Taylor gestures during his farewell Matchplay campaign (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Phil Taylor admits he will be “brutally honest” as a Sky Sports pundit as he returns to the World Matchplay for the first time in a non-playing capacity.
The Power will burst back into the public eye as a TV expert for the BetVictor
World Matchplay, which starts on Saturday, at the Winter Gardens.
Taylor, 57, retired on the World Championship stage in January after losing out in the final to Rob Cross but is now ready to be a cut-throat honest expert.
He revealed: “I won’t be dishonest with you.
“Some of the characters in the game I am not a big fan of, I’ll be honest with you. I flick. I put the TV on, put on the Premier League, see what the score is, and certain players I will sit and watch.
“Certain players will do something and off it goes, and I will watch something else. Maybe Top Gear.
“I do like watching Peter Wright and Gary Anderson.I also like Dimitri van den Bergh and Mensur Suljovic, I love him when he is on form, He’s great to watch.
“He is a character, has a nice way about him, he also winds people up. I like Adrian Lewis when he is in the mood.
“Peter and Gary can be Michael van Gerwen’s biggest rivals. When both of them want to turn it on, they can do.
“I think Michael is beatable, that’s been proved. But it’s all about desire with Peter and Gary. If they want to do it in Blackpool, we could be in for a cracker and the Scots might end up being the happiest of the lot.”
Taylor admits he will not pull any punches on his debut as a Sky pundit, just 12 months after he claimed a fairy-tale 16th Matchplay title on that stage.
He sits back in a chair in the Under The Bridge club in Chelsea, just prior to facing Rob Cross in an exhibition. But he still has that razor sharp competitive edge.
He added: “I am doing a little bit for Sky, I will enjoy it. I will tell the truth, of course I will, I’ll be brutally honest. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.
“You have to. People know if you are telling the truth or lying. If you are doing commentary, why not tell the truth?
“Do I miss the darts? No, not at all. No.
“It has been lovely to be honest with you. It has been great not to get up in the morning and have to be dedicated anymore, that’s the best part.
“I look at the scores and the results. I see where they are. Gibraltar one week, somewhere else next week, thinking ‘I don’t miss it’.
“I have done a couple of exhibitions with Gary Anderson. I will say: ‘Where are you?’ We are in such and such a place. I don’t have to do that now. I love it.
“I have had plenty of time at home. Doing odd jobs round the house. I don’t have a garden. I have block painting. Sand and rock salt I have put in the gaps to stop the weeds. I have got a few weeds to get up and I am gutted.
“I’ve been doing some cycling, I have an electric bike and I go travelling around Stoke on Trent. I will do about 25 miles tomorrow on my bike, down the canal. I love it, it’s different, things I have never done.
“I went to the tennis. The first time I saw Venus Williams and she got beat. I was gutted. I saw the other fellow who was ranked No.3 Grigor Dimitrov. The fittest man I have ever seen in my life. I have never seen anyone as fit or hit a ball as hard.”
Taylor enjoyed some of the most memorable moments of his glittering career on the Blackpool stage, notably landing the first live televised nine-dart finish in 2002 and embarking on a 38-match unbeaten run from 2008-2015 before reclaiming the crown in fairy-tale fashion in his final outing.
The Matchplay trophy has been renamed in recognition of Taylor’s achievements and he admits he will “of course” miss being there competitively.
He added: “It was the place itself, the ambiance of it. You looked around and it was just fantastic. For me, it was the summer. My family could come up. I have a place up there, it’s a lovely part of the world.
“I was very flattered and shocked, I never thought that would happen. It never even came into my head that something like that would happen.
“I am so pleased for Eric as well with the Grand Slam being named after him.
“I miss him all the time. Bobby George made me laugh, I have a new number and not many people have it, but he phoned me up.
“Bobby said he had done an interview with talkSPORT. They asked him: ‘How long did you know Eric for?’ He said: ‘45 years. I only ever liked him for three!’ That was Bobby.
“I still have his number in my phone, I think sometimes I will ring that and see if he answers it. It’s awful. I do miss him.
“I put a little barrier in my head, thinking he is not gone. My mother is the same. I don’t really feel my mum has gone. Eric, like mum, was a big character. And my father. My mum, my dad and Eric – to me they will never die in my eyes. They will always be there.
“It’s like Dave Lanning or Sid Waddell. They are always in your heart.
“The best advice Eric ever gave me was ‘What the f*** are you doing talking to this bunch of sh*te for? They are not your friends, now go on that practice board, you lazy fat b******, and you owe me £6,000.
“I am thinking: I have just sat down! He would say: Why talk to them? Get on that practice board. Am I paying you to talk to this lot?’”
Taylor also believes that reigning World Champion Rob Cross will not dominate the sport in the same way as Van Gerwen and perhaps has his toughest tests still ahead.
He offered: “Rob won’t dominate, Not at all. He has felt it a bit.
“The first 12 months is his learning curve, he has a big target on him. If he gets beaten at the worlds, it will kill him.
“Then you will see his making. He will have to regroup, get back on the practice board, then the hard work starts. Honest to God, I swear, I don’t know how he did it last time.
“He did it, but against Michael Smith. Nobody mentioned it, that was one of the best games I had ever seen. Michael had six darts to beat him. He caned me, smashed me to pieces. But I was there.
“When I was leaving a double, he was going out on 85 or 86, winning his legs quite easily. He was brilliant. Fair play to him.”
It is clear that Taylor would love to be returning to his beloved Matchplay stage as a contender and not stuck in the studio. There remains a flicker of fire in the belly.
The Stoke legend added: “I would go at them, of course I would. That was the biggest thing for me, towards the last few years, it was hit and miss with me.
“One week I could walk the tournament and win it, then the week after I would go out in the first round.
“The energy levels aren’t there. You are getting older, your eyesight and everything else is not right. For me, it was killing me, it was breaking my heart.
“You have people who you are shouting at you in the crowd: ‘Come on Phil, you are better than this.’ They are all good players now. The game has changed. The way Barry has set it up, you have to be fit.”