He is one of the greatest darts players of all time. A winner of five World Championship titles and even now, Raymond van Barneveld remains one of the most popular players in the history of the sport.
Never write Barney off!
The critics have sharpened their knives over the years but Van Barneveld keeps proving them wrong with fantastic victories in recent years at the Premier League and Grand Slam.
And he continues to be crowd pleaser all around the world, starring in the PDC's ground-breaking World Series which has gone to Dubai, Japan, China, New Zealand and Australia in recent years.
But make no mistake, the motivation remains the same....to win 'Major' titles.
The renaissance of Raymond van Barneveld has thrilled ‘The Barney Army’ with his terrific victory at the 2014 Premier League to add to his triumph at the 2012 Grand Slam of Darts, which ended a five-and-a-half wait for a ‘Major’ individual TV title.
And the Dutch darting giant has come mighty close to more titles as he has fought his way out of the darting doldrums and back into the top 10 in the world. The five-times World Champion is targeting more big TV titles in a sport which has made him one of the biggest names in Dutch sport.
Barney's relationship with Unicorn is one of the longest sponsorship tie-ups in darts history and long may it continue!
“I want to repay everyone at Team Unicorn for their faith. They have stood by me through some tough times. I will never forget that. The best way for me to say thank you is to go out there and win!” he said.
Of course, Barney’s brilliant victory over big rival Phil Taylor to win the 2007 World Championship just nine months after joining the PDC will forever be known as ‘The Greatest Game’.
But it is all about the future for the Dutchman, as he plots a path to more glory and another World Championship crown. He has come close on a number of occasions, losing Ally Pally Finals and at the 2016 tournament it was vintage Barney as he stormed through to the semi-finals before losing to Adrian Lewis.
On the way, he stunned World No.1 Michael van Gerwen in the last 16 with a 4-3 win and then came back from a seemingly hopeless position - three sets down - to beat Michael Smith 5-4 in the quarter-finals.
“There were times when I questioned my future in the sport,” he admitted. “But the support of all the fans has been an inspiration for me."
There is no doubt that Barney can still perform at the very pinnacle of the sport. He celebrates his 50th birthday in 2017 but is still hungry for success on the big stages around the world.
And perhaps the fact that another Dutch ace – a certain Michael van Gerwen – is grabbing all the headlines is taking the pressure off Barneveld. Van Gerwen has catapulted himself to the summit, inspired by Van Barneveld and what Barney did and continues to do for Dutch sport.
The significance of the Premier League heading to Holland for the first time in 2016 can't be underestimated and playing in front of 10,000 fans in Rotterdam was "without doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my career" according to the Team Unicorn star.
It was Van Gerwen who suffered at the hands of Barney in both those Premier League and Grand Slam finals. After several near misses and several semi-final setbacks, Van Barneveld finally got his hands on the Premier League trophy in 2014.
On a magical night at the O2 in London, he beat great rival Phil Taylor 8-5 in the semi-finals and then Van Gerwen 10-6 in the final. At the Grand Slam when he ended his darting drought, he just looked in the mood all week at the Wolves Civic Hall.
Van Gerwen went into the final as odds-on favourite. But Barney was always ahead and he repelled all Van Gerwen could throw at him to take a 16-14 win in the best ever final at the Grand Slam.
But the pair did team up to win the World Cup of Darts for Holland in 2014 when they beat England (Taylor and Lewis) in the final in Frankfurt.
Barney reached the Grand Slam semi-final in 2015 but lost out to Taylor and in the same year, he reached the final of The Masters but was edged out by Van Gerwen.
But of course, it was against Taylor, that Barneveld achieved the most memorable victory of his career when he won ‘The Greatest Game’ against ‘The Power’ to be crowned the 2007 World Champion at The Circus Tavern.
You may remember that he made a sensational entrance to the world of the PDC – hitting his first ever televised 9 darter in the Premier League at Bournemouth, beating Taylor on his way to his 1st PDC ‘Major’ – the UK Open, winning the World Championship and he was PDC No.1 for six months.
Now his target is to reclaim his place in the elite top four in the world on the PDC Order of Merit.
Well, going back in time it was 15 years ago that he quit his job as a postman to turn professional after his first World Championship triumph, when he beat Richie Burnett 6-5 to win a thrilling Embassy Final at The Lakeside.
That final was watched by more than five million TV viewers in Holland – a third of the darts population and when he made his triumphant return, 10,000 fans turned up at the airport to welcome him home!
Barney Mania was born and nowadays it is the Barney Army!
Overnight his life changed and he has never looked back. Barneveld went from an £800 per month ‘postie’ to winning a cheque for £40,000 and his world changed forever.
After 15 years with the BDO, Barneveld made the great leap across the darting divide and his great rivalry with Taylor began.
THE magical moment of course, came at the last ever World Championship staged at the famous Circus Tavern and what an amazing tournament it was for the Dutchman.
But you may remember that it should have been all over in the 2nd Round when Barney staged one of his now famous comebacks after falling three sets down against Colin Lloyd.
However, as Lloyd proceeded to miss four darts for the match, Barneveld produced some amazing darts to take the match into a deciding set. It went all the way to a sudden death shoot-out and Barney prevailed.
Who knows, after that – perhaps his name was written on the World Championship trophy. The rest of his route to the final was plain sailing. The Dutchman beat Rico Vonk, Alan Tabern and Andy Jenkins without dropping a single set to make it the dream final against Taylor.
The dream though, turned into a nightmare as Barney fluffed his lines on his big night. It looked all over as Taylor raced into a 3 sets to nil lead. Barneveld just couldn’t get into the game and hadn’t hit a single 180!
We then witnessed one of the most incredible comebacks of all time. No wonder it was dubbed ‘The Greatest Game’.
Barneveld stormed back with some power scoring and terrific finishing. He hit a sensational 21x180s and took the match to a final set decider.
Both players averaged over 100 over 13 breathtaking sets of darts and of course, in the end it all came down to one leg of darts. Barney won the throw but when Taylor hit a maximum, it looked like he had seized the initiative but Barneveld replied with a 180 of his own and seconds later, nailed D20 to cut ‘The Power’ and win his 5th World Championship crown.
“Of course, my first World Championship in 1998 was magical,” he said. “But I doubt anything could top that. It was my dream when I came to the PDC to beat Taylor and win the World Championship and I did it!"
And Barney made more history by becoming the first man ever to hit a 9-darter at the World Championship. The magical feat came in the quarter-finals against Jelle Klaasen on January 2, 2009.
Incredibly, a year later he did it again! In the history books as the only man to hit two World Championship 9 darters! The second one came against Irishman Brendan Dolan.
In all, Barneveld has banged in five televised 9 darters – all of them ‘live’ on Sky Sports.
The Premier League against Manley in Bournemouth, the two at the World Championship and two more during 2010....in the Premier League against Terry Jenkins in Aberdeen and in July, against Denis Ovens at the World Matchplay in Blackpool.
During his time in the PDC, Barneveld has also won the UK Open in Bolton twice – beating Barrie Bates in 2006 and Vincent van der Voort a year later.
He beat Taylor for three consecutive years at the Reebok – all in the quarter-finals and his 11-4 win in 2007 was one of the heaviest defeats that Taylor has ever suffered in a TV ‘Major’.
Barneveld looked on course for a unique hat-trick of UK Open triumphs in 2008 but after again beating Taylor in the last eight, he ran out of steam and lost to Gary Mawson in the semi-finals.
His other notable achievements in the PDC include two World Grand Prix finals in Dublin, beaten finalist at the 2010 World Matchplay, and two semi-finals at the European Championship in 2011 and 2014.
Of course, he won the Las Vegas Desert Classic in 2007, beating Terry Jenkins in the final.
And that was his last individual ‘Major’ TV crown until of course, that all changed with the win over Van Gerwen at the 2012 Grand Slam.....but Barney did team up with Co Stompe to win the first ever staging of the PDC World Cup of Darts for the Netherlands when it was held in the North East of England.
Barney was actually a relatively late starter when it came to the sport that was to give him fame and fortune. He was 17-years-old when his parents bought him a dartboard for his birthday.
He entered his first competition in Holland soon after and the rest, as they say, is history. Barneveld was hooked on the sport but he had to be patient before his immense talent finally shone through.
Barneveld first qualified for the Embassy World Championship in 1991 but it turned into an unhappy experience, as he lost three sets to nil to Australian Keith Sullivan in the 1st Round.
But all the hard work soon started to pay dividends. It was in 1994 that he reached his first big final – losing the Finnish Open to Andy Fordham and a year later Barney got to the World Final but lost by 6 sets to 3 against Richie Burnett.
Revenge was to be sweet though, and three years later, he won the first World crown against the Welshman. In 1999, he went back to the Lakeside and successfully defended his title – this time beating Ronnie Baxter in another final which went all the way to an 11th set decider.
World Championship No.3 came in 2003 with a 6-3 win over Wales’ Ritchie Davies and although he was beaten by Fordham in the semi-finals a year later, Barney was back to claim a 4th World title in 2005.
This was by far the most impressive of his BDO World Championship titles. The Dutchman breezed through his first three matches without dropping a single set. He then beat Darryl Fitton 5-3 in the semi-finals, before putting Martin Adams to the sword, with a 6 sets to 2 victory in the final.
Sadly, his last ever match in the BDO didn’t result in a 5th World Championship with that organisation, which would have equalled Eric Bristow’s record. He lost the 2006 World Final to a then unknown called Jelle Klaasen and soon after, announced his switch to the Professional Darts Corporation.
Barneveld was also crowned World Masters Champion twice. He won the prestigious event in 2001 beating Jarkko Komula and again in 2005 when he beat Goran Klemme.
On top of that, there were two victories on home turf in the World Darts Trophy. In 2003, Barney had a 105 average in thrashing Mervyn King in the final and 12 months later he once again got the better of Adams in a ‘Major’ Final.
Also in Holland, came three big wins at the International Darts League – against King, Australian Tony David and Mervyn King in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Three times, he was a WDF World Cup winner! In 1997, 1999 and 2003, Barney won the men’s singles titles.
And one of the best consistent performances of Barneveld’s illustrious career came at the 2007 Masters of Darts tournament, which was also held in Holland. He was unstoppable all week and posted a 107 average in a 7-0 win over Peter Manley in the final.
He has one of the most stylish throws in the sport and succeeds despite battling diabetes in recent times, but getting that under control is a big reason why he has managed to turn the corner on the oche.
There is no doubt that Barneveld is right up there in the top three players in history.
Raymond lives in the The Hague and is married to Sylvia. They have three children – Mike, Daisy and Patty., and he has also become a grandad for the first time!
A rare talent and a gentleman and he deserves all that he has achieved from darts....the link-up with Unicorn proved to be a crucial moment for him....a partnership which has been built to last.
And Barney has built a brilliant career to last.....to stand the test of time.