RISING Newbury darts star Luke Humphries is ‘over the moon’ as he gets set to debut at the PDC World Championships on Saturday, December 16, writes Richard Ashton.

The 22-year-old won five of the 20 tournaments on the Development Tour to top the order of merit and seal a spot at Alexandra Palace.

And Monday’s draw cranked up Humphries’ excitement – with the knowledge he will face two-time world champion Gary Anderson if he can get past Canadian Jeff Smith in the preliminary stage.

Humphries told the Chronicle: “It’s the best feeling in the world for me and all darts players to qualify as it’s the biggest competition you can play in. I’m over the moon.

“It will be a mix of excitement and nerves when I get on stage and it will be the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of.

“I once did an exhibition in front of 500 people and now I’ll be in front of thousands. I’ll go out to enjoy it though, as you never know if you’ll get the chance to do it again.”

Reflecting on the draw, Humphries continued: “I’ve never played Jeff, but he’s reached a semi final and final at Lakeside (BDO World Championships) so his record speaks for itself. But I’m not just going to turn up expecting to lose and if I can start well, I think I can beat him.

“To then potentially have Gary is a dream draw for me as when I was growing up he was one of my favourite players.

“If I can get past Jeff and play Gary (below left) on the big stage it would be a great experience, but again, I wouldn’t just go up there thinking I’m going to lose – I’d be trying to beat him.”

Aside from qualifying for the World Championship, Humphries’ success on the Development Tour has secured him a Pro Tour card for the next two years.

He said: “It’s been very satisfying to do as well as I have on the development tour and to win the tour card is massive.

“It’s exciting that in the next two years I can play the top 128 players in the world and be part of that group.

“After the worlds, it gives you the chance to qualify for the other majors like the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix, which would be targets.”

He continued: “Now that I have the tour card the big aim is to reach and stay in the top 64 and gain as much experience as I can.

"I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself, but I’m still young and in five to 10 years time I’d love to be in the top 32.”

Humphries – who also reached the semi finals of this year’s World Youth Championship – currently has to balance his full-time job as a roofer with practice, and said it is hard work.

He commented: “I get up at 6am and get home at 5pm and then try to get straight onto the board for an hour. It’s tough because you can be tired, but if you sit down on the sofa you can relax and decide not to practice.

“I’ll be upping it in the next three weeks, though, as I have Diogo Portela (the first Brazilian to play in the worlds) coming over and we’ll be doing some really hard practice.”

Humphries, who will be supported at Alexandra Palace by his girlfriend of five years, Vicky, parents, Mark and Alison, and brother, Stuart, said his family have played a key part in his success.

He admitted: “My mum and dad always had a darts board in the house and I probably started throwing at the age of 10, before taking it a bit more seriously aged 13 or 14.

“Growing up my darting hero was Ronnie Baxter, he was such a happy-go-lucky chap and a great player to watch.

“Winning my first Development Tour title has been my best moment so far, as when you get to a final and you know if you’ll get to another, so to win it was very special. I think the first will always be the best.”

And he concluded: “I’ve got to thank my sponsors Modus Darts and Red Dragon, but the biggest influence on my career has been my dad, he’s the one whose taken me to places and has just been key.”