Jonny Clayton wearing printed black shirt

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Jonny Clayton of Welsh in action during his Quarter- Final match against Dimitri Van den Bergh of Belgian during Day Fourteen of the Cazoo World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on January 03, 2023 in London, England.

The Ferret Is Back Home And Seeking Out A Scalp As Jonny Clayton Takes On Bully Boy Smith In Cardiff

By Paul Jones

Jonny Clayton admits he just sneaked in to the eight-man Premier League Darts roadshow, but that won’t stop him from straining every sinew to topple world champion Michael Smith in front of a packed Welsh crowd on Thursday night.

The Premier League will be in Cardiff at the Motorpoint Arena and Welshman Clayton has been drawn against Smith in a mouth-watering clash in front of The Ferret’s home crowd.

“I had a few nervous moments and at one point I thought I might not make the Premier League, but I managed to get into the group of eight – thank god,” said Clayton.

“We all want to be in this tournament. It’s an elite field and the pinnacle of the sport in that sense.”

Clayton will need to improve on his opening Premier League performance a week ago in Belfast if he is to upset “Bully Boy” Smith.

In the first round of the 17-event tournament, Clayton lost 6-2 to Dimitri Van den Bergh in the opening quarter-final.

Clayton’s fellow Welshman Gerwyn Price also fell at the opening hurdle, going down 6-4 to Nathan Aspinall.

In Cardiff on Thursday evening, Price has a first crack at Chris Dobey, the surprise winner of the Belfast event when he overcame Michael van Gerwen in the final – a back-up triumph after Dobey had also claimed the Masters title in Milton Keynes.

Having arrived with a bang, Englishman Dobey is confident of upsetting Price and deflating what is certain to be a partisan Welsh crowd.

“I know what I can do, and right now my confidence is sky high,” says 32-year-old Dobey.

“I felt that I deserved my place in the tournament, I didn’t have anything to prove to myself but I think I’ve proved a few people wrong. I’m getting a taste of it now and I love it. I want to be here all the time.”

At least Markham-born Price should have far more vocal support in Cardiff than he has enjoyed in recent tournaments around the UK and overseas.

Regularly booed and heckled at events, Price took to wearing ear defenders at the World Championship and Sky Sports pundit Wayne Mardle has suggested Price no longer looks as if he’s enjoying the sport.

“Gerwyn Price looks at odds with himself to me. I don’t like to see anyone look unhappy and at the moment he looks unhappy on the oche,” said Mardle.

Price is one the Premier League four automatic qualifiers, based on positions in the PDC Order of Merit, along with Smith, van Gerwen and Peter Wright.

The night’s other quarter-finals will see Nathan Aspinall face former world champion Wright, while favourite Van Gerwen takes on Van den Bergh.

The 2023 Premier League is staged on Thursday nights from February to May. After Cardiff, the show moves on to Glasgow, Dublin, Exeter Brighton, Nottingham and Newcastle before switching overseas to Berlin.

The tournament is live on Sky Sports Arena from 7.00 pm and on Sky Sports Main Event from 7.30 pm.

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