By Paul Jones
Wales’ Jonny Clayton could hardly contain his pride after he claimed to have put Pontyberem on the map by being crowned Premier League champion in Milton Keynes.
Clayton beat fellow debutant Jose De Sousa 11-5 in the final at the Marshall Arena on Friday night to claim the biggest prize of his career so far, including a cheque for £250,000.
The Ferret, already a World Cup winner and Masters champion, became the first man to win the title from fourth place in the group stage.
In a high-quality final, Clayton fired six maximum 180s, averaged more 100 and hit 55 per cent of his darts at a double to claim the biggest title of his life.
Earlier in the evening Clayton had knocked out five-time winner and Premier League leader Michael Van Gerwen 10-8, the first time the Dutchman had been beaten in a semi-final of the competition.
“Absolutely phenomenal, thank you to everyone who believes in me, it means a lot,” Clayton, who only secured his place in the last four 24 hours earlier, told Sky Sports.
“Still back in work on Monday but seriously it’s absolutely massive. I love the game, I’m a lazy practicer but when I come up on here I try my very best.
“This means the absolute world to me. Wales is on the map, my little village is on the map.
“I have a few thank yous to all my sponsors who believe in me, my family, my kids, awesome.
“Most of all to the NHS who are willing to risk their health to save ours so thank you very very much, brilliant.”
Clayton, who has gone from strength to strength since lifting the World Cup with Gerwyn Price last year, has now won four titles overall this season – three more than anyone else.
Those victories mean his world ranking is set to soar from his current position of No.17.
It’s a fairytale for ‘The Ferret’ as Jonny Clayton defeats Jose de Sousa 11-5 to become the 2021 Unibet Premier League Champion!
What a debut campaign for the Welshman pic.twitter.com/eN3FX96BhU
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) May 28, 2021
Clayton never looked back having lost the first leg, opening up a 6-3 lead before being pegged back to 7-5 but from there he stepped up his game by closing out the next four legs for the title.
His semi-final with Van Gerwen was much closer as only once over the first 17 legs was there more than a one-leg advantage between them when Clayton went 6-4 up but the Welshman eventually secured a 10-8 victory in style with a 121 finish
De Sousa’s semi against Nathan Aspinall was just as tight, with the Portuguese behind for only one leg, the ninth, before kicking off the final leg with a maximum to edge out his opponent 10-9.