The anticipation surrounding last year’s Qualifying School was unparalleled. Glen Durrant’s future had been a constant source of speculation, with fans and pundits alike eager to see the BDO’s all-conquering three-time world champion pit his wits against the PDC elite.
It was a huge decision for Durrant, who represented the BDO with immense pride throughout his career. It meant leaving his job of 30 years as a housing manager to become a full-time professional – an enormous transition but a necessary sacrifice if he was to fulfil his darting dreams.
The Teessider had dominated the BDO circuit for several years – his extensive haul of titles was evidence of his pedigree, whilst his performances in the Grand Slam of Darts also demonstrated his ability to mix it with the world’s best.
Nevertheless, after coming through a gruelling ordeal at Qualifying School to secure a coveted PDC Tour Card on the fourth and final day of action, a minority of critics remained sceptical.
However, fast forward 15 months and any lingering doubters have been emphatically silenced. The 49-year-old has stormed into the world’s top 20, secured two Pro Tour titles, reached three major televised semi-finals and he currently occupies top spot in his debut Premier League campaign.
In an exclusive interview with Josh’s Dartistry, Durrant insists he ‘put his reputation on the line’ by crossing the darting divide in a bid to ensure his Lakeside triumphs were respected, and his achievements thus far unquestionably provide that vindication.
“What people don’t realise is that when you win a Lakeside you get ridiculed, you get laughed at,” Durrant said. “I remember one particular one – I got a lot of hate, a lot of nasty emails and messages.”
“The one that always resonates with me, he said: ‘Glen Durrant wins the Lakeside Championship. I reckon if I went down the boozer on a Friday night and had an hour a week, I could be Lakeside champion.’
“For all the thousands of messages I read, for some reason that’s the one that always stuck in my mind, so I knew to get those three Lakeside titles respected, I had to go over to the PDC and I put my reputation on the line.
“If I had bombed, if I had a nightmare first year then what would those Lakeside Championships have meant to me? It’s been a real rollercoaster and I’ve loved every second.”
Durrant’s Qualifying School bid was met with considerable expectation and that anticipation was mirrored in his first Players Championship double-header. He suffered an opening round defeat in Players Championship One against Alan Tabern, only to reach his first PDC final just 24 hours later.
The three-time world champion succumbed 8-7 to Dave Chisnall in Sunday’s showpiece, but exactly seven days later ‘Duzza’ went one step better – defeating two-time World Youth champion Dimitri Van den Bergh to claim his maiden PDC title.
His route through to the final was anything but serene, having accounted for Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals. Yet it was further illustration that Durrant belonged in the big time and he admits it was imperative to hit the ground running.
“The first weekend I got to a final and I remember walking into Wigan. It was quite a long walk from where our management team sit and you just felt like all the eyes were on me. I lost in the first round to Alan Tabern and that was a long night. You’re just thinking: ‘What have I done?’
“I could have lived happily ever after in the BDO and just carried on working, that was the mentality at that point. To reach a final the next day and win a tournament in week two, the scrutiny and the eyes were off me and I felt very much a part of the PDC family very very quickly.”
Durrant built upon the momentum he generated in the fleeting stages of his PDC career to reach three major televised semi-finals last year – appearing in the last four of the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Grand Slam of Darts.
The Middlesbrough man also added a second Pro Tour title to his collection and progressed to the quarter-finals on his PDC World Championship debut, as he enjoyed arguably the best debut season in the PDC since Raymond van Barneveld arrived in sensational style back in 2006.
“All those concerns that I had – what if I’m just an also-ran? Last year was amazing. I just wish I could have turned one of those semis into a final, but if you had offered me what I had last year, earning just shy of £300,000 in the first year, I would have snapped your hands off.
“Some of that money didn’t go on my rankings like the Grand Slam, but it’s been amazing. The Premier League has been unbelievable so that’s another ambition fulfilled. My targets are Top 16, Top 10 and I would love to win a major PDC title; that’s what gets me on the practice board every day.”
One major title within Durrant’s sights is the Premier League crown. The two-time World Master has seamlessly acclimatised to the notoriously gruelling Premier League environment and before the enforced lay-off he sat top of the table, with just one defeat from his opening six matches.
Whilst some players may use the break as an opportunity to regroup, Durrant will have been keen to maintain his fine form and his frustration was compounded by the postponement of Night Seven in Newcastle.
He was set to be roared on by almost 500 friends and family against current world champion Peter Wright in the North East, but he remains philosophical and acknowledges that it bears into insignificance considering the current global crisis.
“Thinking very selfishly, the Newcastle gig and Rotterdam – where I was playing Michael van Gerwen – they were the two games that I was most looking forward to in the Premier League. But look, I’m healthy, I’m fit and that’s more important.
“You’re seeing what the bigger picture is within a few days. I’m just a dart player. I’m following all the government guidelines and I’m fit and well, and that’s more important than worrying about my darts career.”
It’s a period of global uncertainty at present and several tournaments have been postponed with inevitably more set to be sacrificed, therefore players are facing the prospect of a particularly congested schedule in the latter stages of the season.
That could present problems for Tour Card holders who still work full-time alongside their darting commitments although that’s no longer a concern for Durrant, who acknowledges that whilst quitting his job was initially a huge transition, he’s now relishing life as a full-time professional.
“I missed housing definitely for the first month. The second day I got up and put my trousers and shirt on to go to work, I was in such a routine that I missed it. I couldn’t imagine going back to that life right now.
“I love the life of a professional darts player and this unprecedented time does give you time for self-reflection and I feel very lucky that my hobby is my job. I wouldn’t have it any other way now. I’m prepared to be playing seven days a week.
“I’ve listened to Barry Hearn and he has said he will be playing seven days a week if needs be. I’m not 20 or 30 years old now and I know when I’ve played darts all day, my body will tell me the next morning! I’m not working now so I’m happy to be away seven days to make sure I fulfil my dreams.”