Walking out in Scotland just hits differently for Peter Wright, as the Premier League of Darts hits the P&J Live stage in Aberdeen.
Wright comes in to night 11 of the Premier League in fourth place and is primed for a run in the play-offs in Germany in June.
He won on the opening night of the season in Cardiff and was the runner up in the fourth week against Michael van Gerwen in Exeter.
Opportunities to play in his homeland are rare for the Livingston-born arrowsmith. Glasgow and Aberdeen are staples on the Premier League calendar, with the Granite City taking centre stage on Thursday night.
‘It’s different to anywhere else because I’m coming home’
Walking out in front of Scottish crowds feels just a little bit different for Wright, who is eyeing up Aberdeen as the start of a pivotal run of form.
“It’s special to come up and get the support (in Scotland),” said Wright. “We haven’t been up since we’ve been World Cup champions, so it’ll be nice to be coming out as that and world champion in front of an amazing crowd.
“It’s always been special. My first Premier League in Glasgow was spine-tingling – I’d felt nothing like it.
“It’s different to anywhere else because I’m coming home. Everyone is behind you, which is a special thing. You don’t want to let them down.
“You’re not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for the whole crowd that’s behind you. It’s an extra pressure but it’s a good feeling.
“I’m going back to my gold darts. I’ve got a job to do in the next six weeks, plus a World Cup to win. I’ll not play with anything else until the end of July.
“It’s time to stop mucking around, stop giving people chances and destroy everybody. That’s the plan.”
Wright became a two-time world champion earlier this year with victory over Michael Smith. He also won the World Cup of Darts for the second time last year alongside Huntly’s John Henderson, who himself has featured in the Premier League before.
Henderson a people’s man and ‘a friend’
Henderson’s form has dipped since their triumph in September but the pair look set to reunite in Frankfurt in June to help Scotland defend their title.
“We’d seen each other a couple of weeks ago in Barnsley and his form is coming back,” said Wright. “I’d told him we were going to play in the World Cup again and he thought it was great.
“It’ll be me and John out to defend it. I’ll make sure I play better this time and John can play as he normally does: brilliant.
“I’ve known John for a long time. I used to practise on the same board as him and he’s probably the best 180-scorer in practice you’ll ever see. I just wish he’d transfer it up on that stage because he’d blow everyone away.
“He’s such a gentle guy, a people’s man. He’s a friend as well and that’s why we click.”
Wright lost to van Gerwen last time in Aberdeen two years ago, but beat Raymond van Barneveld at the old Exhibition Centre in 2019. He faces Premier League debutant Joe Cullen tonight, who sits just behind him in the table.
‘The crowd will make more noise and I think it’ll be special’
The Premier League changed its format this year, switching from a round-robin format to a tournament, where the eight players face each other in knock-out ties to crown a winner at the end of the night. Five points go to the winner, three to the runner-up and two to the semi-finalists.
“Normally we played in the old place (Exhibition Centre) and the atmosphere was crazy. It was special,” said Wright.
“We came here two years ago just before the lockdowns started. I’d just won the World Championships and played Michael van Gerwen; he beat me 7-5, I’d missed a few doubles and it was the first time the darts had been at this venue.
“It wasn’t the same sort of atmosphere as the room was bigger and the way it was set out was different. I think this time it’ll be different. The crowd will make more noise and I think it’ll be special.”
Also in action tonight are fellow Scot and two-time world champion Gary Anderson, who faces Premier League holder Jonny Clayton. James Wade takes on Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price faces van Gerwen.
The Premier League is live on Sky Sports Main Event tonight from 7pm.
Jonny Clayton vs Gary Anderson
Peter Wright vs Joe Cullen
James Wade vs Michael Smith
Gerwyn Price vs Michael van Gerwen