Si wants to be a wizard in Oz
SIMON WHITLOCK is hoping home advantage will spur him on to glory in the Sydney Darts Masters.
The world No.4 is amongst 16 players battling it out at Luna Park in the PDC’s second World Series of Darts event, which begins on Thursday.
Aussie Whitlock (above) is one of eight top PDC stars competing Down Under, with the first round seeing them drawn against eight qualifiers from Australia and New Zealand.
And the local hero admits that claiming glory in Saturday’s final would be one of the greatest achievements of his career.
“I’ve been playing darts for 20-odd years but this is one of the most exciting weeks of my career,” said 44-yearold Whitlock.
“Darts is getting more and more popular all the time in Australia through TV coverage they are getting of our events in Europe, and it’s been great to see how much interest there’s been since we’ve arrived.
“I think that will give me a little bit extra in my game and hopefully I can do the business because it would be fantastic to win this title.”
Phil Taylor, who won last month’s World Matchplay, and world No.2 Michael van Gerwen are favourites for the event.
Adrian Lewis, Andy Hamilton, Raymond van Barneveld, Wes Newton and Paul Nicholson complete the line-up of PDC stars, with the qualifiers including Australian brothers Kyle and Beau Anderson.
Whitlock added: “The level in Australian darts gets better every year.
“We’ve got some really good players coming through, like Kyle Anderson and Gordon Mathers, and this is a chance for them.”
Taylor said: “It’s like we’re taking the Premier League to Australia and we want to put on a good show.”
THE pre-match cliché overdrive to big up Man United v Chelsea was later replaced with meek comparisons to chess as watchers worldwide rolled off their sofas and wearily asked: “Has it finished yet?”
At least people try to WIN at chess.
Jose Mourinho set up at Old Trafford without a recognised striker and left one of the most creative players at his disposal – Juan Mata (right) – twiddling his thumbs on the bench. This is genius apparently. David Moyes blamed United’s final ball as chins continued to be stroked about his suitability as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor.
Whatever the reason, it was the first goalless draw at Old Trafford since May 2009 – and the first time in 118 United games that the Red Devils had finished a game 0-0.
So – as is ever the case – we were left to entertain ourselves with the circus that operates around the game.
This time it was Wayne Rooney who was fired out of the cannon for the nation’s entertainment.
The England man has been thrusting his crotch in the general direction of Stamford Bridge all summer.
So it was all eyes on Mr Potato Head. Would he sulk? Would he smile?
“He’s a Manchester United player and he’ll prove it tonight,” boomed Moyes.
To be fair, Rooney was probably the best player on the pitch, his efforts epitomised by a bull-like charge back to his own end of the pitch and a perfectly executed slide tackle on Ramires.
It prompted thousands of Mancs into a tub-thumping rendition of the Scouser’s name. Yet more proof that footie fans will excuse anything else if a player has ability.
You wonder how far Mourinho’s tongue was in his cheek when he declared after the game: “In every club in the world, when a player wants to leave, they don’t support him. “When a player wants to leave, they give him a hard time, but they have supported him all the way, so I think this must be a very special club, with special fans.”
When Rooney gave the come-and-get-me eyes to Manchester City in 2010, a mob of hooded scallies turned up at his mansion and unfurled a banner reading: “Join City & Die.”
Now a rival manager – who has already bid twice for Rooney and blamed Moyes for unsettling him – telling the world their player must “finish the story” is met with little more than a shrug.
Chasing money and prizes while flicking the Vs at the club you claimed to love has become an accepted part of the game.
Loyalty, contracts, respect and “doing the right thing”? Things of the past, it seems.
Just like managers who try to win every game.