One of the most successful players of the PDC era, Gary Anderson remains one of only three men to have won back-to-back world titles, and is also one of three men to have won multiple Premier Leagues.
Moving over from the BDO to the PDC in 2009, Anderson admits it took him a little while to find his feet with the organisation.
As #1 seed, the 2009 BDO World Championships, where Anderson would lose in the quarter-finals to eventual runner-up Tony O’Shea, would be the Scotsman’s last before making the switch to the PDC, something he wishes he’d done sooner.
“Coming to the PDC, they’d been after me for a while,” said Anderson. “I was with the BDO and you get it drummed into you that ‘you don’t want to do this, you don’t want to do that’. I’ve been over 12/13 years now but in my mind I should’ve been across a lot earlier. I never had a clue but I’d like to have come over three or four years before I did.
“It was exactly the same game, but the difference was absolutely miles. It was the constant playing, getting used to the big stage, used to the crowds that I wasn’t used to – bigger, noisier – it was chalk and cheese.
“The standards are getting better every week now, but I’ll be keen to see how many of the youngsters will still be going in 20 years’ time, because that’s the hard bit.”
Despite his tremendous tungsten talent across 25 years of playing darts, the Flying Scotsman has often been caught out with counting, which he still laughs at now.
“Straight from the word go, I could more or less hit what I want to hit. Counting-wise, I still struggle to this day! These youngsters put me to shame, but throwing-wise I took up very quickly. For the counting and mental part, it took a heck of a long time to get used to!
“I’ve been all over the world with darts, seeing countries and cities and mountains and everything else you could ever imagine seeing. It’s been great. It’s been busier, the last 20 years living out of a suitcase. It’s a good life but it’s a hard life at the same time.
“Before I got into darts, I was into snooker and pool,” said Anderson. “It got to the stage where it was getting too much to play snooker and pool, but I saw a set of darts lying about, and I picked up a set at the age of 24 for the first time, and 26 years later I’m still playing.”
Part of Anderson’s popularity stems from his grace in defeat. Even after losing three world finals, Anderson would always respond with a handshake and a smile.
“I’m a bit different to other players,” said Anderson. “You go up there and try your best, if you get beaten, all you can do is shake the man’s hand. There’s no point getting disappointed about it, there’s worse things in life than losing a game of darts, even if it is the World Championships.
“You’ll lose more games than you’ll win and you gain a hell of a lot of experience. There’s some folk that kick right off when they lose a game, but at the end of the day, you’ve got the next week.”
The pandemic saw a suspension to the PDC season, and Anderson has often struggled for form since, admitting it has made him rethink his work/life balance.
“I know Covid’s a terrible thing, but I was at home, and that’s the longest time I’ve spent at home and I enjoyed every minute, with the kids every day, 24/7,” said Anderson. “I did things around the house, in the garden, spent time with the family, whereas before I was lucky to get two days a week at home.
“Should I have been practising? Yes! But home schooling and all that kind of took over, and I think that’s what caught me off guard the last few years.
“Beating Phil Taylor was great (in the 2015 World Championship final), but then I was constantly out working. I think for two-and-a-half years I had something like 92 days at home, but it’s part of it.”
“I’d like to win the Grand Slam before we knock it on the head. But years before, darts was 100%, it was my life, now I’ve found a few more things so it’s only getting 50% at the moment, and I’ve come to enjoy family life. I’ll still play, I still enjoy playing it, but we can’t promise anything, put it that way.”
After defeat in the 2011 World Darts Championship final, Anderson would go back-to-back in 2015 and 2016, and remembers the nerves around returning to Ally Pally as defending champion.
“Back-to-back was great,” said Anderson. “I remember walking on stage for my first game and all I wanted to do was get past the first round – don’t be a reigning champion who loses in the first round.
“I didn’t do anything different, I played really well, everything seemed to go right, and I pipped it again. Then the following year I lost in the final to Michael van Gerwen. It’d have been nice to have a hat-trick but to get three World Championship finals in succession takes some doing and I’ll always take that with me.
“It was funny, the first time, I remember Eric Bristow saying ‘why do you keep going for double 12? You can’t hit it!’ and I said to a friend of mine, if I’m going to win this against Taylor I’m going to do it on double 12. Then as a joke the next year I said I’d do the same thing, and it was.