North celebrates during October’s World Grand Prix (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Richard North believes he has what it takes to cause a sensation on his World Championship debut by knocking out five-time champion Raymond van Barneveld in Round One at Alexandra Palace.
The former bricklayer cemented his place in the sport’s show-piece after an impressive first year on the PDC circuit and has laid the foundations for a huge scalp against the legendary Dutchman.
North, 27, earned a two-year Tour Card at Qualifying School in January and qualified for the £1.8 million major as the highest ranked non-automatic qualifier on the ProTour Order of Merit.
Players Championship 18 finalist back in August, North has been handed a First Round glamour tie against ninth seed Van Barneveld on Tuesday December 19 and is bullish about his chances of defying the odds.
“I can’t wait,” North told Live Darts. “I’m really excited about it and especially to get Barney, I’m over the moon.
“I was quite happy with the draw in truth because I don’t think I’m going to lose, I’m pretty confident.
“I think my form’s been pretty good this year but I’m not stupid, I know it’s on TV, it’s the World Championship and I’ve got to perform.
“I remember watching it last year and thinking ‘I’m as good as these players’, but saying it and doing it are two different things.”
Van Barneveld has reached the Semi-Finals in his last three visits to Ally Pally but has not been immune to an early exit in recent times, notably suffering a straight sets defeat to James Richardson in the opening round in 2012.
And North admits he has used that match as inspiration to pull off his own giant-killing as he looks to exploit what he has identified as chinks in Barney’s armour.
“I’ve watched that game back about five times just to try and see what I need to do and get some inspiration from it,” he added.
“If his head starts shaking then that’s when I can really get in front and take advantage of it.
“I was at an exhibition last week and spoke to Phil Taylor and he gave me a few words of advice for playing Barney, which was good of him.
“I’ve had a lot of people asking me for tickets but I don’t want to take too many people with me as I need to keep my head on.
“I’m there for one reason only and that’s to win.”
The Hampshire thrower, who regularly practices with Simon Whitlock, quit his job as a bricklayer earlier this year and admits the decision has already paid dividends.
“I’ve gone full-time professional now,” added North. “I gave myself a year to see if I could make some money from darts and if not I’d go back to bricklaying, but it’s gone alright so far so I haven’t had to go back.
“My management [Modus] take great care of me and that relieves a lot of stress.”
North, whose new nickname is ‘Lionheart’, has climbed to 57 in the main Order of Merit and has already set his sights on greater heights in 2018.
“My goal by the end of next year is to break into the top 32,” he added.
“I was looking at the stats on Twitter and provisionally I’ll be number 51 after the Worlds even if I don’t win, so without defending any money next year I think I can make the top 32.”