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THE Players Championship begins on Thursday night at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, with Phil Taylor aiming to secure victory in the £250,000 event for a second successive year.

World Champion Taylor defeated Robert Thornton in final of the inaugural Players Championship a year ago, and will meet Peter Manley in Thursday^s best-of-11 leg first round as he begins the defence of his title.

The Essex venue, formerly the home of the PDC^s World Championship, holds fond memories for Taylor, who defeated Manley in finals three times amongst his 12 victories at the Circus Tavern.

"It^s like a home venue for me," said Taylor, the 4/11 pre-tournament favourite. "There^s something special about the Circus Tavern, I love it and I love the people who run it and I^m looking forward to being back there.

"I^d love to retain my title this weekend. The tournament reflects last year^s form to qualify but obviously I have to perform over five games otherwise I^ll get my backside kicked.

"It^s a short format in the first round but that will suit me because I^ve not played competitively since the World Championship. I haven^t had a lot of time to prepare properly for this but I^m going into the tournament very relaxed.

"Games against Peter are always entertaining anyway but with it being at Purfleet it will be even more special."

Manley finished 2009 ranked 33rd in the Players Championship Order of Merit - comprising all Players Championship events held during the year - but gained inclusion in this event following a suspension for Andy Jenkins.

"In a way I^m lucky to be there but I want to make the most of my chance," said Manley. "I^ll be the underdog but it^s up to me to perform on the night.

"A lot depends on how Phil plays, because if he turns up like he did against Simon Whitlock in the World Championship final then I^ll have some problems."

Thursday^s opening night also features Thornton taking on Essex-born Kevin Painter, while world number four Terry Jenkins faces Vincent van der Voort in another big contest at the ITV4-televised event.

World number seven Adrian Lewis, the 25-year-old from Stoke who was recently named as a wildcard for the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts, meets Northern Ireland^s emerging star Brendan Dolan.

Essex^s Colin Lloyd opens the event when he takes on Denis Ovens, while Steve Beaton - who won his first tournament since 2001 during last year^s series of Players Championship events - drew Tony Eccles and left-hander Alan Tabern faces Andy Hamilton.

Dennis Priestley, who was the Circus Tavern^s first World Champion in 1994 when he defeated Taylor in the final, is drawn against Paul Nicholson, last year^s Australian Open winner.

Nicholson defeated Priestley a year ago in the World Championship, and admits: "Dennis is my idol and that was the most heart-warming victory of my career. I^d love to beat him again on Thursday."

The first round will continue on Friday with the remaining eight games, including the clash between the players ranked third and fifth in the world, James Wade and Mervyn King.

Gary Anderson, the 12/1 joint second favourite alongside Wade, takes on Holland^s former Lakeside Champion Jelle Klaasen, while number two seed Mark Walsh faces Steve Hine, the muffin baker from Coventry who took on Taylor in the World Championship.

The second round will be played on Saturday, with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final spread across three sessions on Sunday, with all games shown live on ITV4.

Coverage is also streamed live on the internet for subscribers to the PDCtv service at the PDC’s official website,

The £250,000 tournament features a £60,000 prize for the champion, with the overall prize fund boosted this year by a £50,000 donation from the PDPA (Professional Darts Players Association). Players Championship

Schedule of Play

Thursday January 28

First Round

7.10pm Colin Lloyd v Denis Ovens

7.45pm Steve Beaton v Tony Eccles

8.20pm Dennis Priestley v Paul Nicholson

8.55pm Alan Tabern v Andy Hamilton

9.30pm Terry Jenkins v Vincent van der Voort

10.05pm Phil Taylor v Peter Manley

10.40pm Robert Thornton v Kevin Painter

11.15pm Adrian Lewis v Brendan Dolan

Friday January 29

7.10pm Wayne Jones v Andy Smith

7.45pm Wes Newton v Peter Wright

8.20pm Colin Osborne v Co Stompe

8.55pm Mark Walsh v Steve Hine

9.30pm Gary Anderson v Jelle Klaasen

10.05pm James Wade v Mervyn King

10.40pm Ronnie Baxter v Mark Dudbridge

11.15pm Jamie Caven v Michael van Gerwen

Saturday January 30

Second Round

1.10pm Beaton/Eccles v Priestley/Nicholson

2.10pm Lloyd/Ovens v Thornton/Painter

3.10pm Walsh/Hine v Jones/Smith

4.10pm Newton/Wright v Baxter/Dudbridge

7.10pm Lewis/Dolan v Tabern/Hamilton

8.10pm Anderson/Klaasen v Wade/King

9.10pm Taylor/Manley v Jenkins/van der Voort

10.10pm Osborne/Stompe v Caven/van Gerwen

Sunday January 31


1.10pm Beaton/Eccles/Priestley/Nicholson v Lewis/Dolan/Tabern/Hamilton

2.10pm Newton/Wright/Baxter/Dudbridge v Osborne/Stompe/Caven/van Gerwen

3.10pm Taylor/Manley/Jenkins/van der Voort v Lloyd/Ovens/Thornton/Painter

4.10pm Walsh/Hine/Jones/Smith v Anderson/Klaasen/Wade/King







First Round - Best of 11 legs

Second Round - Best of 15 legs

Quarter-Finals - Best of 17 legs

Semi-Finals - Best of 19 legs

Final - Best of 25 legs

Prize Fund

Winner: £60,000

Runner-Up: £24,000

Semi-Final Losers: £15,000

Quarter-Final Losers: £10,000

Second Round Losers: £6,000

First Round Losers: £3,000

Total Prize Fund: £250,000

Pre-Tournament Odds (courtesy and correct at 1pm on January 27)

4/11 Phil Taylor

12/1 Gary Anderson

12/1 James Wade

16/1 Adrian Lewis

33/1 Ronnie Baxter

33/1 Mervyn King

40/1 Terry Jenkins

40/1 Mark Walsh

50/1 Andy Hamilton

66/1 Colin Osborne

80/1 Jamie Caven

80/1 Mark Dudbridge

80/1 Jelle Klaasen

80/1 Paul Nicholson

80/1 Kevin Painter

80/1 Co Stompe

80/1 Michael van Gerwen

100/1 Wayne Jones

100/1 Colin Lloyd

100/1 Wes Newton

100/1 Robert Thornton

100/1 Vincent van der voort

125/1 Steve Beaton

125/1 Alan Tabern

150/1 Dennis Priestley

150/1 Andy Smith

200/1 Denis Ovens

250/1 Brendan Dolan

250/1 Tony Eccles

250/1 Steve Hine

250/1 Peter Manley

250/1 Peter Wright

Each-way terms 1/3 places 1,2

If any player hits a nine-dart finish at the Players Championship, will refund all outright stakes placed before the competition starts, up to a maximum of £1,000. For more information visit

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