A Dutch of class
Rod Harrington hails rising star Michael van Gerwen as the Grand Slam hits the knock-out stages.
Last Updated: 17/11/11 1:10pm
The Midlands has always been a strong hub for darts and the fans turning up in Wolverhampton have been very knowledgeable about the game.
That's helped to create a really good atmosphere. We haven't had the aggressive or hostile element that we sometimes get and even though people like Ted Hankey gets boos, it's all quite good-natured.
Every tournament has its own identity; the World Championship is a party atmosphere; the World Matchplay has a holiday atmosphere and now the Grand Slam has an atmosphere of its own.
There's a very comfortable feeling around this tournament. Even though it's seen as the PDC against the BDO, the players get on very well and there's no animosity at all. I think it's great that Sky Sports has picked it up.
One of the players who deserves to be highlighted after the group stages is Michael van Gerwen. I tipped him to win his group at 11/2 and he didn't let me down; the 144 he took out against Tony O'Shea was as good as it gets.
I like youngsters like him; you never hear him swear, he doesn't get aggressive and he doesn't complain. He goes up and gets on with his job and if he loses then you don't get the hullabaloo that you see from some players.
He's an incredible darts player - as he was when I started watching him at 14 years of age - but he did lose his way a little bit for a while. I'd compare it to the film 'The Legend Of Bagger Vance' when Matt Damon's character - a promising golfer - can't hit golf balls any more. That happens to some sportsmen.
We've seen it with Raymond van Barneveld here. I had a long chat with him and he's so down on himself it's unbelievable - and when you're like that you can't play any sport or even go to work and do your job properly.
However, Van Gerwen has come out the other side and his performances in Wolverhampton will breed confidence. He can see himself playing better and that's making him perform better. He's a lovely lad and he deserves plenty of success.
He plays Ted Hankey in the last 16, who has been great viewing in Wolverhampton all week. We need characters in the game (he is certainly one of those) and he's been good for the tournament.
I interviewed him for Sky Sports earlier this week and off-camera he was laughing and joking, but as soon as the cameras came on the solemn, aggressive face returned.
That's sensible because darts isn't just a game, it's also a show and you've got to create your own identity. These guys aren't playing for fun, they're doing this for a living - and if you come over as a showman you're going to get more work. That's the way life goes around here.
I loved Phil Taylor's interview on Wednesday night, which was pure PR gold. He talked up Hankey and then asked why he hasn't come over to join the PDC. There was fun and aggression in that interview and I really enjoyed that.
I've also enjoyed watching some of the other BDO players too. Tony O'Shea is a good character and I enjoyed studying Scott Waites properly for the first time, who is a very good player and seems a good tip to win the BDO World Championship. Also, young Jan Dekker has come out of the blue and has a bright future.
In terms of potential winners, James Wade - a player who always seems to do the right thing at the right time - is coming up on the blind side. I said on television that great players do great things at crucial times and that is what he has been doing.
We've seen him throw 12 or 13-darters against the throw in the final leg of a match and we've seen him throw vital 180's to put maximum pressure on his opponent's checkout. When he's in this frame of mind he's in the same bracket as Taylor.
I know he lost his final group game, but he had already qualified and it required the best darts that Terry Jenkins has produced on TV for two years to beat him.
He plays Gary Anderson in the last 16 and that could be one of the games of the tournament. The Scotsman turned up saying he wasn't in great form, but then went up on stage and was brilliant.
I don't think Phil Taylor has been anywhere near his best, but even when he's playing average he is better than most people.
I think he should take care of Wes Newton, who didn't come into this tournament in the best form. However, he's a dedicated player and his hard work is paying off. One or two years ago he would have lost his opening match to Magnus Caris, but he has learned to grind results out when he isn't playing well. Great players need that.
He's getting there, but I don't think he'll have the firepower to take on Taylor - but you could say that about anybody. Now The Power is out of the group system he will step up and I think you've got to back him to win the title. I'd encourage anybody to put a decent bet on him at 5/4 because he's usually odds on.
Adrian Lewis is playing well and it's good to see him flicking the 180's in after an edgy first game. Everyone tries harder against the world champion, but he will be a force to reckoned with after a slow start.
Wade is also in the mix, but I don't think you can look much further than Taylor.