Christmas isn't quite Christmas without the World Darts Championship.
The action from the Alexandra Palace brings with it guaranteed entertainment. With larger than life characters and talented throwers, darts’ crown jewel projects the sport into the limelight for three weeks each December.
Here’s a look at darts’ most entertaining characters to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
1) Phil “The Power” Taylor
As BBC Sport’s Ben Dirs pointed out in his recent article "In bed with Phil 'The Power' Taylor," darts needs Taylor more than Taylor needs darts.
The Power is the greatest to ever grace the oche and he has the personality to go with it.
The people’s champion is a 16-time World Champion and he has been the lifeblood of the sport for a quarter of a century. When Taylor began, competitions were played in front of a handful of spectators in local pubs. Now, arenas are sold out on a consistent basis around the UK.
Speaking with Dirs, Taylor said:
Last year [PDC chairman] Barry Hearn asked me to do another five years because Sky gave him £20 million on the condition I'd stick around. So I'll keep going, if I can. I do feel a responsibility, to keep the sponsorship coming in and the interest up. Every interview, every article in the newspaper is based on me.
Taylor is darts’ biggest entertainer and the World No. 1 doesn't look like letting up any time soon.
2) Raymond “Barney” van Barneveld
Van Barneveld is a firm fan favourite wherever he goes. The gentle giant, as he is known, entertains with his humble personality and array of skills.
The Dutchman won the World Championship in 2007, winning over a whole new legion of fans in the process. “The Barney Army” have stuck by van Barneveld and he more than most will be looking to impress at Alexandra Palace in the coming days and weeks.
Barney’s form has dipped of late but he has the capabilities to spring an upset. He is currently ranked No. 10 in the world but he can play to a level much higher than his current ranking.
3) Simon “The Wizard of Oz” Whitlock
Whitlock has become something of a cult hero amongst dart fans over the last decade. The Australian is one of the sport’s most distinctive figures with his untamed beard and ponytail.
It’s not often a sports star from Down Under can win over an English crowd but Whitlock has endeared himself to the British public.
However, he may be set to ruffle some feathers at Alexandra Palace after Australia regained the Ashes this week. Speaking to Richard Lewis in the Daily Star, Whitlock says it’s revenge time after all the stick he has taken of late.
Pretending he was holding the Ashes, [Whitlock] said: 'I will show them that we have the little urn back. I am so inspired by what has happened.'
Whitlock is a ruthless finisher and he will be one to watch in North London.
4) Michael “Mighty Mike” van Gerwen
Van Gerwen is yet to reach the iconic status of those around him in the rankings but at just 25 he is the sport’s hottest prospect.
The World No. 2 entertains with his electric brand of darts, clocking up high totals at a fast pace.
Van Gerwen loves a good fist pump and when on form he gets the crowd revved up behind him.
The Dutchman lost out to Taylor in last year’s final and will be looking to go one better to capture a debut crown this year.
5) Paul “The Asset” Nicholson
Nicholson loves to play the role of the pantomime villain.
He first burst onto the scene in 2008 at the Grand Slam of Darts. He strutted onto the stage in his usual shirt and tie combo to the chants of “Who are you?” from the crowd. Nicholson then took to the oche and landed 180 with his first three darts and turned to the crowd with his finger to his lips shushing them.
Nicholson has thrived on the "bad boy" image in recent years. His game lacks consistency, but when everything clicks he is one to watch.
6) Devon "The Spartan" Petersen
Petersen is definitely one to keep an eye on at Alexandra Palace. The exuberant South African is famed for his dancing entrance and he is quickly becoming a fan favourite.
He came through his Preliminary Round on Monday before upsetting former world champion Steve Beaton in the First Round.
The bubbly character will have plenty of backing this week and he thrives on the support from the crowd.
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