Raymond van Barneveld would rather not bethink what happened at the aftermost Professional Darts Corporation Apple Championships in which he took part, a year ago aftermost December.

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Look abroad now Raymond. In what was to be his final adieu in the big time, on the Alexandra Palace date area he had becoming so abounding triumphs in the antecedent dozen years, he absent in the aboriginal round. And retired.

RVB – as he brand to alarm himself – had aboriginal appear his accommodation to backpack up in March 2019 afterwards accident a Premier League bout 7-1 to his adolescent Dutchman Michael van Gerwen. He anticipation bigger of it the afterward day. But aback the 2019 Apple Championships formed around, retirement thereafter was official.

His adieu night was already abiding in Amsterdam. Tickets sold. Venue booked. A activity of exhibition matches and clinics beckoned. And as far as RVB was concerned, that was OK. Up to a point…

This week, however, RVB is activity aback to academy – PDC’s European Qualifying Academy – in an accomplishment to achieve his Tour agenda and acknowledgment to the apple he now realises he has absent too much.

The absorption that has brought him to this position at the age of 53 accustomed in the advance of his alien new activity alfresco the darts apple – a activity that has been starkly and bleakly antiseptic by the privations of COVID lockdown.

Life post-competition is consistently arduous for an aristocratic aerialist – and Van Barneveld has accepted the exciting heights of his called game.

Van Barneveld won four versions of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) Apple Championships up to 2006, at which point he switched to the ranks of the PDC.

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The afterward year, in what is still admired by abounding as the greatest anytime final, he added a distinct PDC adaptation of the apple appellation afterwards disconnecting Phil “The Power” Taylor 7-6 in a sudden-death leg, accepting advancing from three sets down.

Speaking to the PDC in the countdown to his Q-school admission Van Barneveld said: “I charge focus. My accomplished career was consistently based on focus. Aback a anchorman asked me 14 years ago aback I was abutting the PDC, what was my goal, I said I had three or four.

“I said ‘I appetite to comedy Phil Taylor and I appetite to exhausted him, I appetite to do a televised nine-darter, I appetite to win the Apple Championship and I appetite to become the PDC cardinal one.’

“I accomplished that in 14 months. But aback you go bottomward the rankings it is actual adamantine to focus because you are consistently arresting baronial points. Based on that I’m starting from blemish appropriate now. There is annihilation to lose.”

But accepting to this new starting point, van Barneveld revealed, has been a aching process.

“Last year was a acceptable acquirements activity for me,” he said. “I started to realise what I had and that was not so bad to be honest.

“It was a absurd activity – arena at the accomplished akin on stages, absurd crowds, admirable countries to biking to. I was not absolutely blessed about the bearings that I was retiring. I wasn’t 100 per cent abiding this was the appropriate thing.

“I became a botheration for myself, my ancestors and friends. Depressed. Burn-out I think.

“Of advance there was that abominable Apple Championship – I’d rather balloon that appealing quick, because that was awful. But I anticipation I would do some exhibitions and clinics about the apple and that acquainted good.

“The aboriginal two or three months I was OK – I had my adieu night in Amsterdam, I was appealing OK. And afresh the COVID came.

“You charge realise I went from 100 per cent absorption from arena darts at the accomplished akin to not alike 50 per cent through accomplishing exhibitions but beeline to zero.

“Well the aboriginal two months you are OK, but afresh you are not accustomed to biking any more, you are not accustomed to comedy darts, aggregate went closed, no antagonism darts, you don’t see your accompany any more, so the alone affair you do is watch Netflix.

“So it became a bit of a problem. And I was cerebration what to do next, and I started missing the bold – that’s all what happened. I was watching aback old films of myself on YouTube and cerebration ‘’Wow, this was abundant life, right?’”

What angled him aback into activity was admonition from an old acquaintance and adherent who told him: “You charge aces up your darts afresh and alpha practising, because Q-School is advancing annular the corner.”

Van Barneveld reflected: “He started me cerebration – why not? I had a lot of time to anticipate things over aftermost year. The things I did amiss I appetite to do this bigger this time. Now I am refreshed. My arch is clear. I adulation the darts, I’m watching every antagonism on TV, I can’t delay to appear back. But aboriginal accomplish first.

“When I was a 17-year-old I believed in myself and had dreams. But the aftermost three years I didn’t accept dreams any more. I went to pro tournaments not realising this was the best job in the world.

“Last year I anticipate I started to anticipate about this activity again. It was great, it was fantastic, as continued as you win and you are appropriation trophies. I was an amazing time.

“I still accept I can do that. It is not astute to say I can be apple best or I’m activity to win a major, but it is astute that I can accompany the Pro Tour and alpha arena able-bodied on the accomplished akin and accord myself, my adherent and ancestors and my admirers the best RVB to remember.

“The aboriginal ambition is accepting this Tour card. I don’t apperceive how adamantine it’s activity to be. Maybe I aloof get it in two days. But there are so abounding acceptable players at the moment – they all appear through this Tour Academy and they are now top 16 and they are abundant players so don’t belittle and that is what I’m not activity to do.

“I accept in myself. I accept the chic to become a top 16, maybe top eight amateur in the world. But we’ll see.”

 Asked to visualise a acknowledgment to the Ally Pally, in advanced of a arranged crowd, Van Barneveld responded: “That would be absolutely great. I accept so abundant account for how the PDC has managed to do so abundant for the players, there’s still money involved, but I apperceive it’s adamantine with COVID restrictions.

“People at home can still watch these games. But of advance every action is consistently bigger off with the army – football, tennis, rugby, snooker, and of advance darts. Without them, to be honest, its annihilation special.”

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