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Former Walsham-le-Willows and Stowmarket ace Andrew Gilding looking to the make most of World Darts Championship return





Andrew Gilding can hardly believe six years will have passed between appearances in the Cazoo World Darts Championship when he takes to the stage at Alexandra Palace on Monday.

The 52-year-old, who lives in Bungay, near Harleston, will be one of 96 players competing in the sport’s biggest tournament, with a prize fund of £2.5 million, and a cheque for £500,000 to the winner on January 3.

Gilding, who formerly played for Walsham-le-Willows Sports Club and Stowmarket-based Cedars Park in the Suffolk Super League, is enjoying a renaissance year on the professional circuit, having reached three finals on the ProTour in 2022.

Ex-Walsham-le-Willows Sports Club player Andrew Gilding is back at Alexandra Palace Picture: Kieran Cleeves/PDC
Ex-Walsham-le-Willows Sports Club player Andrew Gilding is back at Alexandra Palace Picture: Kieran Cleeves/PDC

After pocketing just £8,000 in his first season back with a tour card in 2021, Gilding has bagged more than £90,000 this year to move back into the world’s top 50, and is now preparing for his first World Championship since 2017.

“Has it really been six years? Wow,” he said. “I remember I played Gary Anderson that year and that was very noisy.

“It was the loudest game I’ve ever played in with the crowd. They were on song that night!

Andrew Gilding has enjoyed a renaissance year at the oche Picture: PDC
Andrew Gilding has enjoyed a renaissance year at the oche Picture: PDC

“The first time I ever got up on stage was at a European tournament and I was nervous. It’s scary, but I came off and I said ‘I want to do that again.’

“It’s a great feeling being up there, especially if you’ve done all the practice and preparation and you just get up there and let it go.”

Gilding faces Welsh debutant Robert Owen in the first round on Monday afternoon, with the winner to take on world number 12 Dave Chisnall on Wednesday.

A fourth appearance at Alexandra Palace marks a remarkable 12 months for the Suffolk thrower, who previously reached the top 32 in the world and appeared in a major semi-final during his first run with a tour card between 2012 and 2018.

Gilding regained his tour card at Q-School at the start of 2021 and, after a quiet first season, has made his mark this year with runs to two Players Championship finals, as well as a first European Tour final, in Belgium.

“I think I’d lost a bit of faith,” Gilding said. “I started turning up late and getting a little bit lazy.

“Maybe I wasn’t putting 100 per cent in and that’s why I went off the boil, but this year I’ve decided to really put the effort in and try everything to up my game a bit.

“I’ve been doing a little bit more exercise. I’ve lost a little bit of weight. I’ve lost two stone in the last year or so from walking the dogs and getting a bit of gentle exercise in.

“I’m making sure I’ve been putting the hours in on the practice board and getting into the venue nice and early.

“I don’t get distracted. I usually stick my headphones on and just get on the practice board and stay on it until I play, pretty much.

“Darts comes first now. That’s the thing. I’m getting more experience on the stage as well.

“I played Dirk van Duijvenbode (in the Netherlands) and then Dimitri (Van den Bergh) in Belgium.

“The crowds were loud. The Ally Pally is always a party atmosphere and I don’t mind that.

“I won’t think too far ahead of the first game, to be honest. I’ll just make sure I’ve got everything in order so I’m ready for that first game.”



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