BEN Ward makes his debut on the world stage tonight and insists he is not at Alexandra Palace just to make up the numbers.
The 25-year-old from Dorchester faces Zoran Lerchbacher in the preliminary round of the PDC World Darts Championship with a massive prize on offer should he win.
For if Ward (pictured) can beat his Austrian opponent, he will then go up against Dutch world number two Michael van Gerwen in the first round proper later tonight.
And Ward goes into the Ladbrokes-sponsored event, which got under way in London last Friday, in good form – he threw a nine-darter in practice prior to the tournament.
Although the worlds are something completely new to him, Ward feels he can draw on his own experiences to help deal with the championship’s unique atmosphere.
“I suppose I’ve got to look at it a bit like when I play for the county,” he told Echosport. “When you play county darts you are in a small room with about 200 people fixed on you.
“So, although there are going to be a lot more people than that at Ally Pally, I’ve got to look at it like a huge county game.”
He continued: “I’m going to try my best and I’m certainly not there to make up the numbers.
“I want to go as far as I can and there is no pressure on me at all, and I’m not putting any pressure on myself.
“And even if I lose, no-one can take it away from me that I played at the world championship.
“If I win my first game and play Michael van Gerwen the atmosphere will ramp up quite a lot because the fans go nuts for him.
“People would be expecting him to win 3-0 and not lose a leg, but, whatever happens, I’m going to enjoy myself.”
Despite knowing very little about Lerchbacher, Ward knows he cannot take anything for granted and will have to be at the top of his game if he wants to take on ‘Mighty Mike’ in round one.
But just being at the world championship is a major achievement for the Dorset ace, whose rise through the ranks has been a steady one.
“The worlds weren’t my target until I was 20,” he added. “I started playing when I was 17 and was rubbish for the first two or three years.
“But the guy in charge of the county team kept faith with me and I got better and better.
“People can practice all day long and not get better so you have to have some natural talent and a bit of bottle, and I think that’s what I’ve got.”
Ward has been helped on his way by sponsors Richard Upshall (The Spice Ship), Robin Masters (Valley Decor) and Steve Hardie (Fastcat International Removals and Storage), and he is set to receive a further boost in support ahead of his first match tonight.