday 4th January, live on Sky Sports News.