Fans favourite Burnett reacts (credit:Chris Dean/PDC)
Richie Burnett believes his darkest days are behind him as he bids to return to the top echelons of professional darts following a turbulent spell away from the oche.
Burnett, 52, scaled the highest of heights back in 1995 when he became BDO World Champion and went on to enjoy a successful 15-year spell in the PDC which included a run to the World Matchplay final in 2001.
But his world came crashing down in 2015 when it emerged the Welsh darting wizard had tested positive for cocaine at the Grand Slam Qualifier the previous November.
Burnett was handed an 18-month ban from professional darts and consequently lost his place on the PDC tour, forcing him to return to work and later return to compete on the Challenge Tour.
Burnett’s comeback has also been hampered by a string of injury problems, including tennis elbow, and the ‘Prince of Wales’ admits he has been through the depths of despair.
“How I’m still here, I don’t know,” Burnett told Live Darts. “It was really hard to get through.
“Coming back from that I then had back luck with injury – my knee, cataracts in my eye, tennis elbow.
“It’s been tough but I’m a survivor.
“I’ve always suffered with depression since I was young.
“Sometimes you just don’t handle things the way you should do.
“I’ve always been a loose cannon, everybody knows me as that, I’ve always been a bit wild, but I’m not a bad person.
“I just made a mistake and I’ve learnt by it.”
Burnett made a promising start to his competitive comeback in 2016, picking up two Challenge Tour titles in quick succession, but has struggled to make an impact since despite cameo roles on the ProTour and European Tour.
However, he reached the Quarter-Finals of the recent Red Dragon Champion of Champions in a high quality 256-man field, and insists he still has much to offer in the sport.
“I absolutely believed I was [the best player] for a couple of years,” added Burnett, whose world title was preceded by a World Masters win in 1994.
“The records I broke then still stand today.
“I feel as if I can play like that now! I feel free and I feel happy, I’m in a good place at the moment.
“I’m 52 so I think I’ve got a good eight years left in me, once I’m 60 I may drop down a bit but hopefully by then they’ll have a seniors tour!
“The standard is the best it’s ever been, it just gets better every year.
“There’ll always be a world number one but there’s no dominance like [Phil] Taylor used to.
“If Taylor was playing now, he’d struggle.
“The rewards are there, everyone has the same mindset as Taylor had: practice, practice, practice.
“When I was playing at my best, my preparation was meticulous and then you just go through phases in life where things go against you and you can’t do that preparation anymore.”