f you follow snooker, you would have read with interest the words of Ronnie O’Sullivan, with the newly-crowned World Champion bemoaning the lack of up-and-coming talent in his sport. The Rocket, who claimed he would need to lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50, really highlighted the dearth of young talent in the game. O’Sullivan emphasised his point by going on to win the World Championship a week later.
There are often parallels drawn with darts and snooker, especially given the relative longevity of players’ careers. Of course, given that the best darts player in the world for the greater part of the last decade, Michael Van Gerwen, has just turned 31, we can say that darts does not have the same problem with new blood as snooker seems to have.
Indeed, there is plenty of young talent coming through, and below we have picked out the five best players in the game under 30*.
Nathan Aspinall – 29
A player who burst onto the scene with his UK Open victory in 2019, Aspinall looks like a future world champion in the making. He has reached the semi-finals of the PDC World Championship twice, and is now regarded as a 16/1 shot by MansionBet (5th favourite) to win the 2021 tournament. Whether that’s a good darts betting strategy or not remains to be seen, but Aspinall has had a quick rise to prominence and has given no reason for us to believe he won’t remain at the top throughout the 2020s.
Dimitri Van den Bergh – 26
Another player who has had a quick rise and who is widely backed to become one of the best in the world, Van den Bergh won a host of junior championships as a teenager but really caught the eye when toppling Gary Anderson in the World Matchplay Final last month. He was the first unseeded player in 14 years to reach the final (since James Wade in 2006), and he scalped Nathan Aspinall, Adrian Lewis and Glen Durrant along the way. A really impressive performance, so keep an eye out on the young Belgian in future.
Keegan Brown – 27
A former world champion at youth level, Keegan Brown has been around the game for a while and has posted steady but unspectacular results at the biggest tournaments. He broke into the top 32 in the PDC Order of Merit last year, which will give him more chances for direct entry into tournaments rather than face qualifiers. It’s clear that Brown has an extra gear to find in his game if he is to really become a top player; the question is whether the Isle of Wight man can step up and do that?
Luke Humphries – 25
While he has a lower world ranking than others on this list, “Cool Hand Luke” has claims of being the most exciting young player in darts at the moment. He has shown a maturity that belies his age in reaching two consecutive quarter-finals at the PDC World Championship. He has also earned his stripes as a challenger in the Premier League. Humphries has perhaps 20 years of darts in his prime ahead of him, and we expect to see him in the world’s top 10 sooner rather than later.
Steve Lennon – 26
Now ranked number 44 in the world, Steve Lennon is part of a contingent of young Irish players, including Keane Barry, who look hungry for success in the game. Lennon has tasted success alongside compatriot William O’ Connor in the World Cup of Darts (they made the 2019 Final), and he has had steady performances in the major ranking tournaments during his short career with the PDC. Is there more to come from “The Shamrock”? We think so.
*we’ve omitted Michael “Bully Boy” Smith from the list as he will celebrate his 30th birthday in a couple of weeks.