Chris Dobey prepares to fly the flag for Northumberland at the PDC World Championship
The PDC World Championship is the pinnacle of Darts – and one of Northumberland’s very-own is there to fly the flag.
Bedlington-born Chris ‘Hollywood’ Dobey is preparing for his fifth visit to the competition’s spiritual home of Alexandra Palace and bidding to go all the way on darts’ biggest stage.
Excitement is building in the Dobey camp but admittedly, things will be slightly, if not a lot, different this time around.
On Sunday Dobey travelled to the London venue alone and undergo a coronavirus test before the competition gets under way on Wednesday afternoon.
That means restricted access for family and friends but the news that fans WILL be allowed to attend - albeit a significantly reduced capacity - is a massive boost for the 30-year-old.
Dobey told the Northumberland Gazette: “It’s the best venue and biggest competition of them all. To have the extra 10 per cent with the fans there, that’s going to be the best thing about it.
“I love being down there with family and friends, who normally come to watch, but obviously this year is a bit different so I’m going down on my own.
“I’ve really missed the crowd. It’s hard to play without them because they always spur me on that little bit more.
“It doesn’t matter if there are 10, 1000 or 5000 people in, they’re, as I say, that extra 10 per cent I need. It’s just nice to have them back and hopefully I can get back to my best.”
A very honest Dobey was the first to admit he had struggled for form in the previous four weeks.
Dobey described his failure to qualify for the Grand Slam of Darts in mid-November as “probably the worst week of my darting career” before disappointingly falling at the first hurdle in the Players Championship Finals, losing to Latvian Madars Razma.
But having gone back to the practice board and made some adjustments to his darts, Dobey is gearing up to face either Keane Barry or Jeff Smith in his tournament opener.
"I’m pretty confident,” said Dobey. “I’ve had a bad spell during the past month or so but I’m starting to play well, I just need to start picking the results up.
“I’ve changed a few points on my darts and had the chance to try them out, so hopefully I’ve sorted that and I can get back to my best at the Worlds.
“I haven’t played Keane (Barry) before. I’ve played Jeff (Smith) on a couple of occasions but they’re both great players.
“I’m happy enough to sit back and let them battle it out - hopefully they’ll take it out of each other before they play me!
“I’m sure it’ll be a cracking game between them and I look forward to playing the winner.”
During his last two appearances at the World Championship, Dobey has narrowly missed out on a place in the quarter-finals to two-time champion Gary Anderson and close friend Glen Durrant.
When Dobey and Durrant line-up against each other, fans often enjoy playing up to the Newcastle United versus Middlesbrough rivalry.
Indeed, scars still run deep from those 4-3 defeats, but Dobey hopes to use those tough experiences as learning curves and go one better.
Dobey added: “I’m hoping I can go further than last year, I’m always confident. You know who’s in front and who there is to play but I just focus on one game at a time.
“The last couple of years, I think I’ve thrown them away to be fair.
“I missed chances to take Gary (Anderson) out - thoughts of that game still run through my head!
“But last year, losing to Duzza (Glen Durrant), it was a hard one to take because the only set he deserved to win was probably the last one when he won the set 3-0.
“We’re great friends. We have banter on social media and in-person together. It’s great to have someone like Glen on tour with me.
“The rivalry just gets pushed to the side, we laugh it off. Everything is a joke - I even bought him a Newcastle shirt last week!
“I learn a lot from Glen, he’s been there and done it.
“It's a hard one to look back on but you’ve just got to take little positives each game.
“Hopefully, I learned a lot from that and try to improve this year.”