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01 Jan 17 18:48
Date Joined: 18 Jul 02
| Topic/replies: 24,312 | Blogger: Angoose's blog
"Anyone who writes Phil Taylor off is an idiot," said Rod Harrington ahead of the World Darts Championship a few weeks ago.

Now, in the wake of his quarter-final defeat to old foe Raymond van Barneveld, there's an ever growing number of critics claiming Taylor's prospects of ever getting his hands on a 17th world title are finished.

Indeed, some will even start to suggest he might as well retire somewhere near the top of the game rather than struggle on in pursuit of what is becoming an increasingly unlikely dream.

I doubt Harrington would even brand the naysayers as idiots now - perhaps he'd downgrade the insult to just being a little naïve - such has been the highly-impressive standard of darts which Taylor isn't quite equalling anymore.

Sure, the 56-year-old still averaged over 100 on a couple of occasions during his run to the last eight but his overall levels of play were someway short of those the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright have been producing and when it really mattered against Barney he failed to deliver in a match of below-par quality.

He had beaten the veteran Dutchman 56 times in their previous 76 meetings but there was no sign of a mental block from Barney as he only needed an average of 96.31 and a checkout percentage of 33.33 to cut the Power on the World Championship stage for the first time since that famous 2007 final.

Let's not forget this disappointing show from Taylor has come off the back of two years with only one major televised individual title to his name, although admittedly that came as recently as September when he defeated Michael van Gerwen twice in one weekend to win the inaugural Champions League of Darts, which reminded critics not to dismiss the prospect of a strong end to the season.

However he sadly lost that form as quickly as he found it, crashing out to unheralded Steve West in the opening round of the World Grand Prix before suffering a crushing 10-3 quarter-final defeat to Mensur Suljovic at the European Championship, while Peter Wright ended his quest for glory at both the Grand Slam of Darts and the World Series of Darts Finals.

It may have been a completely different year had he not choked when missing seven match darts to beat van Gerwen in the Masters final back in January and the world number one subsequently put Taylor in his place at the UK Open, Premier League and World Matchplay during a stunning 2016 which saw him win 25 tournaments.

After all those years at the top, inflicting deep mental wounds on his rivals, it is now the 16-time world champion lacking the belief and composure to get the job done when it really counts.

But be careful not to tell him that - as one of his former victims Wayne Mardle found out by being hit with a foul-mouthed retort in the Sky Sports studio following his 4-2 victory over Kim Huybrechts in the last 16.

While Taylor's best form and consistency each year continues to slide, albeit gradually, as age catches up with him, the game's future stars are rapidly climbing the rankings to challenge the established order which will inevitably make it even tougher for him to expect any easy rides like he used to.

Even 21-year-old Aussie sensation Corey Cadby showed no fear as he managed an astonishing 6-2 triumph over Taylor at the Perth Darts Masters earlier this year and perhaps this is a sign to come as the crop of ever-improving youngsters get more and more chances to play the big guns.

Despite all this, Taylor remains one of the top four or five players in the game today, heading into nearly all of his matches as favourite, and will continue to be among the front runners to lift the trophies at every tournament he decides to enter in his scaled down schedule.

So why should he retire with so few players above him?

You could ask the same about Roger Federer as he battles on well past his peak in pursuit of an elusive 18th Grand Slam title in tennis.

Whereas Federer's last crowning moment was back in 2012, Taylor's came in January 2013 so the longer they've both been competing without tasting glory, the hunger has grown to do it one last time.

As if 17 Grand Slams and 16 world titles aren't enough.

But if they had ever thought any total was enough, they wouldn't have become such iconic figures in their respective sports and it's testament to their character that failure to add another would probably leave them feeling some sense of regret, in the short term at least. A ludicrous notion, of course, for virtually anybody else.

In an ideal world, all sports stars would know when they've reached the top for the last time and retire there and then before heading into the sunset rather than enduring years in the comparative wilderness trying to fill a void which shouldn't really exist.

But had Federer and Taylor done so - assuming neither fulfil their dream of one last hurrah - then they would not only have kissed goodbye to fortunes in career earnings but more importantly robbed the game's fans of many memorable matches whether in defeat or victory.

So Taylor has plenty to think about as he considers his future in the sport.

He admits the travelling around the world for countless tournaments may have got too much these days but does he still relish the competition enough, thrive on the attention and believe he can still get the fans off their seats?

The answer to all those questions will be yes unless he accepts another major prize is beyond him.

A natural-born winner will struggle to maintain their motivation while playing second, third or even fourth fiddle but surely he won't want his last match to be a defeat against another old timer like Barney?

Had he instead seen his run ended by a rising star or even MVG in the semi-finals then perhaps a 'shock' retirement could have been anticipated in the coming days.

Now he'll feel he has little option but to plough on and desperately try to end his glittering career on a high at some point in 2017, but if the last two years are anything to go by, his moments of glory may remain firmly in the past.
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Report Angoose January 1, 2017 7:49 PM GMT
Piece written by Chris Hammer in the Sporting Life Plain
Report n88uk January 1, 2017 8:02 PM GMT
It's all true. He is of course still in the top 4-5 players in the world, it's just that's such a come down when you have been the best player by a long way for a long time. It's also hard for these players to get used to losing, after all in these sports like darts and tennis there's only 1 winner each week, everyone else lost at some point.
Report Angoose January 1, 2017 8:13 PM GMT
They love the spotlight and simply can't easily walk away from it.

There's a good scene in Moneyball that captures a similar scenario for a baseball player who "wants to stay in the show".
Really good film if you've never seen it.

Look at actors, they are even worse, simply can't give up the spotlight and take increasingly rubbish roles to keep themselves on the silver screen.
Report eagles33 January 1, 2017 8:25 PM GMT
english pal
Report orzabal January 1, 2017 10:33 PM GMT
He will get a job in the media, such is his charm!
Report Angoose January 1, 2017 10:39 PM GMT
I could easily see Phil and Eric doing a chat show on Talksport Laugh
Report hfink January 1, 2017 11:15 PM GMT
Apparently he's a multi-millionaire.
Report chavman January 2, 2017 10:26 AM GMT
he doesnt need to do it anymore you know
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