The cheers inside empty Alexandra Palace will be fake – but John Henderson is hoping to give his fans in the north-east something to shout about.
The Highlander starts his PDC World Championship bid tomorrow night with a first round clash against Finland’s Marko Kantele.
At the start of the month, the PDC were given permission to admit 1000 fans for every session of the tournament.
Henderson had been looking forward to playing in front of spectators again, however, London being moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3 yesterday to combat Covid-19 means the World Championship will now be played behind closed doors.
On Tuesday’s opening night fans were allowed in, but the atmosphere they created will once again be replaced by canned crowd noise.
Henderson said: “It’s unfortunate there will be nobody in to watch, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.
“The news of fans only being allowed in for the first night was disappointing, we’ve been looking forward to them coming back for a while.
“We always knew it would never be a full house, but when we heard there was going to be 1000 I think all the players were pleased.
“So it’s disappointing that now they can’t attend, it wasn’t just about having a crowd there – it would have been small step towards normality for darts.
“We’ve got to get on with it, but the players were a bit disappointed.”
Although he won’t have any support inside Alexandra Palace, plenty in Henderson’s hometown of Huntly and across the north-east will be watching tomorrow.
The 47-year-old has had many supporting messages in recent days and hopes to do his fans proud against Kantele.
He added: “I’ve had a lot of people texting and getting in touch to wish me good luck.
“They won’t be able to go to the pub to watch, but a lot of people have said they’ll be watching at home.
“Up in Huntly and in the whole north-east really the support I’ve had has been brilliant, so hopefully I can give them something to shout about.
“Darts really seems to have become part of Christmas and I know a lot of people watch out for it every year and watch out for me playing every year, so the support I’ve had has been fantastic.”
Henderson is also thankful the World Championship is being staged after the problems coronavirus has caused in 2020.
Up in Huntly and in the whole north-east really the support I’ve had has been brilliant.”
Despite restrictions and a lack of crowds, the PDC has found a way to get all the major tournaments played this year.
Henderson said: “There were points when I doubted if there would be a World Championship.
“When things kicked in in March, I think everybody was thinking about a few weeks and then it turned into months.
“And it wasn’t going away and the players were wondering when we’d get a Pro Tour event never mind this.
“So to be able to put the World Championship on as well as the World Matchplay, the World Grand Prix and the other big TV events, the PDC have worked wonders to get to this point.”