James Wade is the second most successful player in the history of the Professional Darts Corporation.
And the young man deserves all the credit in the world, after courageously battling depression and publically revealing his health issues.
His fight against depression has won him a lot of new fans around the world and in the summer of 2011, he was rewarded with a 7th ‘Major’ PDC title, when he won the UK Open Finals at Bolton for a second time.
The tears of joy and relief that came with his victory in the final over Wes Newton at the Reebok told their own story….a story of a brave struggle against illness, a stint in The Priory Clinic, but a steely determination to come out the other side as a better person and a better darts player.
And that is exactly what he has done.
“It was important for me to be honest and talk about the bipolar problems. I was sick of being scared. I thought – why should I be afraid? I feel more positive about the future and it is reflected in my darts,” he revealed.
The real low point came after his 2011 World Championship defeat to Mensur Suljovic….James spent a month in hospital.
He has suffered from the condition all his life – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – and it will never go away, but it is now under control and it is onward and upward for James Wade.
He celebrated his Reebok triumph with girlfriend Gemma and manager Jason Thame, and it was quite a performance in Bolton!
After failing for the first time to qualify for the semi-finals of the Premier League, Wade was desperate to mark his mark at the UK Open.
And because he struggled in the eight qualifying events, he was forced to enter the tournament in the 1st Round on the opening night, but it was precious match practice.
He went on to beat the likes of Terry Jenkins, Richie Burnett and Paul Nicholson – all tight games – en route to the semi-finals, where a wonder performance kept his hopes alive.
Wade was 3-7 down against the Welshman, before producing three big ton plus finishes and winning the last three legs to clinch victory 10-9.
In the final, Wade secured that 11-8 win over Newton…..it was an emotional and brave win.
Those seven ‘Major’ titles are all well and good – but that isn’t close to being enough for THE best left-hander in the world of darts….he wants to be No.1 and he wants to be crowned World Champion.
It has been a meteoric rise for the young man, who is still only 28-years-old and he surely destined to achieve his dream of being crowned Champion of the World at the Alexandra Palace.
Remember after months of struggles in 2010, he put some of the bad times behind him, to win two big titles in less than a week, against the backdrop of his health issues – problems that nobody really knew the extent of.
He answered the critics in the best way possible – on the oche….and he has taken his earnings from the sport well over the magical £1 million mark – not bad for a former motor mechanic and self-confessed petrol head!
First, Wade won the 2010 World Grand Prix in Dublin, then five days later, he switched off ‘The Power’ to win Championship League Darts.
His achievements were even more remarkable when you consider the problems that he was suffering away from darts.
Beating Taylor in the final of CL Darts meant so much to Wade, because he finally got the monkey off his back.
He had won five ‘Major’ TV tournaments, but hadn’t beaten Taylor along the way – only because ‘The Power’ had lost earlier in the events.
But that stat still irked Wade…..and he put that right in some style, with a stunning come-from-behind victory to win CL Darts III at Crondon Park Golf Club in Essex.
The behind-closed-doors tournament was screened around the world on the internet and Wade certainly made his point.
‘The Machine’ came back from 1-3 and 4-5 to beat Taylor 6-5 in a brilliant final, where both players averaged around 112….and this victory came hot on the heels of a 5th ‘Major’, when Wade beat Adrian Lewis to claim the World Grand Prix title for a second time.
“It was one of the big moments of my career,” he revealed. “Earlier in the year, I had been questioning my future in the sport, but I hung on in there, despite everything else that was happening.”
“Beating Phil Taylor in a big event is something special, because not many people have done that in recent years,” Wade added.
At the City West IECC just a few days earlier, Wade took out Adrian Lewis in the final of the World Grand Prix to pocket £100,000 but more importantly, it confirmed him as the most successful darts star after Taylor in the 18-year history of the PDC.
Wade first won the World Grand Prix in 2008, but in the following two years, suffered two shock 1st Round exits, so he headed for Ireland with plenty to prove.
And Wade looked hungry again….comprehensive victories over Team Unicorn stablemates Mick McGowan, Colin Osborne and Andy Hamilton took him to the semi-finals.
He had lost several big games to Barney in the past, but not this time! Wade demolished the Dutchman by five sets to one to move into the final, where he would face Adrian Lewis, who had beaten Taylor for the first time ever in a TV event in the other semi-final.
It wasn’t the most spectacular of finals, but Wade got the job done – hitting key doubles at crucial times to win by six sets to three.
And he showed once again that form may be temporary but class is permanent.
Wade though, was to suffer one of the low points of his career at the Grand Slam of Darts.
In November 2010, he looked on course to win the tournament in Wolverhampton but collapsed in the final…..he was 8-0 in front against Scott Waites, but his game went to pieces and he ended up losing the final 16-12.
The health issues certainly didn’t help and little was he to know it at the time, but the World Championship defeat to Suljovic that followed, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Wade got the help, support and treatment that he needed.
He has also reached four finals on the PDC Pro Tour during 2010, winning two of them in Wigan and Holland.
He won TV ‘Major’ No.4 at the 2009 Premier League, but couldn’t repeat the dose 12 months later, despite a rollercoaster PL ride!
Wade was going through some problems away from darts at the start of 2010 and that reflected in his performances….in the start PL, he really struggled and didn’t win a match until week six…..but once he got his game head on, Wade showed what he can do.
He really was a darting ‘Machine’.
Wade managed to finish in third place in the table….he then beat Simon Whitlock 8-6 in a tense semi-final, to set up another meeting with Taylor…..it is a final that he lost at Wembley, but he was involved in one of the most astonishing games in the history of the sport.
Of course, Taylor hit two 9-darters and nearly hit a third, but Wade nearly won! ‘The Power’ just took the honours by 10 legs to 8.
He had also been involved in another epic at the 2010 World Championship….losing one of the best matches in the history of the tournament to Simon Whitlock in the quarter-finals.
It was a match that featured 24x180s, countless ton+ check-outs and some thrilling drama. But from three sets apiece, Whitlock reeled off six consecutive legs to win the game.
It meant Alexandra Palace disappointment for a third consecutive year for Wade, as he chases his World Championship dream.
In 2008, he lost in the quarter-finals to John Part and 12 months later was edged out 6-4 by Barneveld in the semi-finals.
But everyone firmly believes that his moment at the Ally Pally will come.
And after becoming the first man to beat Phil Taylor in 2009, he won his 4th ‘Major’ title – the Premier League at Wembley, to add to those victories at the World Grand Prix, World Matchplay and UK Open.
He beat Mervyn King in the PL Final by 13 legs to 8, after a brilliant 10-8 triumph over Barney in the semi-finals.
Wade of course, announced his arrival in darts’ elite by winning those first three ‘Major’ TV tournaments in less than a year, adding to a total of 20 finals in a fantastic 12 month period.
That’s why we have come to expect great things from Wade, so when it doesn’t quite happen, it comes as a big surprise…..take the summers of both 2009 and 2010.
In 2010, he looked well set for another crack at the UK Open title, but was surprisingly beaten by rank outsider Tony Ayres in the quarter-finals. Wade lost 10-9 after missing three darts for the match.
Blackpool and the World Matchplay (the scene of his first ‘Major’ crown) in July saw an agonising semi-final exit, as he was well beaten 17-8 by an inspired Barneveld….and then he was beaten in the 1st Round of the European Championship by Colin Lloyd.
In 2009, he went to Bolton as the defending UK Open Champion but fell at the first hurdle – losing 9-8 to Peter Manley. Then he was beaten by Barney in the semi-finals of the Las Vegas Desert Classic and there was more disappointment to come at Blackpool.
It was Wade’s 4th appearance at the World Matchplay but the first time he had failed to reach the final. He lost 16-10 to Ronnie Baxter in the quarter-finals after uncharacteristically missing a stack of darts at the double.
Most players would love to have a record like that, but James Wade isn’t most players and when he loses, it hurts.
Take 2008 for instance, when he was beaten three times by ‘The Power’ in ‘Major’ finals and also lost to Taylor in three finals on the PDC Pro Tour, but it was all part of the learning curve, preparing himself for the successes that came soon after.
By anyone’s standards, 2008 and 2009 were both terrific years but for Wade, it wasn’t good enough, hence his achievements in 2010 and there is no doubt that he will many, many more ‘Major’ titles.
“Maybe my bad isn’t that bad, but it isn’t good enough for me!” he joked.
Was it really back in June 2008 that Wade’s win over Gary Mawson completed that fabulous hat-trick of ‘Major’ crowns in just 10 months?
Add to that his first ever televised 9 darter at the Grand Slam of Darts and you can see why he is one of the best in the business.
That magical moment for Wade came at the Grand Slam of Darts II in Wolverhampton in his 2nd Round match against Gary Anderson. It was an historic achievement for Wade but there was no cash prize for a 9-darter and he lost the match 10-8 after being 7-5 in front……revenge finally came for Wade when he finally beat Anderson for the first time in the 2nd Round of the 2009 World Matchplay.
Clearly though, it isn’t good enough for the perfectionist that is ‘The Machine’.
Don’t forget that in 2008, Wade also reached three other ‘Major’ Finals and three times, he lost to Taylor….16-8 in the Premier League, 13-7 in Las Vegas and he lost his grip on the World Matchplay crown, with Taylor winning 18-9 in Blackpool.
But with that brilliant victory over Taylor in the final of the 2010 Championship League Darts, Wade is now determined to make it the first of many big wins against the greatest player in the history of the sport.
He is the ‘Golden Boy of Darts’ with the ‘Golden Arm’.
“If you had said to me in June 2007 that inside 12 months, I’d have won at Blackpool, Dublin and Bolton – on top of everything else I’ve achieved, I would have laughed out loud! It has been reward for a lot of hard work, as have the titles in 2010,” Wade said.
At The Reebok, he beat the likes of Steve Brown, Ronnie Baxter, Alan Tabern and Vincent van der Voort, before beating Mawson by 11 legs to 7.
By the way, in that semi-final victory over Van der Voort, Wade had incredible 77 per cent check-out success rate!
Remember, Wade also became the first man to beat Phil Taylor in the history of the Premier League – with victory on the opening night of the 2008 event in Glasgow – to end Taylor’s 44-match unbeaten run.
He finished second in the group stages – just a point behind Taylor – then beat Raymond Van Barneveld in the semi-finals, before losing a terrific final to ‘The Power’ by 16 legs to 8, despite an average of over 100…..but the £50,000 prize money was some consolation!
He also earned a cool £100,000 from becoming the youngest ever winner of the WMP and WGP but the titles and achievement meant much more to Wade!
His triumphs in Blackpool and Dublin were just rewards for the best left-hander in world darts. He was outstanding at The Winter Gardens and the City West Hotel – proving once and for all that he is a major player in the darts world.
He beat fellow Team Unicorn star Terry Jenkins in both finals – demolishing ‘The Bull’ 18 legs to 7 in Blackpool, with a 97 average…..then winning the World Grand Prix by 6 sets to 3.
In Dublin, he beat Denis Ovens, Alex Roy and Colin Lloyd, before blitzing World Champion Raymond Van Barneveld in the semi-finals 5 sets to 1. He lost only five sets in five matches in the whole week in Dublin and against Barney, Wade just missed the bull to become the first player ever to hit a 9-darter, with a double-to-start, on ‘live’ TV.
But he doesn’t rate his victory over Barneveld as his best performance ever. “I would say the 19-17 victory over Roland Scholten in the 2006 World Matchplay semi-finals is still the best, closely followed by my win over Adrian Lewis in the 2007 Blackpool semi-finals.”
But now, he has to add that 6-5 win over Taylor in the final of CL Darts III to that list!
It was at the Winter Gardens in 2007 that he claimed his first big title…..he beat Wayne Jones and was then involved in a mini-classic. After missing 11 darts for victory, he finally overcame Dennis Priestley 16-14 in a tie-break. ‘The Menace’ actually bent the wire on double top with his only dart to win – but Wade rode his luck and got better and better.
A surprisingly easy victory over Mervyn King was followed by that win against Adrian Lewis in the semi-finals. Lewis had earlier stunned World Champion Raymond Van Barneveld, so it was expected to be very close.
Not a bit of it! Wade romped to a 17-7 win, boasting one of the best check-out rates in the 14-year history of the tournament. From 9-7 in front, he won eight consecutive legs, averaged 102, hit five ton plus finishes (and three more in the 90s!) and that 68 per cent check-out success was simply amazing!
It’s incredible to think that Wade is still only 28-years-old and he’s already achieved so much!
In fact, it was in 2006 that Wade gave a hint of what was to come, when he reached the quarter-finals of the International Darts League in Holland, where he was beaten by Gary Anderson, despite a brilliant 106 average.
It was the summer of 2006, when we all witnessed first hand what James Wade is really all about, when he reached the final of the World Matchplay in Blackpool. It was a phenomenal achievement, which prompted the great Eric Bristow to say: “It was the best performance I have seen from someone his age!”
He lost the final to Phil Taylor but gave ‘The Power’ a real run for his money – missing darts to take a 10-5 lead - and since that golden week on the golden mile, Wade has gone from strength to strength…..and his achievement of going one step further in 2007 at The Winter Gardens spoke volumes for his temperament and talent.
Sky Sports legendary commentator Sid Waddell picked Wade out as a future World Champion five years ago and he will surely prove him right!
One of the most important moments in Wade’s career can be traced back to that summer of 2006. After failing to qualify for the 2006 Las Vegas Desert Classic, he quit his job as a full-time mechanic to become a darts professional but he still likes to tinker under the bonnet: “to take my mind away from darts!”
He started to take his chosen sport seriously and look what he has gone on to achieve!
Wade did cause a stir in 2006, by hitting not one, but two magical 9-darters in competition. His first came in the UK Open North West Regional in Manchester….and his second came in the Players Championship event at Hayling Island.
Unicorn were quick to identify the new kid on the block and Wade has already repaid that faith. It has been a meteoric rise.
“I have to believe I can be world No.1 in a few years and I am sure I will be World Champion,” Wade said. “I would be really angry in five or six years time if I look back and haven’t achieved that dream.”
That is certainly not arrogance, just the self-belief that has carried Wade during his short career – and will surely take him to more glory in the future.
Seven ‘Major’ TV crowns speaks for itself, but you get the feeling that with James Wade, it is only the start of something extra special over the next few years.
It is difficult to believe that he only started to play competitive darts some 10 years ago. Wade explains: “I went to play for my dad’s team Ash Royal British Legion in a local league and amazingly checked out 109 in my first match. That was it. I was hooked!”
He added: “It was my great friend and co-sponsor Jason Thame who persuaded me to take the leap to the PDC and he was right! But the link-up with Team Unicorn has been one of my proudest moments in darts so far. They are the number one in darts and that’s where I want to be as well.”
And that Wade/Thame partnership is still going strong today.
In was back in 2005 – yes, he really has been around that long - that Wade won his first big PDC title. He lifted the Irish Masters crown in Rosslare, beating Steve Maish convincingly in the final.
He has come a very long way in a short space of time.
“Without darts, I hate to think where my life would be and which path I would have gone down,” he said. “But this sport is now a passion….a passion with huge rewards.”
‘The Machine’ looks certain to wheel his way to many more big titles over the next two darting decades.
A World Champion in waiting?
Definitely! His darting destiny awaits…..
And now an inspiration to many, after bravely opening up his life to tell of his battle against bipolar disorder.