Exclusive: PDC darts star Stephen Bunting talks his career, 2017 Worlds and Liverpool FC with Coral
Sam Barnard | 18 December 2016
Stephen Bunting speaks exclusively to Coral
The 2017 PDC World Championship is now fast approaching and, to get into the darting festive spirit, check out Coral’s exclusive interview with arrowsmith ace Stephen Bunting, who has taken the time speak with us about his career, the upcoming Worlds and his beloved Liverpool football club.
World number 16 Bunting, nicknamed The Bullet, made an immediate impression after switching over from the BDO in 2014 as world champion, reaching the latter stages at the likes of the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam and European Championship.
Although the Liverpudlian (4/9 to win his opening match) had a brief drop in form, he is now back among the elite in the rankings and raring to go for the Ally Pally event, which starts on December 15th.
With it being nearly three years since he joined the PDC, we first asked Stephen how he has found life compared to Lakeside…
“I believe [my new] darts will take me to a [PDC] world title”
“The PDC is a lot tougher and the standard is astronomical,” he said. “Hitting a 100+ average doesn’t guarantee a win anymore.
“I would say I have done well so far getting up to 16 in the world rankings and winning two Pro Tours (a Players Championship and UK Open Qualifier event), but there is a lot more in the tank and I am looking forward to some great years ahead of me. The hard work starts now!”
As a result of Bunting’s thrilling year in 2014, where he also got to the PDC World Championship quarter-finals the following festive period, he qualified for the Premier League and finished eighth out of 10 on his debut.
“I had a great start [in the PDC] but players then become wary and with that they become harder to beat. The higher I rose in the rankings I started bumping into all the top seeds, and then playing in the Premier League – which by the way I really enjoyed – it did knock my confidence.
“I changed my darts to the Eclipse Target, made for me, and I now believe these darts will take me to a world title over in the PDC in the coming years.”
“I know my A game will [beat Webster]”
Bunting (a tasty 200/1 to win the 2017 PDC World Championship) is certainly confident about his future in the sport, for good reason being a four-time BDO major winner, and he tells us his plans…
“My short and long term goals really are to do well in all the upcoming majors and to keep rising [in] the rankings as high as I can. Obviously everybody’s goal in the PDC is aimed towards the World Championship, and I hope to be crowned a world champ again and also to push myself back into contention for the Premier League.”
While, he also gives his thoughts on first opponent Darren Webster, who he faces on December 17th. Bunting boasts a career 2-1 winning record over his fellow Englishman, but Demolition Man has lived up to his nickname recently by shocking many in reaching the Players Championship Finals semis and whitewashing Phil Taylor in the Grand Slam.
“Make no mistake about it, Darren Webster is a fantastic thrower,” Bunting said. “His recent form is good reaching the semis of the Players Championship. But in the same context I know my A game will win the game.
“I have been putting several hours a day into my practice routine, and playing with the likes of [three-time women’s BDO world champion] Anastasia Dobromyslova, John Bowles who is in the Worlds himself, and top ranked BDO star Mark McGeeney is coming down this week. I will be 100 per cent focused and prepared for Darren on the 17th and I have not looked past the first round.”
“Every good run comes to an end”
Stephen has a tricky draw, with the likes of world number one Michael van Gerwen, in-form Mensur Suljovic, Simon Whitlock and Robert Thornton all in his quarter (which he is 28/1 to win), but he gives his thoughts on the upcoming tournament and his predictions…
“I haven’t really looked at the draw apart from my first game as I believe it can be a mistake to do that and you can easily take your eye off the first opponent, who I have to take seriously.
“MvG has been in tremendous form and is like a steam train at the minute, but every good run comes to an end and I am hoping that my best darts of the season have been stored and are to be produced at Ally Pally which could see me lift the title.
“As for a shock run, ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans has come in a bit under the radar recently and if he wins his first he can find the momentum to go far in the Worlds; he has experience on the big stage too.”
You can take odds of 21/10 for Evans to defeat first opponent Michael Smith, while Van Gerwen is the 8/13 tournament favourite.
“[Klopp] can bring the Premier League title to Anfield”
Away from darts, Bunting was very keen to talk passionately about his football team Liverpool, their boss Jurgen Klopp, iconic former captain Steven Gerrard and who he wants to see the club sign.
“I am a massive Liverpool fan and I must say the start of the season has been phenomenal,” he exclaimed.
“Jurgen Klopp has got everyone believing and right behind the club. He is an amazing manager who seems to have a great regime that all the players adhere to, and you can see the passion on the sidelines and even when he comes on the pitch at the end of matches. I am a Kloppite and a massive believer that he can bring the Premier League title to Anfield; maybe not this year but we are still in the hunt and you never know.
“In the first half of the Bournemouth game we were outstanding, and to lose that game the way we did (4-3, when 3-1 up) I just hope it doesn’t knock the confidence of the team,” he added.
“I think I would like to see [Liverpool sign] a defender and striker. Maybe Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, who looks great, and also Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. He is linked with so many great clubs but has played under Klopp, so I’m hopeful that he can see it that way if we make a bid. I would also love Stevie G to come back in some capacity.”
Sticking with the Liverpool theme, we asked Stephen about his fellow Merseyside natives Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall and Robbie Green, who are all in the main draw of this year’s World Championship.
“Yes Smith, Chisnall, Green and myself are all Merseysiders. We are always chatting and having a laugh when we are on the tour.
“Chizzy, Kong (Green) and myself are LFC, where as Bully Boy (Smith) is MUFC (Manchester United) so we have a bit of banter over the footie too. I think it’s been easier to settle in as they are familiar faces and all good lads.”
“Barry Hearn is an amazing guy with such passion [for darts]”
Meanwhile, on the growth of the sport, Bunting seems very excited and desperately wants to be a big part of it. At just 31 years old, he’ll certainly be around for many more years, and he gives us his thoughts on darts’ future and what PDC chairman Barry Hearn has done for the game…
“I would love to see darts keep expanding all over the world. I think Barry Hearn has got all the players very excited, always raising the prize money, expanding into new countries/continents, announcing new TV deals. Barry Hearn is an amazing guy with such passion for what he does and I am so happy we have him as our chairman.
“Some of the best tournaments I have played in would be at World Series events in Dubai, Tokyo, Sydney, Perth and Auckland. Although they are miles away, the venues, setup and crowd were all amazing and the hospitality shown by the PDC was second to none. I would love to get back into these and, as I said before, the time and effort on the practice board hopefully will see me climbing back into position to play in these amazing events again.”
Finally, we asked Stephen if there are any of his former BDO contemporaries he’d like to see switch to the PDC soon…
“It would be wrong for me to tell anyone to switch to the PDC as it is their own decision, but in my honest opinion I would like to see [BDO world number one] Glen Durrant and Mark McGeeney (winner and runner-up respectively of the recent World Masters) – both fantastic players.
“It would be interesting to see how they play with the increased standard of players they would be facing.”
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