Inside the St Helens talent factory that helped Luke Littler to World Darts Championship


Luke ‘The Nuke’ Littler’s incredible journey to the darts World Championship has been aided by an unassuming darts shop in Merseyside – after the 16-year-old became the latest star to come out of the talent factory. 

Littler, 16, is one of the biggest stories in darts in recent years after his remarkable run to the World Championships final – following his 6-2 win over former world champion Rob Cross – as he prepares for Wednesday night’s huge showpiece against Luke Humphries. 

But ahead of the biggest evening of his career, Littler’s upbringing in the sport has been revealed after being a regular at the St Helens Darts Shop, which helped nurture his incredible skills. 

The outlet – found north east of Liverpool‘s city centre – sells darts equipment and other apparatus and also has an area where the biggest rising stars in the sport can practise.

This year, the shop has helped hone the talents of four world title contenders competing at the competition at Ally Pally. That includes quarter-finalist Dave Chisnall and Stephen Bunting, who reached the last 16, as reported by The Telegraph.

Luke 'The Nuke' Littler's rise to the darts World Championships final has been aided by a local darts shop in Merseyside

Luke ‘The Nuke’ Littler’s rise to the darts World Championships final has been aided by a local darts shop in Merseyside 

The St Helens Darts Shop is an unassuming store but one that has produced a number of big stars in the sport - including last year's world champion

The St Helens Darts Shop is an unassuming store but one that has produced a number of big stars in the sport – including last year’s world champion 

The outlet sells darts equipment and merchandise - but also provides a gallery for talented players to hone their abilities

The outlet sells darts equipment and merchandise – but also provides a gallery for talented players to hone their abilities 

The shop has been home to four contenders from this year's championships at Ally Pally

Littler has been a regular at the outlet

The shop has been home to four contenders from this year’s championships at Ally Pally

The shop has already produced one world champion after regular Michael ‘Bully boy Smith’ won last year’s title – with guidance from its manager Karl Holden.

Holden also runs the local St Helens Darts Academy and told BBC Radio 5 Live that Littler’s rise to prominence is no surprise after watching him work through the ranks – seeing early on that he was too good for his young age group.

‘By the time he was 10 we knew he was too good for his age,’ he said. ‘He couldn’t play in the PDC or the big time until he was 16, so we just let him enjoy himself and he’s just worked his way through the ranks. 

‘He went from under-10s to under-14 leagues and, before he was 11, he was playing in the under-21s, just simply because he was too good for anybody else.’ 

The manager of the shop, Karl Holden, insisted it was 'no surprise' to see Littler's progress

A young Littler jumped through the age groups as he blew his opponents away

The manager of the shop, Karl Holden (L), insisted it was ‘no surprise’ to see Littler’s progress after watching him rise through the ranks as a child

The darts shop has already produced one world champion after shop regular Michael 'Bully Boy' Smith won last year's title

The darts shop has already produced one world champion after shop regular Michael ‘Bully Boy’ Smith won last year’s title

Holden has backed Littler to triumph and become the youngest world champion – despite a handful of doubters who had hearned of his progress as a youngster. 

‘He can win it,’ he said. ‘We knew he was good enough, we knew that before he started.

‘A lot of people in the darts shop were saying “who is this Luke Littler?” but I was saying he’s a good outside chance. Many didn’t know who he was, but I think everyone knows who he is now. Every time I put the TV on he is there.’

Littler admitted he was just as stunned as everyone else by his fairytale journey at the World Championships – but insisted there was no pressure on him as he prepares to face Humphries for glory. 

Teenage sensation Littler is one of the biggest stories to come out of darts in recent years

Teenage sensation Littler is one of the biggest stories to come out of darts in recent years  

The Warrington-based starlet has now beaten two former champions at Alexandra Palace after seeing off Rob Cross - as he bids for an unthinkable glory

The Warrington-based starlet has now beaten two former champions at Alexandra Palace after seeing off Rob Cross – as he bids for an unthinkable glory

Poll

Who will win the PDC World Darts Championship final?

  • Luke Littler 206 votes
  • Luke Humphries 112 votes

‘It’s not sunk in yet,’ said Littler, who averaged 106 last night, one of the highest recorded at this tournament. ‘I only set my goal to win one game and come back after Christmas.

‘I couldn’t imagine myself reaching the final. This World Championship, I’ve got nothing to lose, it’s a free hit. There’s no pressure. It’s my first time being here and I’m still here.

‘You’re playing Rob (Cross), he’s a world champion and won on debut same as me. Rob told me “God bless, respect to you – you’re a step away, do it”.

‘I’ve just settled on the stage. It took me a few legs to settle in the game and once I found that rhythm I was good to go!’

When asked how he would prepare for his big day, he added: ‘I’ll do what I’ve been doing. In the morning, go for a ham and cheese omelette, then come here have a pizza and then practise! That’s what I’ve done every day.’



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