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Darts: John Henderson hoping it’s cheers and not tears for his fans

John Henderson faces Marko Kantele in the first round of World Championship tomorrow
John Henderson faces Marko Kantele in the first round of World Championship tomorrow

He’ll be playing in an empty Alexandra Palace after London’s tier change – but John Henderson hopes it’s cheers rather than tears for his north-east supporters.

The Highlander gets his PDC World Championship campaign underway tomorrow evening with a first round tie against Marko Kantele.

Henderson had been looking forward to playing in front of fans again when it was confirmed at the start of this month that the PDC had been given the green light to admit 1000 spectators for every session.

But with London being moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3 yesterday to combat the spread of coronavirus the World Championship will now be played behind closed doors.

Fans were allowed in on Tuesday night when the tournament got underway and Huntly’s Henderson said: “It’s unfortunate there will be nobody in to watch, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.

“The news of fans only being allowed in for the first night was disappointing, we’ve been looking forward to them coming back for a while.

“We always knew it would never be a full house, but when we heard there was going to be 1000 I think all the players were pleased.

“So it’s disappointing that now they can’t attend, it wasn’t just about having a crowd there, it would have been small step towards normality for darts.

“We’ve got to get on with it but the players were a bit disappointed.”

Support from home

Although he won’t have any support inside Alexandra Palace Henderson will have plenty in his hometown and across the north-east.

The 47-year-old has thanked well-wishers for their messages of support in the build-up and hopes to give them something to celebrate against Kantele.

He added: “I’ve had a lot of people texting and getting in touch to wish me good luck.

“They won’t be able to go to the pub to watch but a lot of people have said they’ll be watching at home.

“Up in Huntly and in the whole north-east really the support I’ve had has been brilliant so hopefully I can give them something to shout about.

“Darts really seems to have become part of Christmas and I know a lot of people watch out for it every year and watch out for me playing every year so the support I’ve had has been fantastic.”

In a year where so many things have been disrupted by Covid-19 Henderson is thankful the World Championship is on.

Fans in attendance on day one of the PDC World Championship

Despite restrictions and a lack of crowds the PDC has found a way to get all the major tournaments played this year.

Henderson said: “There were points when I doubted if there would be a World Championship.

“When things kicked in in March I think everybody was thinking about a few weeks and then it turned into months.

“And it wasn’t going away and the players were wondering when we’d get a Pro Tour event never mind this.

“So to be able to put the World Championship on as well as the World Matchplay, the World Grand Prix and the other big TV events the PDC have worked wonders to get to this point.”

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