James Hubbard insists that he has nothing to fear ahead of the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final on Thursday.
The 19-year-old takes on Michael van Gerwen at London’s O2 in front of an expected record-breaking crowd of over 10,000, before the final of the McCoy’s Premier League.
The youngster has been enjoying some good form on the professional tour, and is confident that he can take that onto the big stage.
“I’ve proved recently that I can hold my own in professional events,” said Hubbard who reached his first professional quarter-final at the recent UK Open qualifier.
“My run to the quarter-final in Birmingham has given me a massive confidence boost. I’m looking forward to playing Michael, knowing that I’ve beaten players of the same calibre.
“I went to the Premier League in Newcastle last week to get a feel for the competition, and the crowd were amazing. There’s going to be at least twice as many people at the O2.
“Not every darts player gets the chance to play in front of that kind of crowd. I’m a lucky guy and hopefully I’ll be able to make the most of the opportunity I’ve got.”
Hubbard’s run in Birmingham helped him secure a place at his second major televised tournament next month, when he joins the UK Open in round three as one of the top 32 qualifiers.
One stand-out game included a brilliant 157 checkout from Hubbard, in a deciding leg against Dennis Smith. The youngster believes that he may need to repeat this kind of sharp finishing under pressure to overcome a more experienced opponent in 23-year-old van Gerwen.
Hubbard said: “I won’t do anything out of the ordinary in preparation for the final. I’ll just stick to my usual practise routines. My scoring has been brilliant for about a year now so I am focusing more on finishing.
“I think the pressure is more on Michael because he has more experience. He lost in the final last year as well so that could be playing on his mind.
“I have seen a lot more of him than he has of me, so I think I can use that to my advantage. I know I’ll get my chances, so I won’t panic if he puts a few really good legs in.”
Hubbard is being backed by former World Champion Mark Webster, who sponsors the 19-year-old.
“James can definitely win it and he can take a lot from what will be a fantastic experience,” said Webster, who took part in 2011 Premier League.
“He’s got the game to win. He just needs to relax and play his darts like he would anywhere else. Michael is probably the most experienced 23-year-old darts player there is but I think James will be fine.”
Hubbard, who made his TV debut at the 2011 Grand Slam of Darts, hopes to emulate the success of his friend Arron Monk, who beat van Gerwen to lift the Under-21 title last year.
He added: “Winning would mean everything to me. When you first pick up a dart you dream of being a World Champion.
“To be a World Champion at any level is a fantastic achievement and it really would be a dream come true for me.”
By Chris Murphy