Raymond Van Barneveld is determined to make the most of his wildcard place and challenge for the title in his final Premier League before retirement.
The five-time world champion announced last year that the 2019 season would be his last.
He begins his bid for a second Premier League crown against James Wade on the opening night in Newcastle on Thursday, but many believe ‘Barney’ is fortunate to have been handed a place in the competition.
The 51-year-old has slipped to 28th in the world rankings and was beaten in his first match at the World Championship by unseeded Lithuanian Darius Labanauskas.
Barney admits he was as surprised as anyone to be given the nod, telling the PDC: “I’d like to say thank you to Sky and the PDC for giving me the wildcard again in my final year because I was really in shock that I have it because I’m 28th in the world.
“So really pleased that I have it. Now I have to look forward to hopefully a good Premier League with highlights of course in Rotterdam in week eight and nine.”
The Dutchman clinched his only Premier League back in 2014 and that win was his last major title.
He embarks on his final year in professional darts with a point to prove and is eager to finish on a high. Phil Taylor had a similar retirement year in 2017, during which he won the World Matchplay and finished runner-up at the World Championship.
“It is a farewell tour but if you compare my farewell to Phil Taylor, who also announced it the year before, he was still in the top six in the world so in the majors he was always involved,” Van Barneveld added.
“I have to start from scratch again. That means I have to work really hard on the pro tour to get back in the top 16 or top 32 and qualify for the World Championship.
“I’ve practiced hard, had a lot of things to think about in the last few weeks after a bad day at the office at the World Championship.
“(It will be) Really emotional to say goodbye. I have a private life as well and 35 years in this business, stress every single week, travelling every single week. I want to be Raymond again, not Barney.
“I’m really happy for this chance, what could have happened is the PDC said ‘no Raymond this year’, that’s fair play.
“Then there would have been no 17 weeks in the Premier League which I would have hated because I love to play in the Premier League at the highest level. I can’t wait to start.”
The opening night in Newcastle sees defending world and Premier League champion Michael Van Gerwen taking on Michael Smith – who he beat in the final of both those tournaments.
Van Gerwen will begin as heavy favourite, especially following the withdrawal this week of two-time world champion Gary Anderson.
The Scot has been replaced by nine ‘contenders’, made up of young players and local favourites, who will each compete once in the first nine weeks of the league.
Local favourite Chris Dobey faces Mensur Suljovic, with debutant Gerwyn Price taking on Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright challenging Rob Cross.