The 2015 Grand Slam of Darts begins in Wolverhampton on Saturday afternoon and the anticipation and excitement surrounding the event is tangible. It’s the only tournament on the darting calendar where the two darting codes, the PDC and BDO, lock horns.
The addition of Martin Adams and Andy Fordham to this year’s tournament simply adds to the overall spectacle and it will be absolutely fascinating to see how the BDO players fare against their PDC counterparts.
Here is my lowdown on this year’s eight BDO participants, as I also share my views on the ‘friction’ surrounding players from the different codes.
Andy Fordham’s story is simply remarkable; after being in the darting wilderness for several years, he sensationally sealed qualification through the BDO qualifiers to seal his Grand Slam debut.
However, he provoked controversy amongst Darts fans when he candidly admitted when interviewed by Sky Sports earlier this week that he doesn’t like Phil Taylor as a person. This admission has unsurprisingly caused conjecture, although I thought Andy’s honesty was refreshing.
Fordham claimed: “It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I don’t really like Phil to tell you the truth.”
“Phil’s an unbelievable dart player. What he’s done for darts is just tremendous. Sixteen times World Champion just speaks for itself, but unfortunately as a person I don’t get on with him,” he added.
Personally, I see no issue whatsoever with Andy’s comments. He highlighted the respect he retains for Phil as a player and for what he’s achieved in the game. Andy wasn’t being disrespectful; simply expressing his opinion.
Fordham kicks off his Grand Slam campaign against Two-Time World Champion Adrian Lewis, in arguably the pick of Saturday evening’s group-phase fixtures. Lewis will be the overwhelming bookmakers favourite, but Fordham has the pedigree and big-stage experience. Over a best of 9 legs format, it would be irrational to completely write him off.
Fordham will also come up against Michael Smith and Wayne Jones in Group C. Smith is continuing to make major strides in his development, although he is still awaiting his big TV ‘breakthrough’.
Wayne Jones is an experienced campaigner and will enjoy participating in his home-town tournament, but Fordham has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He is relishing his return to the big-stage and it would be an incredible story if he could progress further in the tournament.
Martin Adams’ long-awaited Grand Slam of Darts debut is an instrumental factor in the added publicity that’s been generated over recent weeks. Adams has competed in PDC events previously, albeit over a decade ago, but whilst a whole host of BDO players crossed codes and joined the PDC; Wolfie remained a staunch believer in the BDO’s principles.
It’s also fair to say he’s been rather outspoken in his dislike for some of the PDC’s principles over the years. This is largely why his decision to finally accept an invitation from the PDC for this year’s tournament caused such speculation.
Adams has been entrenched in a ‘war of words’ with Peter Wright, after allegations surfaced that Adams labelled Wright, ‘a clown’. Snakebite then responded by saying: “He said I’m a clown, but at least this clown works in the biggest circus.”
Martin seemed bewildered by Wright’s comments, stating: “I’ve never said Peter Wright is a clown. I don’t know where he gets that from.”
I’ve got no problems with Peter, that’s for sure. I really cannot work out why he’s got a problem with me and if he believes that’s what I said, then he’s wrong somewhere along the line,” Adams added.
There seems to be little evidence of Adams making these comments, although irrespective of this, his focus will be solely on his darts.
I think it’s fantastic for Darts fans to see Adams competing against the very best in the PDC. He may be a divisive character, but there’s no doubting his ability and pedigree. Adams is a 3-Time BDO World Champion and even at the age of 59, he is still capable of delivering top-class performances, which must be admired and respected.
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that lots of people are desperate to see Adams falter at the first hurdle; admittedly he has been handed an extremely difficult group. He will face World Number 8 Ian White, 2006 Lakeside Champion Jelle Klaasen, and another former Champion in the shape of Steve Beaton, in Group B.
The biggest obstacle for Adams may be progressing from the group-phase, because over a longer-format, his consistency could be a valuable asset. Yet it would be fascinating to see him progress through to the knockout stages, where a potential last 16 clash against Michael van Gerwen lies in wait.
I sincerely hope that Adams gets the respect he deserves from the crowd in Wolverhampton. The Grand Slam crowd are notoriously respectful and knowledgeable darts fans, although there may be some animosity directed towards Wolfie.
Despite this, with his vast experience I’m confident he won’t be adversely affected by potential dissenters.
Reigning Lakeside Champion Scott Mitchell has been handed a thankless task on his Grand Slam debut, as he will pit his wits against three of the PDC’s top 16 in Group D, which has been aptly dubbed ‘The Group of Death’.
Mitchell will face World Number 4 Peter Wright, last year’s finalist Dave Chisnall and Mervyn King, who reached the semi-finals of last year’s competition.
‘Scotty-Dog’ has admittedly struggled to rediscover his World Championship winning form over recent months, but he will undoubtedly be buoyed by skippering England to WDF World Cup glory in Turkey last week.
Mitchell may also relish the underdog tag; not many people are backing him to progress, but he’ll be eager to silence the doubters. He overcame the odds in winning last year’s World Championship, so he’s more than capable of replicating such performances. He certainly has the pedigree.
Compared to his BDO colleagues, Phillips is a Grand Slam veteran. This will be his fourth Grand Slam appearance; his best run coming in 2011, where he progressed through the group-phase, only to be beaten 10-8 in the last 16 by fellow Welshman Mark Webster.
Phillips is without doubt a darting stalwart, having made his BDO World Championship debut in 1991. Ironically, Phillips was beaten in the opening round of that tournament 3-1 by a certain Phil Taylor, the man he will face in Group H. Facing Taylor is always an unenviable task, but the 55-year-old Welshman will be relatively pleased with his draw.
The 2014 World Masters winner will also face Robbie Green, who made the switch from the BDO to the PDC earlier this year, and fresh-faced Austrian Rowby-John Rodriguez. Green is a dangerous proposition, although he has struggled for consistency after enduring several injury problems this year.
Rowby-John is certainly an enigma; he is capable of brilliance, but is also capable of distinct mediocrity, as demonstrated by his 10-2 defeat to John Henderson at the European Championships, where he averaged a miserly 73.
I think out of all the BDO’s representatives at the Grand Slam, Phillips has one of the best chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Larry Butler has fond memories of the PDC. He was the inaugural winner of the World Matchplay in 1994, beating Dennis Priestley in a pulsating final.
He is still producing fantastic darts now, even at the age of 59. Butler sealed his spot through the BDO qualifiers, beating former Grand-Slam winner Scott Waites and BDO Number 1 Glen Durrant to do so.
Butler also reached the final of the World Masters last month, beating Scott Mitchell, Scott Waites and Martin Adams en route, before finally succumbing to Durrant. However, this illustrates that he’s in fine form and cannot be underestimated.
He faces a tough-task to progress from Group E, as he will face current World and Premier League Champion Gary Anderson, as well as 5-Time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld.
Andy Boulton makes up a difficult looking group and he’s enjoying a good spell of form recently; consistently performing well in floor tournaments. He thrashed Stephen Bunting 5-2 to confirm his Grand Slam spot, so Boulton is no doubt capable.
Anderson and van Barneveld are both expected to progress, but Butler shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. His experience and ability is a dangerous combination, particularly over a short format.
Geert de Vos
Geert de Vos will be making his Grand Slam debut courtesy of winning the BDO World Trophy in March. De Vos beat the likes of Wesley Harms and Mark McGeeney to reach the final, before seeing off Jeffrey De Graaf in an epic last-leg decider.
Nevertheless, since then, his form has been pretty underwhelming. He suffered defeat in the last 32 of the World Masters, before losing in the last 128 of the WDF World Cup singles.
De Vos will face the experienced duo of Robert Thornton and Terry Jenkins in Group G, whilst Welsh star Jonny Clayton, who came through the PDC qualifier to appear in Wolverhampton, makes up the group. De Vos will certainly have to be at his very best in order to reach the knockout stages.
Michael van der Horst
The Dutch duo of van der Horst and Oosterhuis, both qualified for the Grand Slam through the BDO Dutch qualifier, which saw the likes of Wesley Harms, Jeffrey De Graaf and Co Stompe vying for a spot at Wolverhampton. I think it’s fair to say that both men are relatively unknown quantities, particularly to PDC fans, but it’s always exciting to see new faces emerging.
Van der Horst’s best performance in a BDO major was reaching the quarter-final stage of the Zuiderduin Masters in both 2013 and 2014. However, the 40-year-old will face an uphill task to progress through his group. He takes on former-finalist and 8-Time major winner James Wade on Saturday afternoon.
Additionally, he will face World Youth Champion Keegan Brown, who reached the quarter-finals of last year’s Grand Slam, as well as former Lakeside Champion Mark Webster, who is enjoying a renaissance, having reached the World Grand-Prix semi-finals last month.
Oosterhuis will surely face an even bigger task in Group A, as he faces his compatriot and PDC World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen in his first group game. The Grand Slam remains the only PDC major that van Gerwen is yet to win; therefore the ‘Green Machine’ will be in determined mood on Saturday evening.
Oosterhuis, a two-time finalist in the Luxembourg Open, will also face Kim Huybrechts, who famously beat MvG to reach the semi-finals of last year’s competition. The Belgian is in fine form, having won the European Darts Grand Prix in Sindelfingen last month.
Steve West makes up Group A; Steve has been in terrific form on the PDC Pro Tour since the summer, so he’ll also be a tough opponent for the Dutchman.
In truth, neither van der Horst and Oosterhuis are expected to qualify and if either do so, it will be a remarkable achievement. Despite this, it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to showcase their talents to the darting masses and I hope they take advantage of the opportunity.