Three Times A Charm: Smith Neale Earns Another Top Table Tilt

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Regaining your PDC Tour card after a period in the darting wilderness should surely be a high point in a player’s career. Not if your name is Adam Smith Neale:

The life and times of the player formerly known as Mr. Smooth and Big Dog but originally christened Super-Nova by a member of the Darts World team, ensured that, instead of accepting the unqualified congratulations of peers and fans alike, he was instead facing a move on to have him removed from the tour and receiving unhelpful coverage in the tabloid press under the Daily Star headline:

“Darts bad boy so ‘universally unpopular’ there is a petition to boot him off PDC Tour”

Those quick to condemn might remember that many of our greatest talents, and most charismatic characters, were far from model citizens and that our sport has long since provided a ladder of redemption.

Fans may also heed the words of one of the Darts World analysts who says simply:

“ At the age of 15/16 Adam Smith Neale was the best all-around talent I have ever seen on a dart board.” 

“…in charity events, open competitions, and local leagues. He smashed all sorts of famous names, and ran others close, all in an aggressive, nerveless style”

“ I remember speaking to his parents and a local management company, who were already sniffing around him, in order to explain to them how he could play in the PDC’s Grand Slam of Darts qualifier (and the inaugural World Youth Championship) and that I would happily assist him to do so.”

Checking back that qualifier was indeed Adam’s PDC debut and even then, he turned a few heads when it took Micheal van Gerwen to put a stop to the then-16-year-old’s run.

“Shortly afterward we discreetly arranged for Adam to attend the first PDC Q-School with an associate acting as a kind of cutout and chaperone. It was a good job as Adam made at least one clanger a day including forgetting to wear his shoes!”

Adam secured a PDC tour card at the first time of asking while still aged only 16.

“We had another bit of luck there, ASN got his card by topping the Order of Merit table, which people were not familiar with yet, and so didn’t get the massive attention that he would have today. It meant that we could again hide him somewhat for that first Pro Tour weekend of 2011 in Germany”

The cat was truly let out of the bag as Adam beat several well-known players, including Colin Lloyd, and collected ranking points / £s along the way . Senior professionals arrived home and reported to their networks that this young lad was the real deal.

“We’d helped a few players attend that particular event with entry fees and travel costs etc. smoothing out some awkward logistics. It meant that Adam made his Pro Tour debut away from some pressure. 

“I heard later that players such as Lloydy and Paul Nicholson had given such glowing reports that it was inevitable that he was snapped up. This was exactly what I had wanted because I had no wish to be responsible for a junior player. So when I heard that MODUS had offered him a full sponsorship and Red Dragon were going to make his darts, it seemed perfect.

“ Although I will add that there were already signs of the difficult temperament that would later see him lurch from one problem to another. I advised his parents and others that he didn’t need just a sponsor and the money to do the tour he needed a hands on manager who would ensure he developed and behaved properly…”

The next two years were a familiar story. A young sporting prodigy bursts onto the scene and looks to have the world at their feet. 

The full and original version of this article appear in Darts World Magazine (Issue 582) get yours here.

Adam played both the senior and the challenge/development tour but despite some highlights, including a win on the second-tier tour, he didn’t get near to fulfilling the promise of those early appearances. 

“ Things really unravelled for him, playing all the tours – perhaps not focusing on either of them – hanging out with other big egos such as Arron Monk and MVG before having the experience, etc.

“ At one point the most notable thing he had achieved was breaking Simon Whitlock’s ankle and causing the Aussie to miss the Grand Slam…”

Adam was able to play the Challenge and Development Tours for five years after losing his elite ‘Tour Card’. Despite trying each year he was unable to recapture it through this period. In 2018 he seemed to switch focus to the BDO/WDF tour and was again performing very well out on the open amateur circuit.

It’s possible that the BDO/WDF circuit just suits Adam, away from the PDC and the influences of those early years and back in an atmosphere similar to the open events he’d shone in. 

Then came the World Masters and finally Smith Neale’s true talent was witnessed by a wider audience as he came all the way through 6-floor rounds to reach the stage finals. Mark McGeeney 3-2 in the last 16, Wayne Warren 4-1 in the quarter-finals, Jim Williams 5-3 in the semi-final and World Champion Glen Durrant 6-4 in the final.

Previous experiences, and that flawed temperament, came back to haunt him. In a strange karmic twist he broke his own bones during a celebratory evening, which effectively ruined his Lakeside campaign although he did make the stage with crutches.

Previous misdemeanours were held against Big Dog and he didn’t reap the rewards that a newly minted World Master might expect. It was during this period that many of the current complaints against him seem to have been generated. 

Could it be, that after two abortive attempts at being a true professional dart player, Adam Smith Neale is able to make it third time lucky and repay the sport, his supporters and perhaps even those who are aggrieved with him. Surely that’s a better outcome than stopping such a talent from having a shot at redemption. 

Could SuperNova finally trigger the star within?


Article originally appeared in Darts World 582

Grab the current print issue 585 here  or a 50th Anniversary Darts World bundle 581 here 

The Darts World 50 limited edition dart set is available to order (Here) in your choice of pack


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