“It’s going to be silence really. It’s going to be weird,” says Smith ahead of tournament behind closed doors in Milton Keynes; watch live on Sky Sports from July 18
Last Updated: 06/07/20 3:01pm
The World Matchplay will get underway on Saturday week, as the second biggest prize in darts is up for grabs.
However, the event will take place away from its usual surroundings of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, as restrictions to counter the coronavirus have forced the tournament to Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena.
But how will a lack of fans affect the tournament, and indeed the players?
“It’s going to be weird, going to Milton Keynes for the Matchplay,” conceded Michael Smith, last year’s runner-up. “It will be even more weird with no fans. We did it once, for the UK Open, 2018 I think. We got snowed in. Exeter got cancelled, the Premier League, and then we had to play in Minehead with no fans.
“It was weird, but it’s something we should be used to, playing at home. It’s going to be like online, but at least you’ve got someone with you this time.”
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The questions on everyone’s lips is whether there will be some dark horses, given the lack of a live audience.
“You see [Gerwyn] Price and [Michael] van Gerwen, they love a crowd. They love giving it the big-un to the crowd,” mused Smith.
“It shouldn’t affect them, but you don’t know. They’ve got nothing to feed off. Some players, if I’m playing van Gerwen and they’re singing his name, it annoys me, and gets under my skin. But now it’s not going to be stuff like that. It’s going to be silence really. It’s going to be weird.
“But I guess we’ll have our managers or whatever sat there watching, so it shouldn’t be completely empty.”
And the world number five is relishing a return to action.
“I just can’t wait to get out now,” he said. “It’s been 15 weeks now without doing anything; playing online stuff but it’s not the same. I just want to get back to the PDC now and hopefully bring some more titles back home, and get back on the road with the Premier League when that comes back.”
Darts returns to Sky Sports this month, with nine days of coverage from the World Matchplay. It all gets underway on Saturday, July 18, and every day until the final on Sunday, July 26.