He has played in the biggest match in darts - the PDC World Championship Final - but it isn’t enough for Michael Smith.
Yes it is a fantastic achievement, yes he has won £200,000, yes he is up to a career high No.6 in the world and yes he is one of the best in the business.
But that is of little consolation to the Team Unicorn star. Smith is a winner and he knows that he must return to the Alexandra Palace stage and lift the Sid Waddell Trophy.
That is the motivation for the man from St Helens and he has no doubts: “I will be back and I will be a winner. Having tasted it and got so close, I do not want to experience the feeling of losing again. I know I am good enough to be World Champion. I have to prove that now, to me and everyone else.”
It may well be that the occasion got to him on New Year’s Day. He was nervous and who can blame him, but Michael van Gerwen’s experience of the biggest occasion in the sport proved invaluable. Smith knows he had to make a good start. He didn’t. He had chances and didn’t take them and to come back from 0-4 down against the best in the world was a step too far.
The Dutchman described Smith as ‘phenomenal” and also predicted the Unicorn man will achieve his dream. He actually had darts to win five of the last six sets on Tuesday. Fine margins in a World Final and he will be better for the experience.
But Michael has put down a huge marker over the last few weeks. He is now being talked about in the same breath as Van Gerwen and his great friend and mentor Gary Anderson. His time will come. For sure, 2019 will be a big year and his immediate target is to win a TV ranking ‘Major’ to get the ball rolling. He has the class and the talent and the drive and ambition.
Now he has to make sure his darts do the talking!
Meanwhile the field has been confirmed for the Unibet Masters in Milton Keynes - the first big TV tournament of 2019 - from February 1-3 on ITV4.
Smith will face an all-Unicorn clash against Ian White. There are five Team Unicorn players in the hunt from a field featuring the top 16 players in the World. Joe Cullen makes his Masters debut against Rob Cross, while Gary Anderson meets Darren Webster and James Wade plays Gerwyn Price.
The draw in full:
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Jonny Clayton (16)
Rob Cross (2) v Joe Cullen (15)
Peter Wright (3) v Adrian Lewis (14)
Gary Anderson (4) v Darren Webster (13)
Daryl Gurney (5) v Dave Chisnall (12)
Michael Smith (6) v Ian White (11)
Gerwyn Price (7) v James Wade (10)
Mensur Suljovic (8) v Simon Whitlock (9)
As far as the rest of Team Unicorn is concerned in the newly published World rankings following the World Championship, there are certainly some movers and shakers in the top 50.
Kim Huybrechts drops to 22nd, but Kyle Anderson is up to 23rd….Jelle Klaasen is now ranked 27th with Dimitri van den Bergh and Chris Dobey on the brink of the elite top 32. They are ranked No.33 and No.34 respectively, while Keegan Brown is up to 37th and Jeffrey de Zwaan is up at 44th
Story by STUART PYKE
Image courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC