Phil Taylor – Never go Back?
I read recently that The Power would consider accepting a wild card to play in the World Championships due to start in London in December. Obviously this is not a final decision, at the time of writing this.
If they are going to give wild cards to the greats of the game, then it’s plain to anybody that Phil Taylor would be first choice, and I for one would be delighted to see him up on the big stage again.
But would it be good for the game, and good for the man himself?
Tentatively, yes, and maybe; but you will note that I said tentatively.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of having the best player ever competing against those who are the best still playing week in week out on the PDC circuit.
To begin with, Taylor is still a massive box office draw, even though as I blogged earlier in the year, the game has not suffered noticeably by his absence, partly because darts has some great players and is more than able to move on, partly also because the Stoke great is still very much involved with the sport on and off the oche.
With the probable exception of MVG and Gary Anderson, Taylor would still be a reasonable top tip to lift the trophy and although many would bet against him, others would be happy to back him to do well.
Audience figures would increase, albeit not massively and it would give the game a sense of continuity, with the enduring legend of darts still up there where he belonged for so long. I don’t know what kind of contractual agreements he has/had with his sponsors and it is none of my business, but suppose some deals have expired since he hung up his flights, surely there would still be big money willing to take the place of any sponsors who have not been part of his plans of late.
Put simply, Phil Taylor is still a giant of darts and his presence at another World Championships would do some good for the tournament.
Yet there are a few reasons why this might raise eyebrows among both casual and serious darts fans.
Does Taylor still have the game to mix it with the Top 8, which he would undoubtedly need to get to even the quarter finals, as I imagine he would enter the competition as an unseeded player? Perhaps, yes, but he has not been in the thick of the action for going on 9 months now which wouldn’t make him a bad player, but might mean that he lacks the competitive edge needed to pull through tight games against players on form.
Similarly, would he have the same support from the crowd? I don’t mean to say nobody would be singing Taylor Wonderland or that people would cheer for his opponent out of any kind of spite. He is too highly regarded to lose the admiration of the fans. But would the rock solid support he had from thousands of people end up a kind of sympathetic cheering, the likes of which the legendary Eddy Merckx received from cycling fans as the once majestic rider struggled up Category 3 climbs with race leaders already well out of sight?
A cameo appearance at the Worlds has that little bit of magic to it, a way of thanking him for making the game what it is today, but does it have any realistic chance of doing justice to the standards he set for three decades?
I would never bet against even a retired Phil Taylor, but I felt that even though he lost, being in the final last year meant that he bowed out at a stage which was befitting of the player he was, rather than any anticlimactic exit in the early rounds. To come back now, to grace the stage but to end up on the wrong end of a drubbing would take some of the shine off his glorious swan song that evening against Voltage.
This is why I just don’t like the idea. The man, yes. His darts, yes. Watching him play, very much so.
But for a player I care about, whom I have idolised since about 15 years old, I think he deserves better than for his World Championship career to come to a final close with polite applause as he leaves the stage on the wrong end of a 4-1 to a player like John Henderson.
No disrespect to John Henderson, sincerely, but these comebacks just don’t always work.