Players Championship - Taylor chasing further Purfleet glory
Dave Allen, the PDC's medid officer, brings us this preview of the Players Championship from the Circus Tavern in Purfleet.
Phil Taylor is aiming to secure victory in the £250,000 event for a second successive year. World champion Taylor defeated Robert Thornton in final of the inaugural Players Championship a year ago, and will meet Peter Manley in Thursday's best-of-11 leg first round as he begins the defence of his title.
The Essex venue, formerly the home of the PDC's World Championship, holds fond memories for Taylor, who defeated Manley in finals three times amongst his 12 victories at the Circus Tavern.
"It's like a home venue for me," said Taylor, the 4/11 pre-tournament favourite. "There's something special about the Circus Tavern, I love it and I love the people who run it and I'm looking forward to being back there.
"I'd love to retain my title this weekend. The tournament reflects last year's form to qualify but obviously I have to perform over five games otherwise I'll get my backside kicked.
"It's a short format in the first round but that will suit me because I've not played competitively since the World Championship. I haven't had a lot of time to prepare properly for this but I'm going into the tournament very relaxed.
"Games against Peter are always entertaining anyway but with it being at Purfleet it will be even more special."
Manley finished 2009 ranked 33rd in the Players Championship Order of Merit - comprising all Players Championship events held during the year - but gained inclusion in this event following a suspension for Andy Jenkins.
"In a way I'm lucky to be there but I want to make the most of my chance," said Manley. "I'll be the underdog but it's up to me to perform on the night.
"A lot depends on how Phil plays, because if he turns up like he did against Simon Whitlock in the World Championship final then I'll have some problems."
Thursday's opening night also features Thornton taking on Essex-born Kevin Painter, while world number four Terry Jenkins faces Vincent van der Voort in another big contest at the ITV4-televised event.
World number seven Adrian Lewis, the 25-year-old from Stoke who was recently named as a wildcard for the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts, meets Northern Ireland's emerging star Brendan Dolan.
Essex's Colin Lloyd opens the event when he takes on Denis Ovens, while Steve Beaton - who won his first tournament since 2001 during last year's series of Players Championship events - drew Tony Eccles and left-hander Alan Tabern faces Andy Hamilton.
Dennis Priestley, who was the Circus Tavern's first World Champion in 1994 when he defeated Taylor in the final, is drawn against Paul Nicholson, last year's Australian Open winner.
Nicholson defeated Priestley a year ago in the World Championship, and admits: "Dennis is my idol and that was the most heart-warming victory of my career. I'd love to beat him again on Thursday."
The first round will continue on Friday with the remaining eight games, including the clash between the players ranked third and fifth in the world, James Wade and Mervyn King.
Gary Anderson, the 12/1 joint second favourite alongside Wade, takes on Holland's former Lakeside Champion Jelle Klaasen, while number two seed Mark Walsh faces Steve Hine, the muffin baker from Coventry who took on Taylor in the World Championship.
The second round will be played on Saturday, with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final spread across three sessions on Sunday, with all games shown live on ITV4.
The £250,000 tournament features a £60,000 prize for the champion, with the overall prize fund boosted this year by a £50,000 donation from the PDPA (Professional Darts Players Association).
Schedule of Play
Thursday January 28
7.10pm Colin Lloyd v Denis Ovens
7.45pm Steve Beaton v Tony Eccles
8.20pm Dennis Priestley v Paul Nicholson
8.55pm Alan Tabern v Andy Hamilton
9.30pm Terry Jenkins v Vincent van der Voort
10.05pm Phil Taylor v Peter Manley
10.40pm Robert Thornton v Kevin Painter
11.15pm Adrian Lewis v Brendan Dolan
Friday January 29
7.10pm Wayne Jones v Andy Smith
7.45pm Wes Newton v Peter Wright
8.20pm Colin Osborne v Co Stompe
8.55pm Mark Walsh v Steve Hine
9.30pm Gary Anderson v Jelle Klaasen
10.05pm James Wade v Mervyn King
10.40pm Ronnie Baxter v Mark Dudbridge
11.15pm Jamie Caven v Michael van Gerwen
Saturday January 30
1.10pm Beaton/Eccles v Priestley/Nicholson
2.10pm Lloyd/Ovens v Thornton/Painter
3.10pm Walsh/Hine v Jones/Smith
4.10pm Newton/Wright v Baxter/Dudbridge
7.10pm Lewis/Dolan v Tabern/Hamilton
8.10pm Anderson/Klaasen v Wade/King
9.10pm Taylor/Manley v Jenkins/van der Voort
10.10pm Osborne/Stompe v Caven/van Gerwen
Sunday January 31
1.10pm Beaton/Eccles/Priestley/Nicholson v Lewis/Dolan/Tabern/Hamilton
2.10pm Newton/Wright/Baxter/Dudbridge v Osborne/Stompe/Caven/van Gerwen
3.10pm Taylor/Manley/Jenkins/van der Voort v Lloyd/Ovens/Thornton/Painter
4.10pm Walsh/Hine/Jones/Smith v Anderson/Klaasen/Wade/King
First Round - Best of 11 legs
Second Round - Best of 15 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 17 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 19 legs
Final - Best of 25 legs
Semi-Final Losers: £15,000
Quarter-Final Losers: £10,000
Second Round Losers: £6,000
First Round Losers: £3,000
Total Prize Fund: £250,000