Luke Littler eyes Premier League Darts spot after sensational World Darts Championship near-miss

Three days into 2024, Luke Littler was already poised to produce perhaps the sporting story of the year.

The 16-year-old’s imperious form on his way from relative unknown to crossover sensation could not quite bring him victory against the standout player of 2023 in Luke Humphries, but his impact has already been immense and his opponent happily acknowledged that he has the potential to dominate darts for years.

In his birthplace of Runcorn, between Manchester and Liverpool, Littler’s grandmother was reportedly given time off from her job as a council hygiene operative to attend the final.

Littler had spoken of his resolve to stick to his omelette-based pre-match meal, and his performance was as remarkable for its quality — he narrowly missed out on a 5-2 lead in the 7-4 defeat — as it was for the humour and grace he again showed.

“The one negative was I lost too many legs on my throw, so Luke could break me,” said Littler, speaking to Sky Sports Darts about a run of less than three weeks in which he crushed five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in the fourth round and 2018 PDC winner Rob Cross in the semifinals.

MORE: Humphries overhauls Littler to win title for first time

“That’s the only negative: I couldn’t hold my own throw and I lost. That one really annoyed me… it’s just to keep it going now, that’s what the crowd want. Fair play to Luke, he deserved it.”

On a day when he had been on the front of national newspapers and credited with record viewing figures for this year’s tournament, Littler again dodged the opportunity to become even mildly carried away.

“Win a game and then see what happens,” he replied when he was asked what his next focus is. “Every game’s been good. I might not get to another final for five to 10 years, we don’t know.”

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Littler has been cheered on by much of the town of Warrington, where he went to school, including the seven-foot local rugby league mascot, Wolfie. Another admirer is England midfielder James Maddison, who has invited him to Tottenham Hotspur matches and was in the crowd which sang his name at London’s Alexandra Palace.

His Instagram follower count of more than 700,000 after the final is now firmly in Premier League footballer territory, substantially eclipsing the PDC’s total and representing far more than double the number shared by Humphries and 2023 champion Michael Smith combined.

The youngest player ever to have won a match at the championships would have broken the age record for lifting the trophy by eight years had he triumphed, and the former youth champion was blunt about his ambitions as he awaits a potential place in the Premier League Darts lineup on Thursday.

“I’d rather be in the top 32 than play development darts,” said Littler. “People have seen me get to the semis and are saying ‘he doesn’t need to develop.’

“I’m happy – runner-up on my debut, it’s unbelievable. I can say I’m a runner-up and now I just want to go and win it.”

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