180! Meet the Suffolk darts ace taking on and beating the world stars
- Credit: LAWRENCE LUSTIG, PDC
The world's top darts stars - watch out - 'The Barber' is coming to clip your wings!
Ryan Meikle, the Leiston-born 24-year-old, is continuing his rise up the darts ladder. He's aiming to get himself a top 32 spot, maybe top 16 in the not-too-distant future. And he's not alone in thinking it's achievable.
Meikle, who is with the Modus Sports Management group, a management team, that include multi-world champion Michael van Gerwen in their stable, is now contemplating whether it's time to go full-time on the circuit, such is the progress he has made in the last couple of years.
He is currently a full-time barber, hence his darts nickname!
For the Suffolk thrower, it's a big decision. But one he knows could be rich with rewards.
"It would be a big step to take," Meikle, who has already beaten some of the world's biggest stars, said.
"I'm at the stage where if I wasn't a barber by trade, I could pretty well live off my darts. But it is the mindset that if I go away for a weekend and play darts and earn nothing, I could have earned a weekly wage doing my barber's job."
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However, Meikle is toying with the idea of turning pro - and why not?
He already has a top purse win of £10,000 from a fine run in the Players' Tournament in Germany in 2019, where he reached the last 16.
"Going full-time is what I want to do," he said. "But I don't want to do it unless I can get some more sponsorship behind me. Modus Sports are great in helping me by paying for my travel, flights, hotels.
"Although, I must admit, after the last two years, I really do think I could do something in the sport. I've progressed well. I'm starting to think I can do this.
"At the moment I can only practice a few hours a day. I would notice a big improvement if I could practice more, I know I would."
As darts continues to become ever popular, Meikle is enjoying the accolades the sport brings. Playing on TV or in front of big crowds - he played in front of 6,000 in Munich - holds no fears.
"I lost to Peter Wright in the Players' Championship at Coventry last year in the final leg," he said.
"I was disappointed because I had a 167 check-out to make it 5-5, but never got going in the deciding leg. It was on TV and I had loads of people coming up to me in the supermarket and all places saying they saw it.
"If I had won that I would have got real exposure. I like the big TV stage. My last two appearances on TV I've played really well. The more I can get up there the better."
Meikle has been, and is, mixing it with the world's best. Apart from losing to Wright in that thriller at the Players' Championship, he lost narrowly 5-6 to van Gerwen in a Tour Event, at Milton Keynes.
But he has victories over Wright, Dave Chisnell, Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld already in the locker and has been as high as 69 in the world, in a career that has seen him on the PDC Tour six years - he has won six Development titles.
He wants to aim higher in a sport that has re-invented itself in the last decade and has become a major player in the sports entertainment business, with huge crowds supporting most of the main darts events.
The Premier League is the ultimate place to be for a player - among the world's top 10.
"That's my goal," said Meikle. "At the moment it's a way off, but if I was to win a major tournament, that could all change.
"In the last few years new faces have won big tournaments. It has given us all hope."
Meikle has been in and around the PDC Tour since he first won his PDC card at Q School when he was just 18. So, how does he get on with the top stars?
"The top players are all great," he said. "I get on well with all of them. Being from East Anglia I have got to know Peter Wright quite well. He helps me with trying different things. I have always looked up to Peter. He didn't play on tour until his mid-40s and now he's a world champion.
"Me and Michael van Gerwen are from the same stable. Again, he's great with me. They are all really nice, decent people. None of them think they are better than anyone else, most come from working-class backgrounds.
"Although I think there is a bit more tension on stage now than there used to be. But that's part of it."
Meikle, who started playing darts when he was just eight years old when he watched his dad play, was a county footballer and is a keen Ipswich Town fan.
But by the time he was 16, the football had to go on the back burner as the darts took over and although he admits it was 'a surprise' to win his Tour card at the first time of asking at Q School, when he was 18, he has retained it ever since.
His walk-on music is 'Take Me Out' by Franz Ferdinand ("my brother chose that!"), and he still finds time to play on occasions at the LTAA, at Leiston Football Club, while he admits his idol growing up was Wayne Mardell "he was such a entertainer with his walk-ons and I loved watching him."
"I love doing exhibitions," Meikle said. "I have done a couple in Ipswich with Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor. That was a few years ago and was a thrill because I was a bit of a fan of both of them at the time!"
He's played all over Europe and a top 10 ranking would see him travelling all over the world.
"Perhaps one day. That's got to be my goal," he said. "I'm getting closer."
Modus Sports clearly think a lot of one of their upcoming stable stars. A spokesman for the group said: "We think Ryan is one of the best talents out there.
"In two or three years he will be top 16, we have no doubt."