Rod gives the nod to first-round shocks at Ally Pally
When it comes to picking out a few decent bets for the upcoming Ladbrokes World Darts Championship, Rod Harrington has good reason to know where the money could be.
Harrington is a former World Championship finalist and is now a popular Sky Sports pundit.
With this year’s tournament being described by many as the most open ever, the potential for first-round shocks and surprise runs from unknown players has never been higher.
Three games in particular stand out for Harrington in the opening round – Dean Winstanley versus Mervyn King, Mark Webster against Ian White and Michael Smith’s clash with Raymond van Barneveld – with the former world number one predicting plenty of high-profile casualties early on.
“I think that the whole tournament could see loads of upsets, especially due to the standard of all the players now,” Harrington told Ladbrokes.
“The first-round game that stands out for me is Dean Winstanley against Mervyn King – you’re going to have one great player who’s going to go home before the last 32.
“There’s a case for both of them to win or lose the game. If I had to really put my neck on the line I think that Mervyn King may nick a very close game.
“Another interesting game is Mark Webster and Ian White. Webster’s a lovely fella who needs a break because he’s not had any recently and White is one of the solid players who has got plenty of bottle.
“Michael Smith against Raymond van Barneveld – Barney’s playing well but Michael Smith’s come off the Youth Tour and won ProTour events. That’s a tough one.
“I believe Barney will beat Michael Smith, but if young Smith takes the first set, like a lot of the young players, he knows how to lead – they get confident.
“Out of the 32 games, I reckon we’re going to see at least eight upsets.”
Nineteen debutants are poised to play for the first time at the Alexandra Palace event and Harrington feels the likes of Winstanley, John Bowles and James Hubbard can thrive under pressure.
Harrington added: “If he gets past King, I think Dean Winstanley could figure as he’s proven in other TV events and away from the majors that he’s a tough cookie.
“James Hubbard has come from the Youth Tour and has only played at the highest level for just over a year. I don’t think he’ll win the tournament but if he goes up, I think he’ll do well.
“Out of all the debutants, certainly Winstanley is the standout, but John Bowles, an ex-rugby league player won’t be subject to any gamesmanship as he’ll probably knock you out! I watch him a lot in the Tour events and he’s another one who’s been playing well.
“To win it, I would say no, but I certainly think some of the newcomers could cause some upsets.”
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date