Following Matt Porter's announcement that the Professional Darts Corporation will be waiting to decide who is worthy of the remaining coveted Premier League spot, there has much been much debate about who truly deserves it.
The nine players that have already been announced pretty much chose themselves, although Rob Cross may count himself lucky to have a spot, following Gerwyn Price's World Championship win that kept the Englishman ranked at number four in the PDC Order of merit, and in turn, a guaranteed spot.
Jose de Sousa and Dimitri Van de Bergh will be making their debuts in the event this year as the tradition continues that if you win a major in the previous year you will be invited to take part.
This month’s masters are going to be the deciding factor in who the spot goes to. Taking place at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes from the 29th to the 31st of January, the event consists of a straight shoot-out between the contenders; with the player going deepest in the event likely to secure the final spot.
Phil Haigh of the Metro also thinks that’s this is the case. He told VAVEL UK: “I think it is almost entirely dependent on the Masters. The way they have scheduled the announcement for right after it puts all the weighting on what happens there”
So, who are the contenders?
After a superb run at this year’s World Championships, including the 5-0 thrashing of Michael Van Gerwen, Chisnall has put himself in a great position to secure the last spot.
Now at world number 6, a run to semi-finals should be enough for him to make his first Premier League appearance since 2017, should he make it the furthest in the competition.
He has also secured the backing of Colin Lloyd in the last week. "I think the run that he's had at the World Championship has spoken volumes," said Lloyd. "He's back playing the way we know he can play”.
After a disappointing second-round exit to Jason Lowe, Michael Smith has it all to do to get into this year’s edition of the Premier League.
He has finished 7th in the last two years of the competition, forcing the PDC to think that it is time to give someone else a shot. However, Smith had some good performances last year, including a doubleheader of player championship wins in November. It also must not be forgot that Smith reached the Premier League final in 2018, losing 11-4 to Michael van Gerwen.
The ever-consistent James Wade is also in the running. It could be argued that he has had the best year out of all the contenders on the list.
He made the Grand Slam of Darts Final back in November, losing out to Jose De Sousa. Wade also won a Players Championship, although a fourth-round loss to eventual semi-finalist Stephen Bunting might mean he is overlooked again this year. Despite this, a run to the final in the masters might see him squeeze in.
Dirk Van Duijvenbode
Van Duijvenbode had a superb season. The Dutchman broke into the World 32 after regaining his PDC Tour Card last January. He reached his first PDC final at October's World Grand Prix and had a great run to the quarter-finals of the World Championships. Despite a momentous year, the Premier League might just come too soon for the ‘Titan’, although if the PDC were deciding purely on Walk-ons surely, he would be in with a shout?
Although the masters look to be the deciding factor in who grabs the last spot, there are some honourable mentions that must be made to players who had great seasons but are on the fringe of getting a spot.
Although Stephen Bunting shocked everyone to make it to the semi-final of the World Championship, he would be the first to admit he didn’t have his best season before that.
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see what happens in The Masters and who shows us why they deserve that last spot.