Cool Fan Luke: Leeds Like Home for Humphries

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HUMPHRIES HOPING FOR SPECIAL HOMECOMING IN LEEDS

World Champion Luke Humphries is hoping to receive a special homecoming when the 2024 BetMGM Premier League visits the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Thursday.

Night 15 of the darting roadshow will see the quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final played over the best of 11 legs, with ranking points awarded each night to form the league table from which the top four players will progress to the Play-Offs.

Humphries and current table-topper Luke Littler are already assured of their Play-Off qualification, with a further two spots up for grabs over the next fortnight.

The penultimate night of league phase action will see Leeds United fan Humphries take centre stage in West Yorkshire, as he plays 2018 World Champion Rob Cross in the quarter-finals.

Cross remains in the Play-Off hunt after making back-to-back nightly finals in Liverpool and Aberdeen, and he overcame Humphries in the pair’s semi-final showdown on Scottish soil last week.

Nevertheless, the world number one is determined to end his league campaign on a high, having celebrated nightly wins in Brighton, Nottingham and Dublin earlier in the season.

“My mindset hasn’t changed. I still want to go out there and win,” insisted Humphries, who is set to debut a new walk-on song tomorrow night.

“To win in Leeds would be right up there in terms of my best achievements, but I know I’m through, so I can go out there and play with some freedom.

“Leeds is a massive part of my life. I love coming to Elland Road to watch the team, and there are lots of the staff from Leeds coming to support me which is amazing.

“Parading the [World Championship] trophy at Elland Road was one of the greatest moments of my life. I got an amazing reception from the fans, and it’s something that will stay with me forever.

“Hopefully it will be the same tomorrow, but it will test my personality – how can I take the emotion out of it and put in a good performance.

“For me, the driving factor will be my new walk-on song and the crowd reception. Once I get that I’ll be fully focused on winning, because I want to experience that crowd reaction three times tomorrow night!”

Littler, meanwhile, boasts an eight-point lead at the summit following wins in Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool and Aberdeen over the last six weeks, and now the 17-year-old is chasing further history.

The World Youth Champion is aiming to become the first player to claim five nightly wins in a single season since the introduction of the new format in 2022, and he kicks off his bid against a struggling Peter Wright.

“This is what I dreamed of when I was growing up and watching the Premier League every Thursday,” revealed Littler, who needs three points from the final two league nights to guarantee top spot.

“Making the Play-Offs was my aim coming into the Premier League, so to have achieved that with two weeks to spare is a great achievement.

“I’m really happy with the way my darts are going. In the first few weeks [of the Premier League] I was fourth or fifth, but now I’ve been top for quite a few weeks, and hopefully I can stay there!

“I know over the next two weeks the record [for nightly wins] is there to be broken, but whatever happens, I’m still going to the O2!”

Elsewhere, Nathan Aspinall and Michael Smith will lock horns in a clash which could have major implications in the race for the Play-Offs.

Smith closed to within three points of Aspinall following a semi-final showing in Aberdeen, after the Stockport star succumbed to Littler at the quarter-final stage.

However, Aspinall has won both meetings with Smith in this year’s Premier League, including a 6-4 victory over the 2023 World Champion in Rotterdam’s Night 12 final.

Aspinall also edged out Smith in a deciding-leg tie on Night Four, but the St Helens star heads to Leeds buoyed from ending his 11-month wait for a PDC title at Players Championship 9 on Monday.

“It’s in my own hands now,” declared Smith, who will be hoping to replicate his terrific end to last year’s Premier League, which earned him a second-place finish.

“I finally got my name back in that winner’s circle again in Germany and I was over the moon, because it’s been hard.

“I’m only two points behind Michael [van Gerwen] and three behind Nathan [Aspinall], and I’m feeling good. There are some signs that my form is coming back.

“I’ve got Nathan this week, and then potentially Michael or Nathan next week, so it’s in my own hands. If I can win my first match and make the final on both nights, it’s down to them.”

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen is also embroiled in the battle for a top-four finish, despite his haul of four nightly wins across the season.

Van Gerwen will begin Thursday’s play two points above Smith in fourth spot, and a fifth nightly victory would confirm his place at London’s O2 later this month.

The Dutchman – who averaged 108 in defeat against Cross on Night 14 – will play the returning Gerwyn Price in Thursday’s opening quarter-final, in a repeat of the 2023 Premier League final.

Price missed out on last week’s action in Aberdeen due to a trapped nerve in his back, which subsequently ended the Welshman’s slender hopes of qualification.

The 2024 BetMGM Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.

2024 BetMGM Premier League
Night 15 – First Direct Arena, Leeds
Thursday May 9
Quarter-Finals
Michael van Gerwen v Gerwyn Price
Luke Littler v Peter Wright
Luke Humphries v Rob Cross
Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith

Semi-Finals
Van Gerwen/Price v Littler/Wright
Humphries/Cross v Aspinall/Smith

Final
Van Gerwen/Price/Littler/Wright v Humphries/Cross/Aspinall/Smith

—–ENDS—–

Images: PDC

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