Priestley gives his take on the modern game (credit:live-darts.com)
Michael van Gerwen “has a long way to go” if he is to emulate Phil Taylor as the sport’s all-time great, according to two-time World Champion Dennis Priestley.
Van Gerwen has racked up an incredible 48 televised titles and has held down the world number one spot for more than five years, as well as setting various new records, including highest televised average and most ProTour titles.
The Dutch sensation formed a fascinating rivalry with Stoke legend Taylor during the latter stages of The Power’s career, with the pair contesting twelve televised finals, including two World Matchplays and a World Championship.
Van Gerwen’s rapid rise has sparked a long-running debate as to who can claim the title as the ‘greatest player of all time’, but Yorkshire legend Priestley believes his former rival Taylor is still some way clear.
“Michael has a hell of a long way to go to do what Phil’s done,” Priestley told Live Darts.
“His averages are proving slightly better and some people will always think that that’s the benchmark but to do what Phil’s done over 20+ years, I’d be absolutely gobsmacked if Michael achieved it.
“I’ve said many times that I awoke the sleeping giant that was Phil!”
Priestley called time on his glittering career in 2014, having become the first player to win both the BDO and PDC World Championship (1991 and 1994), as well as claiming World Masters glory in 1992.
A founder member of the World Darts Council (now the PDC) which split from the BDO in 1993, Priestley helped spearhead the darting revolution but admits he would have retired earlier had the game offered as much financial stability as it does today.
“If there had been more money in the game then I probably would have called it a day after the last final I played in 2000, but there wasn’t,” he added.
“I was 50 at the time and there wasn’t much else I could do.
“There was the exhibition circuit but I just kept plugging on for as long as I could.
“The tour is a lot more condensed than it was even four years ago when I packed in and I’d have picked and chosen, but if I’d have been in my twenties I wouldn’t because it’s what we all dreamt of.
“We were playing on TV in December then not on TV again until four or five months after.
“That’s the reason why the averages are better now, because the players are competitive more or less every weekend.”
Now 68, ‘The Menace’ remains a popular figure on the exhibition circuit and continues to follow the results as closely as he can, taking in a trip to the Premier League each year.
The Mexborough ace insists he has no regrets over his playing career but jokes he wishes he could turn back time to compete on today’s lucrative circuit.
He added: “I knew it could only get better but I didn’t expect it to get as good as what it is now.
“The money is tremendous, it gives you a reason to get up in the morning and practice – I wish I was 40 years younger!
“When we first started we were used to having quite decent order and then we were the first ones to try and get used to the noise.
“The lads coming through now know what to expect and know no different.
“I like the best of order because my game was all about concentration.
“Where I lost it was probably mentally anyway after so long at the top, it was the mental side of it.
“I’m not fully tuned in 24/7 but I watch a bit and keep up with it the best I can.”