Phil ^The Power^ Taylor arrows in on another world darts championship title
Christmas is usually the time of year when small children cannot sleep but, in the household of Phil ^The Power^ Taylor, it is the adults who are struggling to get their allotted eight hours.
"I do dream about darts you know," says Taylor, the 13-times world champion. "My arm suddenly goes. I go for a double and I wake myself up doing it. I^ll be doing it for the next couple of weeks, going for a double, waking up at 3am and then having to go to the toilet. It drives me crackers."
On Friday it marks the start of another world darts championships and Ladbrokes, the tournament sponsors, are so confident that Taylor will be crowned the first world champion of 2009 in 16 days^ time that the odds of him prevailing from a field of 70 players are 1/2 on.
Yet for a man who, arguably, has displayed more consistency than anyone in word sport, 2008 has been a strangely roller-coaster year.
It began with his first non-appearance in a world final since 1993 and has ended with him playing what he regards as the highest quality darts of his entire career.
The turning point came in February when Taylor overheard two rivals talking. "One player said, ^I hope I get Taylor in the next round – he^s crap^. He was right as well. I thought, ^I^ll put it right – I^ll show you^. It was the worst thing he could have said. It was a challenge, I^ve got nothing to prove to anyone, but I just thought, ^right, now you are going to wish you never said that^."
Taylor was fired up by a similar experience during the only other recent period in his career without winning the world title. He had been invited to the Manchester United training ground and was introduced to the players as the ^world darts champion^. Roy Keane was on a running machine, looked up and simply muttered "ex-world champion".
It was an experience that stuck with Taylor and he duly promised to regain the title. "I offered to show Roy the trophy but he wouldn^t have it. He said that it was mine."
Taylor looks utterly bemused when asked how he maintains his motivation for a sport that he has already dominated for almost 20 years. "Not being disrespectful, but I see that as a daft question," he says. "How can you not be motivated? That^s crazy – it^s just in you. Speak to Roy Keane, he will tell you, speak to Stuart Pearce, speak to Stephen Hendry, Joe Calzaghe – they are the type of sportspeople I love.
"It comes from my upbringing, you have got to get off your backside and work for a living, my parents never had a day off work – never.
"Everybody loves a winner. I want to win the world championships a couple more times – I^d like to see the next era before I finish and bash them up as well."
According to Chris, his son and practice partner, Taylor treats playing in their home in Stoke just as seriously as the stage of the Alexandra Palace, the venue for this year^s world championships.
In the search for perfection, he has previously used boards with specially reduced doubles and trebles and also played with artificial crowd noise in the background to replicate the playing conditions.
Taylor^s place among the British sporting greats will, of course, be perennially questioned by those who insist on inventing utterly subjective criteria to determine some sort of hierarchy of sports.
The final word, though, should perhaps go to Wayne Mardle, one of his great rivals. "There is probably half-a- dozen majors that I would have won without Phil," he says. "But I feel privileged to play in the same era. There will be players in 50 years who will ask ^what was he like, how good was he?^ "People should understand that he is a complete genius and the sport would not be as big if he wasn^t here. He^s a sporting freak. He^s another Michael Johnson, Michael Jordan – they don^t come about too often and, when they do, you have to respect them."
Story By: Telegraph.co.uk