Former world number one Colin Lloyd is tipping Gerwyn Price to win back-to-back World Darts Championship crowns and urging fans to get off The Iceman's back.
Lloyd, who will be working as a pundit for Sky Sports throughout the Ally Pally extravaganza, believes the 36-year-old Welshman has the all round game to see off the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Jonny Clayton and Peter Wright.
Talking exclusively to Daily Star Sport, Lloyd, a two-time major win and crowd favourite during his time on the oche, discussed the chances of all the main contenders and Price's love/hate relationship with the crowd.
Pressed on whether the 2021 world champion is still the man to beat, the d-artist – formerly known as 'Jaws' – replied: "I think he is. I think Gerwyn’s got that never say die attitude.
"He just keeps going and going and going. Listen, there are plenty of people that are going to be in this world championship that can beat him, plenty of people.
"But to me, in this moment in time, he has that all-round game. He’s got the scoring boots, he’s got the finishing and he’s just got that bloody-mindedness to not know when he’s defeated.
"You can keep beating him and beating him and beating him but he just won’t stay down. If you keep knocking him down in a boxing ring he’ll just keep getting back up.
"Next thing you know he’ll hit back-to-back 12 darters with an 11 and a 13 thrown in between as well."
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But what about the other names who make up the top four in the betting. Peter Wright, Jonny Clayton and Michael van Gerwen will all fancy their chances, but Lloyd is sticking with The Iceman.
"I tipped Gezzy, I think he’s going to retain the title. But listen, you’ve got the likes Peter Wright, Jonny Clayton, the very very talented, although he’s been hit and miss the last year, MVG. He’ll want to come back with a bang too.
"MVG is looking a lot sharper. I think what hit home to me at the players’ championship when he played Raymond van Barneveld was. that they had a really decent game.
"It was all hit, hit, hit, hit. There was no miss, miss, miss, it was all hit, hit, hit. Other games we’ve seen Michael, he’s sort of relented a little bit, he’s not quite got over the line.
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"But then we’ll see Michael have 100 plus, 100 plus, 100 plus averages and then all of a sudden he’ll throw in a 95. And it just so happens that someone else has thrown in that 100 plus.
"I’m not saying you have to have 100 averages all time, but it just seems to happen that if Michael does have a bit of an off game then someone else is on their game, but that’s the nature of the beast at the minute.
"I think Gerwyn is the one at the minute who is the sharpest of them all at this moment in time."
Price's relationship with the dartboard is one of perfect splendour. But his relationship with the crowd is often more hit and miss.
The baying masses inside Ally Pally, or anywhere else for that matter, have never quite taken to the man who has replaced MVG as the one they all want to beat.
There are some who question whether Price would have won last year's world championship at all had there been a full house inside the palace.
Lloyd, who enjoyed a much more harmonious relationship with the crowd, is urging darts fans to give Price a chance and to enjoy his incredible arrows while he's around.
"We’ve touched on this on the podcast that we do," he continued. "He’s not a bad guy. People say ‘I just can’t take to him.’ I say, ‘have you ever actually met him, have you ever actually had a conversation with him?'
"The thing about Gezzy is, and you know what, I like it, he’s open and honest. I think people turned on him a little bit because he said 'I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to earn money. I’m here to earn money and to provide for my family.'
"This is where some people get it wrong. They think it’s all about entertainment. It is about entertainment, but it’s your job. You need to get as far as you can in your event because you’ve got bills to pay.
"The taxman is going to want his bit. It’s your job. That’s how you earn your living. Gezzy, listen, I think he’s let it get to him a couple of times before with the crowd.
"He tries to shut it out. It’s not very nice, I have to say. My point is, just enjoy the moment. The guy is an absolute class player.
"He throws sublime darts a lot of the time, just enjoy the moment because who knows how long he’s going to be around for.
"He’s a class act, he’s an entertainer, so what if he livens it up on the oche, how does he affect you?"
Lloyd fancies Price to go all the way again this year, but who is he predicting will be The Iceman's opponent on January 3rd?
After a long pause – and a lot of umming and ahhing – he gives us his answer.
"It's got to be Price versus Peter Wright. Wright or MVG.
"To me, the four biggest names in darts at the minute, excluding Fallon Sherrock, because whatever happens, she has massively put darts on the map.
"But when it comes to the final, I don't think you get much further away than Gezzy, Clayton, Wright and MVG, but obviously the foremost of the pair could clash in the quarter-finals.
"For me, they're the four big guns in darts at the moment."
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