World Championship Contenders- Robert Thornton

Robert Thornton WC
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

With the 2016 PDC World-Championships just under a week away, I continue my assessment of the main challengers for this year’s title. One man who is going under the radar slightly, is World Number 6 and two-time major winner Robert Thornton.

8. Robert Thornton

Robert Thornton begins his assault for a maiden World-Championship crown with a very tough first-round tie against former Lakeside finalist Alan Norris.  The tenacious Scot will be favourite to progress, however he will have to perform extremely well to overcome ‘Chuck’.

It has been a case of feast or famine for Thornton in 2015. He has suffered first-round exits in the World Matchplay, the European Championships and the Players Championship Finals. However, the undoubted highlighted of his season came in October, when he defeated Michael van Gerwen 5-4 in a thrilling final to claim the World Grand-Prix title.

Thornton had expressed his desire to win the Grand-Prix earlier in the year and his wishes were made a reality as he produced a fantastic display to thwart the Dutchman. This saw ‘The Thorn’ climb up to 6th on the PDC Order of Merit.

Nevertheless, since then, Robert has struggled for consistency. He was beaten 6-4 by his compatriot John Henderson in the first round of the European Championships, whilst he suffered an agonising deciding-leg loss to Welsh star Jamie Lewis at Minehead a fortnight ago.

Despite this, sandwiched in between these premature major exits, Thornton did reach the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam in November, only to lose to Phil Taylor, in a repeat of their 2013 Grand Slam final.

Thornton came through a group consisting of Terry Jenkins, Jonny Clayton and BDO star Geert de Vos, before beating former BDO boy Robbie Green in the last 16.

Thornton also won the PDC European Darts Open in July, beating Simon Whitlock, Jelle Klaasen and James Wade, before he defeated Kim Huybrechts 6-2 in the final.

The Scot had a difficult route, but showed his class throughout the event and dropped just three legs against Wade and Huybrechts respectively.

Thornton unquestionably has the ability to challenge for the World-Championship title. He’s won two PDC TV majors, beating Taylor and van Gerwen in the respective finals.

This not only underlines that he has the quality to beat the very best; he also has the mentality and belief to produce in decisive moments.

However, consistency has been an issue for Thornton in recent months, and this has only been exacerbated by a long-standing foot problem.

Although it didn’t stop the Ayrshire ace from winning the World Grand-Prix, his injury has become more troublesome over recent weeks.  Hopefully for Thornton fans, the Scot will be fighting fit when the tournament gets underway.

As previously mentioned, Thornton begins his World-Championship campaign against Norris. It’s one of the hardest possible first-round ties, however if Robert were to progress, his route is reasonably generous on paper, up until the quarter-finals.

Andy Hamilton or Joe Murnan potentially await in the second round. Murnan has been performing well on the floor this year, but he distinctly lacks big-stage experience, whilst Hamilton has endured a tumultuous 18 months and is in serious danger of slipping outside the World’s Top 32.

Hamilton is a former World-finalist, so shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, although Thornton would be very confident of progressing against either man. Terry Jenkins is Thornton’s potential last 16 opponent, although a rejuvenated Mark Webster may have some say in that, as Jenkins and Webster could clash in round-two.

Jenkins had been performing well throughout 2015, although in the last three months, Terry’s form has subsided considerably.  The 9-Time major finalist is notorious for being one of the most consistent and unrelenting performers on the circuit, but at present, he is lacking any semblance of consistency and is producing far too many wayward darts.

In contrast, Webster has enjoyed a remarkable revival after being in the darting wilderness for almost two years. He reached the semi-finals of the World Grand-Prix, whilst he also progressed to the last eight of the Grand Slam. He would pose a stern threat to Thornton, but the Scot’s extra scoring-power would arguably pay dividends.

Thornton will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals, although Phil Taylor would be the likely obstacle in the last eight. Taylor thrives on the World-Championship stage, but Thornton is certainly not fazed by reputation.

If the 16-time World Champion shows signs of the susceptibility that has cost him dearly in the latter stages of recent majors, ‘The Thorn’ will capitalise.

When Robert is playing close to his best, his D20 hitting is absolutely mesmeric. He is also one of the most potent scorers in World Darts; these  combined qualities pose a credible threat.

He may lack consistency, but he certainly doesn’t lack the quality. The 48-year-old Scot is priced at 50/1 with title sponsor William Hill; could he replicate his Grand-Prix heroics to clinch his second major title of the year?

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