It’s the first round of the World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace. Five-times champion Raymond Van Barneveld is a hot favourite to beat James Richardson.
Richardson is competing in the Worlds for the first time. He is given no chance. But those discounting the brick-layer, have overlooked his form and emergence in the PDC. The professionals recognise his ability and threat.
Barney on the other hand, is a star on the wane. He’s been there and done it. And doesn’t seem to have the desire to get himself up to do it again.
His meek surrender to Wes Newton in the UK Open at Bolton earlier in the summer, suggested that the Dutchman lacked the stomach for a fight when the going got tough. Talent alone is never enough.
His name no longer holds fear amongst his rivals. They know he can be pressurised into self-doubt. And so it proves at the Alexandra Palace.
Richardson is bold and fearless. He attacks the board with conviction not hope, and relishes the chance to take out the five times World Champion.
Barney knows that a superior force is at play, but cant draw anything from his box of will, experience and desire to counter the under-dogs threat. He plays like a beaten man.
If Barney can re-find his motivation, then he may still be able to challenge at the games top-table. But to do that, a sixth World Title has to matter more than the five he was achieved to date. And Raymond is showing no signs of finding that desire.
Sometimes in sport, the fires just gently burn out.