Changing of the guard?

No matter where one looks, online or in other media outlets, there will be reference to the oddity that is the period between Christmas and the New Year.

You’ve no clue what day it is, you’re just about sick of eating turkey but cake/pudding/sweets are still fair game. For someone like myself with whom mental health difficulties are never more than the flick of a switch away, Christmas can be something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

That said, lest it be thought I was a complete Grinch, it will scarcely stun anybody to learn that it tends to be the abundance of sporting action which makes said pair of weeks even slightly more negotiable. Namely, an avalanche of horse racing, a tsunami of soccer and a deluge of darts. With a repartee of rugby on the side.

A time of contradictions. Yes, I absolutely adore racing. In many ways, it’s my bread and butter. Soccer and rugby act as decent stocking fillers, but, Christmas to me is darts time.

As with a lot of life now, it’s a bit of a bittersweet thing. The upside of it hardly needs further elaboration. Come to think of it, the flip side shouldn’t either. After all, it was another thing myself and the boss specialised in taking in together.

Plus, when the action returns to the Ally Pally after the festive interval, it means the event is hurtling towards a conclusion. That’s never a good thing.

Anyhow, since the action has returned at the London venue, it’s been difficult not to wonder has there been something of a changing of the guard unfolding before our eyes. Allow me to explain.

While it couldn’t be said that the likes of Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith, Jonny Clayton or Joe Cullen as ‘new’, with the eliminations of, for example, Simon Whitlock and Peter Wright and Gary Anderson and Peter Wright and Mervyn King, you wonder might we see some of the older slingers in town again.

Champ in waiting? Michael Smith

Naturally, their elimination has opened the door for others to break on through to the other side. However, achieving that progression has been far from straightforward owing to some of the best exhibitions of the sport the one seeing eye here has ever ran over.

Beginning with an epic encounter between Jim Williams and Gabriel Clemens, which the German Giant just about edged. Mind you, that was put firmly in the ha’penny place by what followed in its wake.

The most seismic upset seen, not just in this year’s World Championship but in any incarnation of same since yours truly has been properly attuned to such things. That being the dethroning of Peter Wright as the holder of the Sid Waddell Trophy by Kim Huybrechts of Belgium.

During his distinguished if often luckless career, Terry Jenkins was known as The Raging Bull, but if Huybrechts hadn’t adopted the moniker of ‘The Hurricane, he could quite easily have taken Terry’s stage title.

You often heard of people doing their jobs with a smile except in this case the younger of the Belgian tungsten throwing brothers goes about his business with a snarl. And is all the better for it.

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Whatever it was that lit his fuse against Wright, it was certainly the best this corner has ever seen him produce. However, it may also be the case that he peaked too early.

As evidenced by the manner in which he imploded in the Belgian Derby against Dimitri Van Den Bergh. Though it must be said that the latter-named from the land of chocolate is capable of similar against any foe and may do so again before this tournament concludes.

Jonny Clayton’s expulsion of the emerging Josh Rock needs to be taken as a signpost of his genuine title prospects. He is far from alone there. You can add Michael Van Gerwen, Michael Smith, Gerwyn Price, Van Den Bergh and – though an outside bet – Chris Dobey.

Were Clayton or Van Den Bergh or Dobey or Smith end up custodian of Sid’s majestic trophy for the next 11 and a bit months, it would indeed represent a changing of the guard.

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