He may have lost their most recent encounter, on an electronic board on Thursday night, but Phil Taylor says his rivalry with Raymond van Barneveld was the one that excited him the most.
During an illustrious career that yielded 16 world titles and 16 World Matchplay crowns, ‘The Power’ locked horns with some of the greatest the game of darts has produced.
On Thursday night, more than two years on from their last official meeting, the pair went toe-to-toe again, and it was Barney who came out on top, with a scoreline not a million miles away from the World Championship final epic 12 years ago.
The great Dutchman won a last-leg shoot-out to win 7-6 in sets in 2008, and on Thursday on the electronic Nexus board, he battled back from 6-3 down to win 7-6 in legs in a match of 100+ averages and huge finishes that raised plenty of money for charity in the process, with Barney also agonisingly close to a nine-dart finish.
When grilled earlier this week, the memories came flooding back for Taylor. Eric Bristow, Dennis Priestley, John Lowe and Michael van Gerwen all featured in a wide-ranging conversation with The Darts Show podcast.
“I used to try and get you on your best leg, so if you’d hit a 180 I thought, ‘Right let’s now get them’,” Taylor said with a grin.
“You could tell by the way that they were standing and their body language… I’d still have to keep the pressure on but I knew that I had them.”
“I used to stand behind Phil, and I knew that I was on my game, and I used to think please just give me a shot.
“All of a sudden you’d just hear, ‘Game, shot and the sixth leg, Phil Taylor’ and you’d think… Grrrr.
“What people then don’t realise is that you start trying so hard that you actually do lose your game. You start pushing it and pulling it.
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One of the first topics up for discussion was Taylor’s latest clash with his old foe Van Barneveld.
The Dutchman, himself a five-time world champion, came over from the BDO to dethrone Taylor and while he got the better of The Power in a memorable New Year’s Day final in 2007, it was the man from Stoke who had the upper hand for most of the next decade.
Here’s Taylor on his rivals…
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The best – Raymond van Barneveld
“The Barney games excited me more than Dennis [Priestley] – I thought when Barney joined the PDC it was great, I really enjoyed that.
“It was a great rivalry because he was their No 1 and I was our No 1 and everyone wanted us to play each other – it was exciting.
“When I was playing in the last couple of years, I was playing Barney every other day, so there wasn’t the excitement. But then, it was brilliant, and everyone was talking about it.
So looking forward to this !!! Miss my rivalry with the GREATEST @PhilTaylor but we love to play this match for all the darting fans around the world. And for the people who are working nonstop to aid everyone recovering from the terrible disease. Please people stay safe ??❤️ https://t.co/Wb9i2MjKcj
“He was good as well. He had that little bit of a cockiness about him as well, which I liked.
“I look forward to playing him, even when we do exhibition work together, I get excited about playing Barney.
“It’s ever so weird… he’s my mate now, we’re good friends! We never really were friends before. We’d associate, we’d nod to each other and ask if the other was alright but now we get on really well.
The teacher – Eric Bristow
“Eric was the kick-start for my career because he made me into a winner by ridiculing me, taking the micky and telling me that I was useless!!
“He used to wind me up a little bit, make me play a little bit better.
“At that time, I was only on £70 a week… so Eric would pay for my flights and my hotel. But to buy a drink, and things like that, was difficult.
“It made me into a winner. It didn’t do me any harm, it was good. Bad times, sometimes, things come out of bad times because it makes you try harder.
“He was my practice partner as well, I used to play with him day in and day out. I knew his weaknesses and I knew how good he was.
“Also, I knew Eric was tired as well. You know what it’s like being on the road week in and week out, I wasn’t doing exhibitions in those days. Instead, I was seven days a week at home, practising.
“Eric was on the road three or four days a week and it’s tiring. So, I knew that I’d got the advantage on him.”
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The one that got away – Michael van Gerwen
“I’d be world No 1! I’d get him I would… if I’d have been his age then he would have got it. Trust me.
“He isn’t as mentally strong as me. He knows that, I used to wind him up something rotten and used to have him crying all of the time. He would have loved it, we would have had a great rivalry.
“I would have loved to have played Michael in his prime and be in my prime whilst doing it. I don’t know what the outcome would have been, but I’d work some way out to try to beat him. He is one hell of a player. I do actually like him, even though he winds you up.
“He’s the best player in the world, 100 per cent. I needed somebody to take the game over from me. Barry [Hearn] was saying, what happens when you retire? Who is going to take over? I said that it was obviously going to be Michael.
The toughest to crack – Dennis Priestley
“Dennis was hard work because he was slow, and he was good. When you’re playing a good player who is very, very slow… trust me it does your brain in. Your mind starts wondering so I tried to make my walk around the back a little bit longer.
“In the beginning it did [put me off]. I had to think and figure it out. It was John Lowe who said take a bigger walk off, walk a bit further when you go back and do an extra bit of distance.
“That’s how I got back to it. He [Dennis] was a very consistent player. If he’d have been at his best now, with the dart boards that they manufacture now, he would have been untouchable.
“He had a lot of bounce outs, did Dennis. He’d have been untouchable now.”
The rest of the pack
“I used to love playing Jocky [Wilson] and John Lowe. I really used to love playing John Lowe, his style was so nice.
“Colin [Lloyd] was a top man from the very beginning. He climbed through the rankings quite quickly, he gained a lot of confidence and was a good scorer. He’s a lovely kid, there wasn’t any nastiness in him. He was a good, solid player and he was a good scorer and a finisher.
“The two best finals were Peter Manley, I loved them two.
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