Comment & Analysis
Ryan Searle on Premier League Darts prospects, breaking into the top 16 and Gary Anderson's influence
Searle will take on either William Borland or former World Youth champion Bradley Brooks in his Alexandra Palace opener; the world No 15 could be set to renew his rivalry with Peter Wright in the last 16
Last Updated: 09/12/21 6:15am
Ryan Searle continued his ascent up the darting ladder with a magnificent display at the Players Championship Finals last month, but having been tipped as a potential Premier League candidate in 2022, 'Heavy Metal' admits he has his doubts.
Searle defeated three former major winners en route to reaching his first televised final in Minehead - overcoming Simon Whitlock, Rob Cross and Daryl Gurney on his way to the last four, before accounting for a resurgent Brendan Dolan in the semi-finals.
The Somerset star came agonisingly close to dethroning world No 2 Peter Wright in a thrilling finale, producing a stunning 177 to leave 24 after 12 darts in a dramatic deciding-leg, although he wasn't afforded a match dart.
However, his exploits have catapulted him into the world's top 16 for the first time, and with the World Championship on the horizon, Searle is very much part of the Premier League conversation.
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"I'm going to have to have a good World Championship now to really push into that, but it's not the end of the world if I'm not in it," he told the Darts Show podcast.
"If they offered me the Premier League I would have to have a long, hard think about that. I'm not saying I would turn it down.
"Do I think I'm ready for it? I'm not 100 per cent sure after the semi and final last weekend. I have never felt pressure like that - unbelievable."
Searle would certainly fit the Premier League bill. He's enigmatic, explosive and a prolific maximum hitter, capable of beating anybody in the darting world.
He underlined his credentials with a run to the last eight at October's World Grand Prix, and despite scooping a second Pro Tour title earlier this year, Searle believes there is plenty more to come.
"I would like to be top eight or top four, but I've got a lot more to improve before that comes."
Searle aiming high...
"I feel like I've still got another gear to click into, so who knows what I can do?
"I take one tournament at a time. If I'm being honest the main goal for this year was just to get into the top 32.
"I managed to do that fairly quickly. The runs I have been having over the last two or three months have helped, but I'm just excited about where things can go.
"To be in the top 16 already - that was probably a goal for next season, so to be there already is great. I would like to be top eight or top four, but I've got a lot more to improve before that comes."
The 34-year-old is one of the sport's emerging characters. Recognisable for his flowing locks and his heavy 32g tungsten - the nickname 'Heavy Metal' is certainly befitting.
Searle's poor eyesight also sets him apart from his rivals. You could be forgiven for thinking that good vision is an essential ingredient for darting success, but Searle is proving otherwise.
The world No 15 recently revealed that he's only just above the legal limit to drive when wearing glasses, but his astigmatism isn't hindering his progress on the oche.
"I have terrible eyesight. It's worse when I go for the bull or 25, it's really blurry," he admitted.
"In the final I had 125 left and I threw the first dart at the bullseye and I couldn't see whether it was bull or 25 so I asked Huw [Ware] and he said bull, so I threw the next one for the 25 and I had to stop and ask: 'Then what is that?'
"It is something I've always been used to, so it's no real shock to me."
Searle has made consistent progress since bursting onto the PDC scene in 2016, although the last three months have marked a seismic breakthrough on the big stage.
'Heavy Metal' is now transferring his blistering Pro Tour form to the televised arena, and he's hailed the influence of two-time world champion Gary Anderson.
The pair, who live approximately 45 minutes apart in the south west - have enjoyed regular practice sessions over the last 12 months, and Searle is reaping the benefits.
"A massive part of my progression in the last year has been down to being able to practice with Gary," he said.
"I never had anyone to practice with before him. He's helped me a lot. We play 70 or 80 legs some nights and it is just constant - you cannot afford to miss.
"You try and look at it as a proper match situation as far as the pressure goes, and I think that has helped me no end.
"Obviously the Worlds is coming up now. There is huge ranking money to be won at the Worlds, so a nice little run there and who knows where I'll end up?"
It's not long to wait until the darts returns to your screens and it's the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace - join us on Sky Sports for every arrow from every session across 16 days which gets under way on Wednesday, December 15