Hamilton v Wade: Hammer time in Manchester
The 2012 Premier League gets underway in some style on Thursday as the opening contest sees the 2009 champion James Wade taking on the World Championship runner-up Andy Hamilton.
The Hammer will be relishing the prospect of making his debut in the competition in Manchester and, although it has been a month now, he will still be buoyant from his incredible run to the final at the Alexandra Palace.
He has always competed on the big stage, but his performance in the biggest tournament of them all will have given him a new confidence that could see him really start to play with the big boys on a regular basis now he is number seven in the world.
One thing that will be of slight concern to fans of the Stokie is that he was less than inspiring in the two Players Championship events in Benidorm at the end of last month. He went out at the last 32 stage of both events which will have disappointed him, but having lost to quality competition like Steve Beaton and Justin Pipe he shouldn’t be too down-hearted.
Wade obviously came away from the festivities at the Ally Pally in a much less jubilant mood than the Hammer, but he is a very experienced stage player now and that disappointment should not set him back too much.
What is a problem for the Machine though is that he is consistently a very slow starter in the Premier League. In 2010 he reached the final, but it took him six weeks to win a game in the group stage; and last year he won just two of his first eight which proved too much for him to come back from and qualify for the semis.
The huge gulf in Premier League experience means that Wade is big favourite to kick-off with a win, but Hamilton’s preparation for this competition will have been immaculate and Wade’s historically has been poor, so I think backing the Hammer at 14/5 looks very tempting.
• Hamilton v Van Barneveld: Barney's bubble to burst
• Anderson v Lewis: Odds make Jackpot the value
• Whitlock v Taylor: Power to fill the lipstick
• Wade v Painter: Bookies continue to disregard Artist
• Imperious Taylor goes odds-on
• Taylor v Van Barneveld: Another Barney renaissance
• Anderson v Wade: Unfortunate Wade to get off the mark
• Painter v Whitlock: Artist to battle all the way
• Lewis v Hamilton: Champ to notch first victory
• Nine-dart Taylor lights up Aberdeen
• Taylor v Painter: Power has measure of Artist
• Anderson v Hamilton: No value in inconsistent Scot
• Lewis v Van Barneveld: Dutch delight in second home
• Whitlock v Wade: In-form Wizard has the edge
• Anderson v Painter: Light the red touchpaper
• Lewis v Taylor: Repeat performance for Jackpot
• Barney considered quitting
• Whitlock v Van Barneveld: Wizard has edge
• Hammer made wooden spoon favourite