Michael at the Cambridge Union last week Tomos Davies

On the 19th of May, Michael van Gerwen forfeited his match with Dimitri Van den Bergh due to a shoulder injury. The 25th of May was the second biggest night of the darts calendar, the Premier League Darts final, and just two days before that he was sitting across from us in the Union. “Will you be affected for Thursday?” we asked tentatively, knowing that Mighty Mike may not be in the best of moods if he had to miss out. He answered calmly: “Ah, I don’t think so”. Thank God.

Van Gerwen was severely underselling himself. Not only was he unaffected, but two days after our interview he won the Premier League for a record-breaking seventh time, playing his best darts of the year, and cementing himself as the greatest player of the post-Taylor era.

Given his attitude to performing, though, maybe the win was not so surprising. Stepping up in front of 12,000 people at the O2 is not for everyone. His opponent in the final, Gerwyn Price, had even worn ear defenders in the past to block out the noise. But that has never been MVG’s style. “I like to perform in front of big crowds” he explained, going on to guess: “There’s probably ten thousand good players in practice, but only a few players who can do the right things at the right moments on the big stage”. His ability to get the crowd on his side has ensured he has never been one of them.

Van Gerwen emphasised the power of the stage, explaining that if he doesn’t do well in practice he’s not really bothered, “because it’s very difficult to imitate a match with all the pressure, all the people behind you, the big stage and all the lights. There’s so many things that change games.”

He remembered: “You could see, during the Covid period, a lot of players who were playing behind closed doors without any fans, a lot of other players started to play well all of a sudden, and if you look at where they are now… well there’s a lot of difference.”

As members of the Robinson Pool third team, we know what pressure feels like, so we had to ask how to cultivate a mind that is unaffected by it. “I’ve been playing darts for 25 years,” he remarked. “You grow into that. It’s not that I do something differently, but you need to make sure you relax on important days. You need to make sure there’s not much on your mind.”

Having a clear, relaxed mind was important for van Gerwen, who explained: “I don’t have to prove myself to anyone, I just have to do what I like the most and win as many games as possible”. He told us: “there’s not much going through my head [on stage], the only thing I’m busy with at that moment is the game, and I’m so in my own zone that it doesn’t really matter about anything else”.

His stoicism is at odds with his fiery persona, but his explosive celebration seemed to be inspired by a ruthless competitiveness. “The more big battles there are, the better it is to me” he said, recalling his rivalries with Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld. He stated that more competition isn’t frightening, but only “gives you more pleasure when you win”.

“If it’s a game of Monopoly, I want to win”, he joked, but if his love of winning in darts is anything to go by, we’re sure that he celebrates his children’s bankruptcies with relish.


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Responding to our questions about his children, he described how “having a family changes everything”, and explained: “young children take a lot of energy out of you, and you need to find the right combination for yourself, and also for your family”. Van Gerwen has embraced his responsibilities as a father and therefore has lost a bit of energy for his practice – or maybe they’re just better at Monopoly than he’d anticipated.

With such a competitive darting season, we asked whether the standard of darts has reached its peak this season. “I don’t think so” he said, dismissing the idea quickly. “I thought [the Premier League] was more competitive in years back when it was myself, Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, Gary Anderson, James Wade, Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall”. Of the four finalists in this year’s Premier League, only van Gerwen was included in that lineup. He certainly backed up his talk at the O2.

The most provocative, divisive and meaningful question, however, was still to come. “Ask me anything”, encouraged van Gerwen. We accepted his challenge: “What’s harder, a nine-darter, a hole in one, or a 147 in snooker?”

The room fell silent.

“Snooker 147, nine-darter and then hole in one”

With that, the interview was over. He gave his Union speech; and, with his near-meditative mental tranquillity, a love of the spotlight rivalled only by Mike Dean, and the wisdom to know that the snooker clearance is the most difficult, he was destined to win big at the Premier League Final.