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Jonny Clayton on Darts in lockdown, the Players Championship and I’m a Celebrity

| 25.11.2020

The Ladbrokes Players Championship begins on Friday with 64 of the world’s best battling it out to win the penultimate event before next month’s World Championship.

Ahead of the tournament, we spoke to 66/1 shot Jonny Clayton about his form in 2020, Darts during lockdown and whether himself or fellow Welshman Gerwyn Price would last longer in the I’m A Celebrity castle. Here’s what he had to say…

Ladbrokes News: Hi Jonny! You’ve had an impressive year so far with semi-final runs at the UK Open and European Champs. How well do you feel you’ve been playing this year?

Jonny Clayton: Yeah like you said, I’ve had a couple of really good runs this year and I’m keen to keep that up at the Players Championship and again at the worlds next month. I’m feeling good, my confidence is up and I’m looking forward to keeping my form up this weekend!

LN: You made the final of the Players Championship in 2017, how important was that tournament for you in establishing yourself on the PDC tour?

JC: It was massive, you know. Back in 2017 it was my first final and it was huge experience. I came up against Michael van Gerwen, and lost, but I picked up so much from watching Michael and the likes of Peter Wright and all these guys. And you learn quickly, it was an honour to get to that final. But by losing, I wasn’t disappointed, I was delighted to have got there. It was a great learning curve and I took a lot from it to build with, it was massive for me in the early days of my PDC career.

LN: You’re in section four of the Players Championship draw, and up against Mickey Mansell in the opening round. The winner likely plays Michael van Gerwen. That’s a tricky start…

JC: I’ve played Michael enough so I think I know all his tricks! But I’ve got to get past Mickey first, and Mickey’s a brilliant player. It’ll be interesting too as he’s a slower player, a touch too slow for my liking. But it is what it is, we’ve all got different styles and that includes how quickly we play and we throw. It’ll be a tough task. If I get through that and hopefully I do, I’ll probably play Michael, and really, you’ve just got to take it game by game.

Michael Van Gerwen Darts

LN: Sport has been through so much change in 2020. What has life been like inside the bubble during tournaments?

JC: Yeah it’s been difficult. But it’s only difficult because we’re not used to doing it. We’re all grown ups here, and for somebody to tell you that you cannot leave a certain place can play on your mind a little. We’re not used to doing this. Usually you play your darts, you go out for food, we meet up for a game of snooker or something like that. But when someone tells you that you can’t, and you’re not allowed to leave a certain place, it’s hard going. I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.

LN: What are you and the guys doing to keep yourselves entertained? Which players are you spending the most time with?

JC: Yeah there’s cliques in and around the tour. That’s the same anywhere really. I’m big friends with Joe Cullen, Devon Petersen, Michael Smith. We all get on. And we’ve got a pool table and table tennis, and it’s good for us. It gets us out of our room you know. You need something to get you out of your room. So that’s what we do, have a chat and a game of pool.

LN: And who is the best at pool?

JC: It’s definitely not me! Joe Cullen if I’m honest. He’s pretty hot at the pool and even better at the snooker!

LN: How weird is it playing without fans? Has it taken time to get used to?

JC: I find it weird. When we tried it in Germany with a few fans in, I found that really difficult because there weren’t enough fans to generate that buzz that you need. So I’ve found that I prefer it with the music in the background. When we do have a big crowd, you can feel the buzz and the cheers when you throw a good leg or a 180. It’s really difficult without the fans. Some of us bounce off crowds, some of us prefer it quiet, but I prefer the crowds.

LN: You won the World Cup of Darts earlier this year alongside Gerwyn Price. Will we have a Welsh World champion for the first time this Christmas?

JC: Hopefully! It was nice to pick up that World Cup trophy, and hopefully I can pick up the world championship trophy! Not Gerwyn, he’s won plenty of silverware with the Grand Slam twice, so he doesn’t need to be selfish {chuckles}, he can leave the world championship to me! I’d let him hold it now and then! But obviously, hopefully that world championship trophy is mine this year.

It’d be brilliant for Wales if one of us could win it. There’s a few of us on tour now so fingers crossed.

Jonny Clayton Gerwyn Price

LN: You and Gerwyn have obviously spent a lot of time together recently, and with I’m A Celeb in Wales this year, we want to know who you think would last longest in castle and why?

JC: Ha, that’s a good question! I’d have to say I’d last longer in the castle. I’m probably a little more chilled out than what Gezzy is! I think when Gezzy makes a decision on something he sticks to it. So if he decided to go he’d go! I’m not quite as fiery as Gezzy, I’m probably a bit more laid back so I’d last a bit longer!

gwrych castle I'm a Celebrity

LN: What do you make of the strength in depth in darts today? Is that something the players discuss on tour?

JC: Yeah that’s something we chat about yeah. The old debates ‘Who do you think is the best Phil Taylor or Van Gerwen?’ you know. But the game of darts has come along so much, nobody will ever have the trophy cabinet Phil Taylor’s got. And he was brilliant. What he’s done is second to none. And I don’t think there’s ever going to be somebody as dominant as that. In darts now we can all throw 100+ averages, we can all knock each other out. I think today it comes down to form on the day you know. The player that feels really good on that day will probably just pull through. And especially when you have a long tournament you just hope it’s your couple of weeks. The level of darts now is brilliant and it’s anybody’s at any time.

LN: Who do you think could go all the way at the Players Championship this weekend? Aside from yourself of course!

JC: To be honest, every week is different and every tournament is different. There’s so many new names on trophies this year. Who knows! Obviously you’ll have your Van Gerwens, Peter Wrights, Gezzy Prices high on the list, but there’s so many new names coming through it’s wide open…. hopefully me though!

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.