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Wayne Mardle believes Raymond van Barneveld is capable of enjoying a big run on his World Championship return

Van Barneveld will begin his 29th World Championship campaign with a tie against Lourence Ilagan; the five-time world champion could take on 2018 winner Rob Cross in the second round

Last Updated: 10/12/21 10:59am

Raymond van Barneveld will make his World Championship return against Lourence Ilagan on December 20

Raymond van Barneveld will make his highly-anticipated Alexandra Palace return at this year’s World Darts Championship, and Wayne Mardle believes the Dutchman can make a real impression in the capital.

The five-time world champion bowed out from the sport on his last Ally Pally appearance in 2019 following a shock 3-1 defeat to Darin Young, a night he’s described as the worst of his illustrious career.

However, just weeks after regaining his place on the PDC circuit at Qualifying School in February, Van Barneveld scooped his first ranking title since 2013 at Players Championship 3, and he’s enjoyed a solid season on his competitive return.

The stars are getting ready for the World Darts Championship, will you be there to join them? Coverage starts Wednesday, December 15 on Sky Sports Darts

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The stars are getting ready for the World Darts Championship, will you be there to join them? Coverage starts Wednesday, December 15 on Sky Sports Darts

The stars are getting ready for the World Darts Championship, will you be there to join them? Coverage starts Wednesday, December 15 on Sky Sports Darts

“I’ve backed Barney! If what is maybe a mini-miracle happens, I want part of this miracle,” Mardle told Sky Sports.

“I watched him play – I was doing an exhibition with him just a few days ago in Hastings. He went and won it!

“There was only Rob Cross, Jonny Clayton, Devon Petersen, Fallon Sherrock, Paul Nicholson and me there. He annihilated everyone!

“I believe at 200/1, it’s too big a price. If he plays well and he can hold it together, he’s got to hold it together, he can go on a run.”

The Dutchman impressed at the recent Players Championship Finals, before losing out 6-3 to Van Gerwen in round two

The Dutchman impressed at the recent Players Championship Finals, before losing out 6-3 to Van Gerwen in round two

The 54-year-old will take on Philippines’ World Cup talisman Lourence Ilagan in a tricky opener, while a second round showdown against 2018 champion Rob Cross awaits the winner.

Cross dominates the pair’s head-to-head record, although Van Barneveld has prevailed in both of their meetings in 2021 – the first of which spearheaded RvB’s march to Pro Tour glory in February.

The Den Haag veteran is set to equal Phil Taylor’s tally of 29 World Championship appearances later this month, as he bids to register a first World Championship victory since the 2018 edition.

“If he was to reach say the last 16, and the draw was to open up, all of a sudden people will be giving it: ‘He couldn’t could he?’

Most World Darts Championship appearances

Steve Beaton – 31 (21 PDC, 10 BDO)
Phil Taylor – 29 (25 PDC, 4 BDO)
Raymond van Barneveld – 29 (15 PDC, 14 BDO)
John Lowe – 28 (12 PDC, 16 BDO)
Mervyn King – 26 (15 PDC, 11 BDO)
Martin Adams – 26 (0 PDC, 26 BDO)
Paul Lim – 26 (14 PDC, 12 BDO)

“It would be amazing, wouldn’t it? It is a romantic story. It is one of those where you can reminisce. It’s like if Steve Beaton was to roll back the years, or Paul Lim playing well again. It takes me back!

“We are reminiscing with Beaton, Paul Lim and Barney, but are they capable of winning and having a run? When I say winning, I mean games, I’m not quite sure they are capable of winning the event.

“Barney, can he reach the quarter-finals? Why not. He’s got the ability, but I’m not quite sure that belief is fully there yet.”

Despite suffering a group-stage exit at last month’s Grand Slam, Van Barneveld showed promising signs on his big stage return, and he posted a 104 average in his Players Championship Finals opener, before succumbing to Michael van Gerwen in round two.

“You look around and whoever is looking at Barney in the eyes is giving it: ‘It might be Ray. It might be Ray!’ I just want him to have that little bit of belief. If he’s got it, then oh wow!”

Mardle on Barney’s World Championship chances…

It took ton-plus averages from Michael Smith and Gary Anderson to account for the Dutchman at the Grand Slam, and Mardle admits he’s ‘excited’ to see Van Barneveld back on the World Championship stage.

“He played well against Michael at the Players Championship. You know me, I’m all about what they are doing, not actually what they’re hitting and I watch the players like hawks.

“He was in his own little comfort zone, he wasn’t panicking and he looked good. He looked really good. I would like to see him play well, I really would.

“I would like to see him meet Van Gerwen, that would be in the last eight. If that was to happen, after the crackers they’ve had over the years, can we expect another one? Possibly!

Van Barneveld's last Alexandra Palace appearance ended in heartbreak back in 2019

Van Barneveld’s last Alexandra Palace appearance ended in heartbreak back in 2019

“I think is why I’m a little excited about Barney. I believe that he can play to a level that can take him a long way.

“You get to a certain point in a tournament and you’re actually thinking: ‘One of us has got to win this’.

“You look around and whoever is looking at Barney in the eyes is giving it: ‘It might be Ray. It might be Ray!’ I just want him to have that little bit of belief. If he’s got it, then oh wow!”

It’s not long to wait until the darts returns to your screens and it’s the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace – join us on Sky Sports for every arrow from every session across 16 days, getting under way on Wednesday, December 15.




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