Grand Slam of Darts: Jonny Clayton explains his decision to keep working full-time as he targets Grand Slam glory

Jonny Clayton enjoyed the night of his darting life in Salzburg last weekend as he and Gerwyn Price led Wales to World Cup glory, but now he’s set his sights on capturing the Grand Slam title currently occupied by his World Cup team-mate.

Having flourished in tandem last weekend, the pair will now lock horns at the Ricoh Arena after being pitted together in Group G of the cross-code event alongside Pro Tour winner Ryan Joyce and women’s world champion Mikuru Suzuki.

Price is eyeing a third successive Grand Slam crown, yet for Clayton, he is targeting a major title that could aid his bid to become a full-time professional.

‘The Ferret’ recently regained his place in the world’s top 16, but he remains the highest-ranked player to balance his darting commitments with a full-time job, as a plasterer for Carmarthenshire Council.

Glen Durrant is a prime example of what can be achieved when taking the plunge. The three-time BDO world champion left his job as a housing manager after 30 years when he claimed a PDC Tour Card last January, and now he’s a Premier League champion.

However, the pressure of competing against the world’s elite is heightened when you are solely reliant on your performances to earn a living, which Clayton concedes is the main factor behind his hesitation.

“I still work. I’ve thought long and hard about do I give up to concentrate on darts?” Clayton told the Darts Show podcast.

“I am afraid to take that step and I’m going to leave it as it is at the moment because if darts doesn’t go well, I’ve still got that income coming in.

“We’re proud Welshman, so to represent your country and win the World Cup for the first time for your country, it’s a special time and I’m over the moon to be honest.”

Clayton on Wales’ World Cup triumph

“It is genuinely how I feel. I’ve got a young family and I want everything to be spot on before I make that decision. I think I need to win a major before that decision is made.”

Having said that, if Clayton continues on his upward trajectory, he may have a decision to make sooner rather than later.

After kicking off the year with a run to the last eight at the Masters, the 46-year-old has also progressed to the semi-finals at the UK Open and the European Championship, losing out to Price and Peter Wright respectively.

He succumbed to Michael van Gerwen in his first televised final at the Players Championship Finals in 2017, yet he’s a more formidable proposition now, which augurs well in his pursuit of glory.

“I’m knocking on the door a few times now, so hopefully my bit of luck will come through and it will be my time at the Grand Slam or the Worlds,” said Clayton.

“When we used to play Rugby, the hooker usually listens to the scrum-halfs, but I think he’s a bit bigger than me so I won’t talk to Gezzy about the Grand Slam. I’ll keep that to myself!”

Clayton offers a little chuckle as he discusses the prospect of dethroning his World Cup partner, but he’s got every reason to be buoyant following his exploits in Salzburg.

The pair struggled to fulfil their potential in their previous two World Cup appearances as a partnership, but they performed magnificently in Austria to become the fourth nation to lift the coveted title.

“I’m a very proud man. I think we both are to be honest. I don’t know if you’ve spoken to Gezzy [Price] but on the way back on the flight, we were both still buzzing. It was a great night,” he added.

“We’re proud Welshman, so to represent your country and win the World Cup for the first time for your country, it’s a special time and I’m over the moon to be honest.”

Clayton’s best major results

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The consensus surrounding who is the best player in world darts seems to fluctuate between Van Gerwen, Wright and Price on a weekly basis, but ‘The Ferret’ is adamant that tag currently belongs to his compatriot.

“I’ve got to be honest, I think Gezzy’s power-scoring is absolutely phenomenal. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again – he’s the best player in the world at this moment,” he continued.

“When I play darts, I usually stand behind the player and I don’t try and look to see what he hits, but I couldn’t pull my eyes off when Gezzy was throwing.

“You were seeing the first treble go in, the second treble go in and you were waiting for that massive roar he’s got. It was brilliant.”

Clayton tends to play down his achievements and his self-effacing nature explains his popularity, yet his contribution to Wales’ World Cup success cannot be underestimated.

By his own admission he struggled with the burden of representing his country in previous editions, but in the latter stages of the tournament he came into his own.

The former European Tour winner posted 104 and 105 averages to defeat Max Hopp and Rob Cross in his respective singles rubbers, before starring alongside Price in Wales’ decisive doubles clash against England in the final.

“Everything just seemed to click and that’s all you want in a team game. I’m a great believer in all kinds of sport that you have to have a little bit of luck and you do have to play well.

“I think we had a bit of both. I think against Australia, Simon Whitlock missed an opportunity to beat Gezzy but at the end of the day, that was our bit of luck and we just got on and did the job.”

Clayton has scarcely had the opportunity to process their triumph. Following five days of Winter Series action in Coventry, the Grand Slam gets underway on Monday, with the hectic schedule compensating for what’s been a truncated season.

This presents the perfect opportunity for Clayton to capitalise on this momentum. He was devastated after succumbing 11-8 to Wright in last month’s European Championship semi-finals – a remarkable miscount at a crucial juncture proving expensive.

Fortunately for ‘The Ferret’, his World Cup medal ensures that is a distant memory, and now the full-time plasterer is focused on raising his darting ceiling.

“I let myself down there [European Championship] but I know I can play darts and lifting that trophy has got to give me confidence. It is my second trophy with the PDC.

“Austria was my first and this is definitely the biggest trophy. Hopefully this is going to kick me on and the confidence is definitely there, it’s just putting it all together and carrying on.

“There are massive competitions left – the Grand Slam, the World Championship and also the Players Championships. I’m looking forward to it.”

Follow the action from the Grand Slam with all nine days covered on Sky Sports Arena from November 16-24. If you are out and about follow via our live blogs and @SkySportsDarts for regular updates.

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