Wes Newton isn’t a terrible darts player, Simon Whitlock probably is

wes_newton

How did you cope when you finally realised that Wes Newton is a good darts player? I didn’t. I just ignored it. Most of us did. He’s a hard man to love and an even harder man to hate. He’s an ever-present whose presence never registers, a permanent fixture with no significant features. If professional darts was a shopping centre food court, Newton would be The West Cornwall Pasty Company.

What do we know about Wes Newton? What can we cling on to? This blog has touched before on his finest hour, briefly spelling his first name “Wez” in an attempt to add an air of street menace to his name. It didn’t work.

He has a KISS walk-on, and it’s to his partial credit that he hasn’t adopted a Gene Simmons make-up style to go with it, despite Barry Hearn presumably sending him a WhatsApp message once a weak reading “look, we have the greasepaint in the store room, it’s not a problem”.

He doesn’t like Justin Pipe. The first time that the Job Centre Plus Stallone got to play Turbo/Ozone and breakdance after a match was when he beat Newton at the Ally Pally in 2011, leading to Newton complaining about Pipe’s adagissimo playing style.

Wes Newton is the second-most famous man from Fleetwood, behind Syd Little.

And Wes Newton is a man who gets very, very angry when he’s denied certain types of discount at local zoos.

He told The Gazette: “It should be a Fylde coast wide discount.

“They do it at The Sandcastle Water Park which covers all areas.”

Nothing about how the man plays darts. I’d struggle to pinpoint his arrows style without going back and watching a match with a notepad. And yet… he’s actually good at playing darts. He’s not going to be a first-round relegation this year round. He currently has a 2-1-1 record, he beat Lewis convincingly and didn’t struggle too much against Van Barneveld.

He took a 6-6 draw against Robert Thornton while playing in front of a Scottish crowd, an impressive achievement even if it was the kind of match that sees commentary teams use the word “streetfighter” on 120-second loop. The man is playing good darts.

And yet… it won’t matter. The whole crux of this blog, the whole crux of darts in 2014, is that it’s currently a fight between two fanbases, the ones who want the 1980s close-ups of doubles on tiny frames and the ones who want to cheer for Kolo and/or Yaya Toure. Wes Newton doesn’t appeal to either. Wes Newton is never going to have the personality to draw a casual crowd in with spectacle, Wes Newton is never going to have the playing style to draw a traditional crowd in with technical brilliance. Wes Newton is going to finish seventh in every single tournament the PDC puts on from here until 2040. And, really, he has no obligation to anyone other than that.

simon_whitlock

How did you cope when you finally realised that Simon Whitlock is a shit darts player? I didn’t. I just ignored it. Most of us did. Over the past four weeks, it’s become painfully obvious that Whitlock will be finishing bottom of the Premier League this year.

People like Whitlock. He’s the closest thing darts has to a human meme. Natty dreads, big grin, 1980s-style national stereotype gimmick. I think people like Whitlock because they don’t like Australians. In the same way that Barry McGuigan’s world title wins in the 80s endeared him to a British crowd at the height of The Troubles, and Amir Khan’s 2004 Olympics run made your grandmother stop complaining about “the Mussilims” for a few hours, Simon Whitlock is loved because he’s not a braying spray-tanned cunt in Shepherds Bush Walkabout.

There’s a great photo of Whitlock “Photobombing” at someone’s wedding reception, standing on the top of a staircase while the groom and bride beam at the bottom. That’s what I mean by human meme. If darts has to be a top-tier sport in the 2010s it will eventually become Buzzfeed-friendly, Redditable, whatever. I’m not OK with that but I accept it. Whitlock is the perfect guy to perform that role.

However, he’s not the perfect guy to entrust your gambling kitty money on. As a show of evidence that the PDC Order of Merit is fucking insane, Whitlock is ranked third in the world. A man who has only won one TV tournament (2012 European Championship)…. I can’t see it. I can see why he’s theoretically a good darts player, I can see that he was a good darts player, I can see that he has a “good work ethic” that allows him to grind his way up the money rankings… I can’t see how he’s a top ten player in the world by any other metric though. This Premier League is only going to get worse for Whitlock from hereon out.

simon_whitlock_ted_hankey

Like his (lolololololol) fellow Australian Paul Nicholson, Whitlock is paying the price for having a personality that’s above his playing ability. He’s being given more opportunities to lose, more opportunities to get exposed. The collapse against Ted Hankey at the Grand Prix last year, which is as close to the psychological torture of an individual that you’ll ever see on broadcast TV, shows what happens when Whitlock is out of his element. It’s unpleasant. It’s like watching the clown go back to his caravan after the circus finishes to shove his head into the gas oven.

And just as I go to publish this, Newton is ruled out of tonight’s game with tonsillitis. Fucking hell he can’t even do this right.

Tonight we have Newton vs Whitlock, positioned as the last match of the evening. Neither will have the crowd particularly enthused. Bookmakers will underestimate the former and overestimate the latter. Whitlock will have a thousand-yard stare after going 4-1 down. Commentators will talk about how he can get back to his top form. Newton will win and nobody will notice. It’s a strange sport.

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