Adrian Gray targeting successful PDC return after soft-tip stardom

Hastings ace Gray celebrates (credit:DartsLive)

Adrian Gray is hoping to hit the heights he reached more than a decade ago in his comeback campaign on the PDC circuit.

Gray, 37, gained a reputation as the 'poster boy' of the sport during his breakthrough spell in 2007, but the success was short-lived as he dropped off the tour six years later and entered the darting wilderness.

Unconventionally, Gray opted to forge a new career predominantly in the soft-tip version of the sport, with his success arguably paving the way for a flood of British steel-tip players to follow suit.

A two-time DartsLive event winner, Gray made four unsuccessful visits to Qualifying School before eventually regaining a place on the PDC circuit this January at the fifth attempt.

He is now aiming to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Hastings thrower Rob Cross - who claimed a fairy-tale world title triumph in 2018.

"It's a great feeling to be back on the tour and it shows all the hard work has paid off," Gray told Live Darts.

"I've been to Wigan a couple of times trying to get my card back but I felt good this year as compared to previous years.

"I've been putting the effort in and playing a lot of darts so I've felt really good and things went right for me.

"I've been off the scene for a long time in steel-tip but I know what I can do, and if it happens on the day then it's all good.

"I know just being on the tour doesn't mean I'm going to be the next Michael van Gerwen or Rob Cross but it gives me the chance to play against them and test my ability against them."

The former carpet fitter famously laid the floor with the legendary Phil Taylor at the 2007 World Grand Prix, but success from there on in proved few and far between on the sport's big stages.

Gray admits he struggled to handle the added pressure brought about by that giant-killing in Dublin.

"There were massive pressures and that's why it kind of ended there," he added.

"Beating Phil Taylor on TV and then trying to handle that pressure, it shows it did get to me.

"It wasn't just the pressures of me, the field is so good, that, to perform week-in, week-out and get back up after being knocked down was tough.

"I used to go in to events believing I could win them and then slowly it started going 'please let me win a round' and that's the scale it got to.

"Leaving the family each weekend and coming back with nothing was really tough to take."

Gray's largely successful venture into the world of soft-tip darts saw him ply his trade in Asia and beyond, taking on household names such as Paul Lim, Haruki Murumatsu and Royden Lam.

The former Las Vegas Desert Classic quarter-finalists says he now plans to focus on getting his steel-tip career back on track but may continue to balance the two.

He added: "A lot of people have their opinion on soft-tip, that's fine, but I find it so enjoyable.

"Like when I first started playing darts, it was so enjoyable, and because this was kind of different, I was able to re-focus and none of the bad memories of being beaten week-in, week-out existed - so it was a fresh start for me.

"You have to adjust to the throwing distance, but the bigger targets means happy days for me, more 180s and more 150s and it makes you feel good.

"I never thought that I'd ever travel to Asia, with the PDC I'd been to Vegas and around the UK and Europe but finally getting to Asia, seeing the culture and being liked by so many people was a whole new experience for me and very enjoyable.

"My main focus now is on steel-tip so if any soft-tip events are on while there's no PDC events, I'll juggle the two.

"Soft-tip is the fun side of darts but steel-tip is the serious side."

Gray prepared for his return to Q School by competing on the PDC Challenge Tour last year, notably reaching a final last March, and is hoping to use that as a springboard to success on the cut-throat main circuit.

"I had a couple of good runs on the Challenge Tour, maybe didn't finish as high as I'd have liked to, but that showed that I can still throw steel-tip and that's what got me ready for Q School," said Gray.

"I haven't actually set any goals. I don't know how my first ProTour is going to go so the last thing I want to do is set a bar that's too high or anything that could put me back to where I was a few years ago.

"I know my own ability and what I can do, and if I can produce that then I'm sure it's going to be a successful year."

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Adrian Gray targeting successful PDC return after soft-tip stardom

Adrian Gray is hoping to hit the heights he reached more than a decade ago in his comeback campaign on the PDC circuit.

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