Is Jonny Clayton the man to beat in 2021?
"The Ferret" Jonny Clayton has opened up 2021 in grand fashion. He's improving every tournament and has become one of the biggest threats on the PDC circuit. Is he proving to be the man to beat in 2021?
46-year-old Clayton has been a PDC Tour Card Holder since 2015 and has steadily been climbing the darts rankings first breaking into the top 32 prior to the 2018 World Championships. For the past couple of years he has been in and around the world's top 16.
Despite currently being 18 in the PDC Order of Merit, Jonny Clayton has quickly became one of the most in-form players on the tour and is getting the results to back it up.
2020 saw Jonny Clayton partner with current World Champion Gerwyn Price in winning the World Cup of Darts for Wales. This would be Clayton's first televised title, albeit not a singles title but it was still a TV win. Was the World Cup the catalyst for Clayton's success and new-found confidence?
Since the World Cup win, Clayton has been on roll. He began 2021 by capturing his first singles televised title, The Darts Masters. A weekend where Jonny Clayton was simply a joy to watch. He defeated the reigning Grand Slam champion Jose de Sousa in a last-leg decider with an incredible 102.93 average to book a match with Michael van Gerwen in the second round.
Clayton went into this match as the underdog and came out on top beating MVG 10-9. "The Ferret" then enjoyed more world-class wins and performances beating James Wade 10-9 with a 105 average and then Peter Wright 11-10 with a 104 average. That man loves a last-leg shootout. He also loves to play world class darts as well.
Clayton capped off the tournament by clinching the title after a well-contested final against Mervyn King. The final was slightly less edgy for Jonny as it didn't go to the last leg as he won 11-8 however, he still averaged just over 104. That kind of darts can be simply unplayable.
Was this all a fluke? Flash in the pan? Jonny Clayton has since kicked on further silencing more of the critics.
PDC Super Series
The PDC Super Series began on Thursday. A 4-day event with Pro Tour tournaments taking place every day with the PDC's best players. These 4 days summarized how much darts has came on lately. It wasn't just about the 'big boys' of the game. Joe Cullen and Callan Rydz won on Days 1 and 2. Raymond van Barneveld won Day 3 (check out my article about RvB on this website, I knew he'd do well). Finally, Jonny Clayton reigned supreme on Day 4. However that doesn't tell the full story about Jonny's week.
By a mile, Jonny Clayton was the best player of the week. He made it to 3 of the 4 finals and was beaten in the quarter-finals on Day 3. That is quite an astonishing achievement. He was also JUST beaten in last leg deciders in defeats to Joe Cullen and Callan Rydz in the first 2 finals. Jonny Clayton really loves a last leg shootout.
Considering the field of players literally included the world's very best such as Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price, Gary Anderson and everyone else, it is really important to see just how well and consistent that Jonny Clayton has been.
The man to beat?
I don't think it's far-fetched to say that Clayton has been the best player in the world since the World Championships. Michael van Gerwen stuttered a bit at the Super Series and is not as invincible as he once was. Gary Anderson and Peter Wright have been a bit inconsistent. Maybe Gerwyn Price is the man to beat? He is the number 1 ranked player in the world and current World Champion after all.
Jonny Clayton simply has to be in that conversation as well now though. He cannot be ignored. Jonny won 23 of his 26 games at the Super Series, he is the current Darts Masters Champion and World Cup Champion. He is also going to be in the 2021 Premier League for the very first time. He is certainly a player who is heading in the right direction.
The day job
Another thing to note is that the Welshman still works a full-time job 37 hours a week as a plasterer for Carmarthenshire Council which makes his success on the PDC Tour even more incredible.
Packing up his day job is something that Clayton has considered in the past. He has went into detail on this in an interview with The Metro last year.
‘I think it gives me something to concentrate on. I’m sports mad, I love my golf, fishing, watching the rugby. If I finish work, would I put 100% into darts or would I be on the golf course on a sunny day? I don’t know. I’ve never tried not working so I’m just going to leave it as it is for the moment.
‘I’ve been thinking about it for about two years, I keep telling the wife that I’m thinking about finishing but as the time gets nearer I’ve not got the guts to do it.
‘When you get the likes of [UK Open champion] Nathan Aspinall, a young lad at 28, years ahead of him. I’m 45, which isn’t old, but I’ve worked all my life, if I give it up now and things don’t go my way, what do I do afterwards? That’s always in my mind.
‘I work for Carmarthenshire council, so if I gave up my job at the council I would not get that back. I could go back onto site, but I’d lose my pension and everything that’s tied in with the council.
‘With darts, the money is totally different, darts will always be at the top when it comes to money but it’s just letting go. I’ve got two young kids and that’s just me, I’m probably doing the wrong thing by still working, but it’s just in my mind,’ he told the Metro 12 months ago.
Since then, Clayton has spent another year as a top professional darts player and has enjoyed more success than he ever has. Just imagine if the Welshman did give up the day job. He would be able to put all his time into darts and potentially improve even more.
I wish Jonny Clayton all the best for the rest of the 2021 season. Undoubtedly he is one of the most well liked and respected men on the circuit and is giving us some great entertainment to watch. I think he is well worth a shout for the UK Open starting this week.