As a proud Scotsman, Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright could have been forgiven for enjoying the hullaballoo of Hogmanay – but the new world darts champion has revealed he was asleep in bed at 7.30pm on New Year’s Eve.
Despite waking twice, the early night did him good as he went on to secure a surprise 7-3 PDC final victory over three-time champion Michael van Gerwen the following night.
“I had a job to do, and rest was the main thing,” said Wright, whose walk-on music of ‘Don’t Stop the Party’ is a contrast to his everyday persona.
“I practised on Christmas Day and the win is really down to hard work and dedication. I’ve had no sleep since. I’m just on a high, it’s absolutely amazing.”
Wright, at 49 the oldest first-time winner of the Sid Waddell Trophy, collected £500,000 after nailing double 10 to clinch the title at Alexandra Palace in London.
It was a triumph of perseverance – the spiky-haired Scot with the colourful outfits nearly gave up the game five years ago and had lost 10 of 11 major finals.
“In 2014, it was actually going to be my last year of playing. If I didn’t do well, I was going to retire from the sport, but I got to the final and made it to number two in the world,” he reflected.
New darts, happy new year
The victory was also down to new darts, which he used for the first time only three weeks earlier.
“They changed my mindset. I practised with them and it gave me the confidence I needed,” said Wright, who is based in Suffolk, but represents Scotland, having been born in Livingston.
“You’ve got to find a dart that goes well under pressure, a dart that handles the different temperature – heat or cold – on stage, and flies well through the air.
“And you’ve got to be good enough to play under pressure, when you are getting bombarded by 180s and 140s.”
Wright kept his cool when nearly making an early exit before beating Noel Malicdem 3-2 in a sudden-death second round shootout.
His opponent had a dart at bullseye for the match but missed to leave an opening for Wright, who hit 162 followed by a 140 checkout to save the match.
“He scared the life out of me. I went out two years on the trot in the early rounds and I thought ‘oh no, not again’.
“I said to myself I don’t think he can win this tournament, but I can – I took it out and finished more determined.
“The belief was already there when practising with those darts. You need a bit of luck, I got that luck, and now I’m living the dream.”
Snakebite is the ‘inner person’
Contrary to some reports, Wright did not earn his nickname through a penchant for the drink Snakebite – a heady mix of lager and cider.
“I just like snakes. I’m a bit like a snake – I’m a quiet person who likes to be left alone. If you keep poking me, I’ll bite you,” he said.
His hairdresser wife Jo sculpts his mohawk and paints a snake-themed design on his head before matches.
“The hair just gives me confidence. I’m a very, very shy guy away from sport but what you see on stage is the character of Snakebite – the crazy hair and loud clothing.
“I’ve just got to be there, sit still and Jo does all the work.”
Wright clashed with Welshman Gerywn Price in their semi-final but says both have apologised to each other after there was no handshake at the end of the match.
Meanwhile, Dutchman Van Gerwen was gracious in defeat despite failing to defend the title again.
“Michael’s reaction was very, very good. He went over to my family and congratulated them, which was very gracious of him. He’s a gentleman,” said Wright.
The changing face of darts
Wright will be 50 in March and it was a player half his age who was the big headline maker at the tournament.
Fallon Sherrock became the first woman to win a PDC World Championship match as she reached round three at Alexandra Palace.
The other female qualifier, Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki, took James Richardson to a decider before losing 3-2.
“What they’ve achieved so far is fantastic. It’s been great for ladies’ darts and young players, with coverage around the world,” said Wright.
“It shows that if you put in the hard work, you can be doing the same thing. Who’s to say they can’t go even further next year?”
Wright is hoping to go further himself, by taking Van Gerwen’s world number one spot.
“I believe I can go to number one in the world now, I’ve got a nice darts set-up which makes me feel confident and obviously winning the worlds has given me another buzz to win many other tournaments throughout the year,” he said.
“I think you learn more, a bit like Phil Taylor who became better and better and Gary Anderson, who won two world titles later on his career.”
Speaking of 59-year-old Taylor, what does he make of reports that the retired 16-time champion is toying with the idea of returning to the oche?
“That’s all I need. Is he on a wind-up?” joked Wright.
“I’d quite like it if he came back. It’s another champion to take on.”