Can Van Gerwen really become “the greatest” and beat Taylor’s title tally?
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | Updated September 21, 2016
“Stopping Phil Taylor? It’s like trying to halt a water buffalo with a pea-shooter,” the late great darts commentator Sid Waddell once said.
However, 56-year-old Taylor’s powers are gradually fading, and have been for the last two years, with one man largely the reason for his demise – Michael van Gerwen.
There is no doubting that Taylor is still one of the best around in darts, and perhaps can still produce another Major title or two before he eventually joins the likes of fellow legends Eric Bristow and Dennis Priestley in hanging up his arrows.
Taylor says Van Gerwen is the “the greatest”
Even by his own admission after the 2016 World Matchplay final back in July, The Power described his conqueror Van Gerwen as “the greatest”.
He surely didn’t mean of all time (yet), but can the dominant Dutchman (4/6 odds-on favourite with Coral to win the upcoming Champions League of Darts) actually ever surpass Taylor’s ridiculous Major title record?
Before Waddell sadly passed away, he also said that “Taylor was the greatest there ever was and will be”, and most, if not all, agreed with him.
Since his maiden Major title in the BDO at the 1990 World Championship, the Stoke-born arrowsmith has racked up an unworldy 86 of the sport’s top trophies across both organisations (including the News of the World Championship and PDC World Cup of Darts team tournament).
A grand total of 16 of those are at the annual World Championship (two BDO, 14 PDC).
Taylor one of the best sportsmen ever
To put that into perspective, other past dominant stars in their sports such as Tiger Woods (14 Majors), Roger Federer (17 Grand Slams) and Michael Schumacher (seven world titles) don’t even come close.
The former duo of Woods and Federer in particular were given the chance to claim their top trophies four times a year, whereas Taylor could attempt to do so just once every Christmas.
Even arguably snooker’s most gifted ever cueist Ronnie O’Sullivan has claimed just five World Championships, although Joe Davis did win 15 from 1927-1946.
The Rocket once said of Taylor: “Even Roger Federer would be astounded at Phil’s haul of world titles. He’s a sporting legend, one of the greatest ever.”
And former boxing world champion Ricky Hatton echoed his comments by adding: “His work ethic is incredible. With his dedication he’s one of the greatest sportsmen alive.”
MvG has head-start on Taylor
That was all before the Green Machine MvG (even-money favourite to win the 2017 PDC World Championship) really announced himself onto the scene, though.
Now 27 years old, Van Gerwen already has 18 Major televised titles. In comparison, Taylor had only been playing the game seriously for one year and was turning out for his county at the same age. The Power didn’t even win his first Major title until he was 30.
Going by that logic, Van Gerwen is well ahead of Taylor in hunting down his title haul, and perhaps that is why Taylor continues his attempt to improve and adapt, in order to halt the Dutchman as much as he can.
“I’ve got to start making changes and that starts tomorrow morning,” Taylor said following his 18-10 loss in the World Matchplay final.
“Trust me, maybe I’m too old now, but I’m going to lead the way. If I get a player, I’m going to teach him to beat a player like him. He is phenomenal.
Taylor determined to stop Green Machine
“I’m gutted with myself,” he added. “My energy levels were not there and he killed me – he bullied me. He’s very, very aggressive. When he hits a good shot he lets you know. He’s a nasty player.
“We need to turn to tables – that’s the only way you can beat him. We’re not giving him quality practice. This was like a practice session for him.
“He does everything. Darts has changed. I was lucky enough to play against every great that’s ever played – [Van Gerwen] is the greatest as far as I’m concerned.
“This is a fella that’s domineering the game. There’s only one way to beat him – match him – he believes in himself and at the minute we’re not.”
Mighty Mike not short of confidence
Van Gerwen, who is the first person to ever beat Taylor in a World Matchplay final at the 16th attempt, is certainly not short of confidence either, and on his performance said: “I thought I dominated the final.
“I’ve played well throughout the tournament. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes and I didn’t even play my best but against Phil you have to step it up and that’s what I did.
“Now I have the title back again and it feels amazing. I did the right things at the right moments and my finishing was fantastic.”
Perhaps the only worry now for Van Gerwen if he is to break Taylor’s record, is that does he have the motivation to carry on at this level for so many more years?
The likes of his compatriot Raymond van Barneveld, John Part and even Bristow dipped before their 50s, and although matched Taylor’s level at times, could not do so consistently and for as long.
But, one competition Van Gerwen is yet to really show his true colours at is the World Championship, having won just once in 2014. Just 15 more to go Michael…