Phil Taylor has urged teenage sensation Leighton Bennett to ‘ignore the haters’ as the pair gear up for a historic show-down.
The 16-time World Champion faces the current BDO World Youth Champion in a battle of the generations at a special SAP event in the Tower of London on Tuesday.
Taylor has told the 13-year-old prospect to forget all the stick after he came in for criticism
for his wild celebrations after winning at Lakeside in January.
“It’s nonsense that the boy should get any rubbish on social media for celebrating winning the world title,” said Taylor.
“The sport has got to embrace characters now. There’s too many fines being handed out for players just showing their emotions. That’s what the game is all about.
“But to have a go at a boy of 13 for leaping on stage when he won the World Youth title is just utter rubbish. I say good on him for being so happy.
“I think a few people said he was cocky. What the hell is wrong with that? What would these people have said about Eric Bristow and he made the game what it is today!
“My advice to Leighton is just to do what comes naturally. He’s not a cocky boy at all, but that shouldn’t stop him showing his emotions on stage – the sport needs that.”
Taylor has already faced Target stablemate Bennett in practice and was impressed with the talent and mental strength he has displayed.
Bennett was the first youngster to land a double win on the Junior Darts Corporation Tour last weekend and ‘The Power’ knows he has a tough battle ahead.
He added: “It’s wonderful to see such a huge talent at such a young age. Trust me, I’ll have to be at my best to beat him. All the pressure is on me to make sure he doesn’t get a win.
“Leighton is fantastic and he’s got good people around him. I’m quite jealous of his set-up, he’s being looked after by a huge company like SAP to give him a darts apprenticeship. How amazing is that?
“I would have loved that sort of backing, I was lucky to have Eric Bristow sponsor me to help me get to where I am. At just 13 Leighton has got great people to make sure he gets to the top hopefully.”
Dubbed ‘The King vs The Prince’ – Taylor’s show-down with Bennett gets underway at 7.30pm GMT on Tuesday March 19 and will be streamed exclusively live online.