16-year-old Luke Littler earned a Premier League debut after reaching the final of the World Darts Championship, where he lost 7-4 to world No 1 Luke Humphries; Watch the Premier League Darts live from February 1 on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 05/01/24 6:05am
What next for Luke Littler after his amazing World Darts Championship debut? Wayne Mardle looks back at his impressive Alexandra Palace run and explains why he could be the man to beat in the Premier League this year…
“We’re seeing the absolute start and very beginning of the journey for Luke Littler here,” Mardle told Sky Sports News. “It’s great for us to see the pair of them on top of the world.
“It was the youngest final in the world and the speed of play and the way the game is played has changed. The level the two of them were playing was at minute margins, that’s how good the level of the game was.
“We knew the story of Luke Littler from 12-13-year-old and know they played each other in 2019, so we knew what this kid was all about even if getting through to the final was a push. The world of darts has known about Luke Littler for a very long time and now the world knows about him. The secret is out!
“I’ve been in the Premier League a couple of times and you get a gauge and a guide of who should be in and who shouldn’t. First off, are you good enough? The answer with Luke Littler is yes.
“What does he bring to the table? Does he bring viewers? Does he put bums on seats? Will there be any kind of media around him that can grow the game? Yeah, it’s an absolute no-brainer. For me? Yeah, he’ll take to it like a duck to water.
“The standard of play throughout this World Championship has been immense. I’ve never seen the like and I believe the 4.8m are watching to also see something they can’t do. We were forgetting to commentate because we were so mesmerised by what was happening.”
The two Lukes favourites for Premier League glory?
This year’s Premier League line-up is arguably the strongest in history, with seven of the top eight players on the PDC Order of Merit included and six former world champions among those featuring.
“It’s an amazing line-up,” Mardle added. “We’ve got two debutants, we’ve got a seven-time champion. There’s a few in there that need to produce like Peter Wright. There’s a few in there that will want to prove a point like Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price.
“We know Peter Wright is near the back end of his career and has got to play well – there’s pressure on him to play well. He won the European Championships by playing some amazing darts.
“He didn’t play well in last year’s edition of the Premier League. He went out in the World Championship with a whimper, so he needs to produce and there’s pressure on him to do so.
“Gerwyn Price has to produce as well. There have been a few performances that have been a bit flat, a bit lacklustre, so that needs to change.
“When you look at Michael Smith, from winning the World Championship to losing the World Championship he’ll want to have a good run. For me, the one that is going to go under the radar is going to be Rob Cross.
“The way Littler dealt with him was extraordinary. I feel like Cross has got a real shout with this – he was quite verbal last year about being left out.
“Michael van Gerwen loves this format. He has won it plenty of times and will be tough to beat but Luke Humphries and Luke Littler are the favourites.
“To qualify for the Premier League these days is so tough. The school of darts is brutal.”
What next for Littler?
Littler’s success at Ally Pally saw him move inside the world’s top 32 and saw him earn a two-year PDC Tour card, with former Premier League champion Glen Durrant excited about what darts’ newest star can achieve next.
“We haven’t seen a talent like this since Michael van Gerwen,” Durrant told Sky Sports. “He is generational. He is so mature. He has got everything – that beautiful combination of incredible scoring and unbelievable finishing.
“He’s the real deal and he has got to enjoy the moment. There was a time when I was Premier League champion and then a week later I could barely hit a big 20. Live for it right now, Luke.
“He’s got there with this incredible talent and unbelievable maturity for a 16-year-old. Long may it continue.”
Premier League Darts returns to Sky Sports on Thursday February 1 as Cardiff kicks off the 17-week extravaganza all the way through to the Play-Offs on Thursday May 23. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW