When I arrived on Friday evening in Birmingham I first had to overcome the problem that Birmingham New Street station at the moment is a construction area. So of course I got lost but of course only due to missing signpost and due to the requiring getting used to system to divide platforms into an A and a B platform and then to let stop two trains at the same platform (and even the same time) which drive in different directions.
After I had jumped over that hurdle I had no problems to get to Wolverhampton where I walked through the steady English rain to my hotel.
At Saturday morning I first purchased everything necessary to survive two days full of darts and then withdrew from the rain into Wolverhampton's Civic Centre.
And really I could watch a lot of darts on the day from 1 o'clock till almost midnight. The format of the matches is rather short so I was constantly on my way between press room, Walk-on, place before the stage and on the stage (for the practice darts). I had not much time to refresh with a drink, no time at all to eat our even to sit down beside the few minutes to update the side and upload the pictures on my notebook. I was glad for the break between the two sessions where I finally could take a few bites before collapsing with weakness while I translated the report and had a look at my e-mails.
During the whole afternoon session Stephen Bunting had his place in the VIP Area and to tell the truth he looks much less big live then on TV. Probably he was there because of his BDO colleagues but he was greeted by the PDC players as well and talked to most of them while they waited for their walk-on... The atmosphere was great from the beginning and the venue was well filled ¬- two sessions on a Saturday to be sure were a good idea by the PDC. Robert Thornton started the tournament with a drum beat and defeated Mark Walsh 5:0. In the evening another whitewash by Phil Taylor would follow. Stuart Kellett - his opponent looked like any other result would have been a surprise for him.
As I passed a lot of time at the walk-on I had quite a lot of time to watch the players. A lot of players joke around with the crowd or their acquaintances and friends while they wait. Some seem to be totally focussed or - like Raymond van Barneveld - do some kind of relaxation exercises. Some seem to not to be able to stand still at all like Gary Anderson who never stays still unless he signs autographs.
The most thrilling match of the afternoon was the match between Mervyn King and Tony O'Shea. It certainly was the match which delighted the crowd most. Tony O'Shea was by far the most popular player that afternoon. For my the most surprising winners were Michael Smith and Mark Webster who had been both out of form for some time already. Both deserved their wins.
After a not really long break the evening session started which look like a complete sell-out. Wesley Harms and Gary Anderson were the first two players at the Oche. Harms wore his hand warmers as usually and Anderson his "old" black shirt in which he seemed to feel much more comfortable. Well, I had no problem with his colourful shirts either.
And the evening everything went quickly again. Peter Wright was as colourful as normal but couldn't find his game on stage. James Wade of course used the chance.
I didn't hear much from the former BDO World Champion throughout last year and he lost to Ronny Huybrechts in a not great match. Then we had Adrian Lewis and Richie George and I asked myself whether his more famous father was around as well. Yes he was! I first met him on my usual way out of the pressroom and later again in the VIP part of the venue. To be sure when the crowd spied him he stole all other players their show. He still is very popular and alone by being around he entertained the whole venue.
I didn't await Kevin Painter would lose like this to Paul Nicholson. The match was not really good as was the one between Michael van Gerwen and Vincent van der Voort in which van Gerwen showed unbelievable double trouble though he somehow managed to win. Might be both matches owned course and quality the fact that in both good friends had to play one another. As both winners told after the matches it was not easy!
Phil Taylor once again in his usual way swept his opponent from stage and once again it was Stuart Kellett - probably he will by now get nightmares by only hearing the name Taylor. The last match was the clash between Kim Huybrechts and Dean Winstanley which was no clash at all as Huybrechts played rather weak and Winstanley surprisingly strong. One heard afterwards Huybrechts was downcast about something relating his brother - incidents in private live seem after all to affect the game.
That really had been a very long day. It had stopped to rain and it was quite cool and a little bit foggy outside. So I was glad I could switch on the heating before I did some more work at my side.