HE had a bit of a ropey start to 2007, but I’m backing Phil Taylor to kick off 2008 by lifting the PDC Darts World Championship trophy at Alexandra Palace on January 1 . . . especially after speaking to the Salford University sports psychologist who has helped him regain his form.
Taylor starts his bid for a 14th world title against Dutchman Michael van Gerwen this coming Tuesday, and he looks to have regained ‘The Power’ thanks, at least in part, to Dr Tom Fawcett.
Dr Fawcett is an applied sports psychologist at Salford Uni, and Taylor turned to him earlier this year after losing a little bit of his magic with the arrows.
No one who saw Raymond van Barneveld’s gripping 7-6 World Championship final win over Taylor at the start of this year will ever forget it. The match was darts as its most dramatic.
But for Taylor, who had been 3-0 up in the final, that defeat marked the start of a downturn in form. In fact, at one point, the 47-year-old was even considering his future as a dartplayer . . . a spectacular fall for a darts legend.
Darts, though, is a game of the mind as much as a game of skill, and Taylor realised that he needed to get his mental focus right if he was to start winning competitions again. And that’s where Dr Fawcett came in.
Before the two joined forces, Taylor had not won a tournament all year. But since hooking up with Dr Fawcett – who has worked with a number of sports stars – Taylor has won four tournaments in a row, adding the PartyPoker.net German Open to triumphs at two Players Championships in Holland and then the Grand Slam of Darts.
Not surprisingly, Dr Fawcett doesn’t want to give away the secrets of his success to journalists like me, otherwise everyone will be pinching his techniques. But he did drop me a few hints.
“We all know that darts is a game where mental strength is vital,” Dr Fawcett said. “And Phil has shown in his last four tournaments that he’s got the mental strength that wins trophies.
“Phil hadn’t won a tournament for nine or 10 months when his agent came to me. I helped Phil to focus on his mental approach, and we managed to achieve a U-turn on his form.
“I don’t want to give too much away about what we’ve actually done, but I’ve more or less lived with him for three months, and helped him trim up his mental approach.
“I’ve been on tour with him and got to know him inside out, to understand what makes him tick and perform.
“There is such a fine line between success and failure at the top level, as most of the world’s top 20 players are capable of beating the next on any one day.
“But Phil has an extra overdrive gear when needed to win, and it is this we have been working on intensely over the past three months.
“What I will say is that he’s had fantastic preparation for the World Championships.”