James Wade is not bothered what anybody else thinks; it’s the mentality that has taken him to nine major televised titles and makes him think he is ready to add to that collection at the Grand Slam of Darts
Wade has been winning titles for almost two decades and has been vocal on the mental health side of sport having been diagnosed with bipolar. However, more recently, he has sent darts Twitter into a frenzy with comments about the standard of the game.
The Machine is as compelling a character as you will find in the game and with 24 major finals in total he has earned the right to his opinion most than most, so after the dust has settled on those comments a fortnight ago, he tells Sky Sports if he really means it.
“I stand by it, I really do,” he says
“It’s true, the standard isn’t what it was. I should have said it’s definitely a better standard throughout but the top 10/12, I don’t think is… I think it’s quite a long way off.
“People try and kid themselves and maybe I’ve misread the stats, but from what I’ve seen but I don’t think that it is as good as it was. I’m pretty sure it’s not.”
As the Grand Slam reaches a thrilling conclusion, Wade is into his third final where he will face Jose De Sousa. A win for the Machine will take him into double figures for major titles – only Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor hold that distinction.
It’s a good place to pause with the Machine and run the rule over the list of recent TV champions, which looks very different this year without a dominant force.
People who don’t think I can, that’s great because it gives me something to feed off.”
Peter Wright, knocked out in the group stage on Thursday night for the first time since his debut in 2013, is the world champion and the European Championship winner; two-time Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price has the World Series Finals and the World Grand Prix on his mantelpiece, while world No 1 Van Gerwen has just the UK Open.
Dimitri Van den Bergh at the World Matchplay and Glen Durrant with the Premier League are the PDC newest winners of the big TV titles.
“Some people, especially people who have won some of the tournaments I’ve spoken about, I don’t think that those players would have won under normal circumstances,” Wade adds.
“That’s just my opinion. It might put certain peoples’ noses out of joint. I don’t think that some of those tournaments won this year would have been won by those players under normal circumstances in a room with a crowd putting pressure on people.
“Crowds do enable people to win and lose, at times when it’s not fair. With MvG, he’s without a doubt the second-best player who has ever walked the planet, but the crowd have helped him and disabled some other players in games.”
The Machine reached his first big final in 2006 at the World Matchplay aged just 23. Fourteen years on he is a seasoned pro but still just 37 years old, and a contender in every tournament he toes the oche.
In commentary this week Wayne Mardle suggested Wade has an ability to pick his moments whether it’s a 112 check-out for the match or when a leg might have a got a little too far away from him and the focus switches to the next leg, and one he’ll invariably go on to win.
Playing in the Grand Slam for a 14th consecutive year is no mean feat, qualification comes from winning tournaments over the preceding 12 months.
For a man who openly admits that the longer race to 10, 16, 18 leg formats of the World Matchplay and the Grand Slam are his preferred tournaments, his record overall is surprisingly indifferent. He has been beaten in the final twice but until this year his only other previous run beyond the last 16 came when Phil Taylor beat him in the 2013 quarter-final.
Wade’s consistency in the tournament is a testament to his longevity, he is determined to improve on that record – in the purest form of the game.
“It’s better [leg-play], it’s a true reflection of the game. I’ve never been a real fan of sets. It’s a racing game isn’t it,” he says.
“The reason why we’re all here this tour, we’re here for the Grand Slam. The tour tournaments are great to have but we’re here for the Slam.
“I’m feeling quite good about myself and I’m not one of those players to build myself up for a great fall, that lots of players do.
“They say they’re going to do this and that, and I think there’s only one thing they can do which is go wrong. So, if you play it down and you do something, it’s alright!”
When it comes to major televised titles only Wade and Gary Anderson, of the current crop, can come (relatively) close to Van Gerwen, so when he starts to broaden the conversation to the newer names who have claimed tournament victories since the sport emerged from lockdown he is worth listening to.
The nature of the tour at the moment, with Pro Tour events in clusters, means that confidence can take a hit as much as a good run can take you to a title, Wade has seen it all.
“Players who have got a tremendous amount of self-confidence are the fragile ones, they can go downhill quite quickly – especially the new younger generation.
“Those players are really confident which is great to see but they can go downhill quite badly, because all of a sudden, they’re not winning every game that they think they should win – and that happens day in and day out for three weeks.
“I think with some of the older players, we know it’s a process. You might have a good week and then a bad week but inevitably you’ll come out the other side a good player and continue doing it.”
The Machine is in a good place, on and off the oche. Experienced enough to deal with the peaks and troughs that come with a relentless schedule, he knows the players are fortunate enough to have a schedule and a chance to earn a living in the current climate.
“As much as it is frustrating [waiting for test results, long stints in hotels] we have to remember that we’re lucky to be able to play and to be earning money.
“I’m confident in my game. I’m even more confident when I’ve got the right mindset at the beginning of the week. It’s quite hard to explain but if I’m not interested, I’m not interested and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
“I’m enjoying it a bit more at the moment. I realise that I’m still lucky to still be able to do my job. If I’m interested, there’s no reason why I can’t win majors. I know I’ll win more, how many I don’t know but I know I’ll win more.
“I’m interested at the moment, which is a good thing.”
Don’t miss a dart from the Grand Slam of Darts on Sky Sports as the action continues on Monday – join us from 7pm on Sky Sports Arena and follow us @SkySportsDarts for updates and clips throughout the tournament.