Former World Champion Stephen Bunting has agreed on a new long-term deal with Target darts and is now looking forward to getting back to playing in front of crowds again, after months of behind closed doors events due to Covid restrictions.
"The Bullet" missed out on the World Grand Prix last year after a positive Covid test himself, but bounced back with a superb run to the semi-finals of the World Championship at Alexandra Palace in December.
Despite his success, Bunting is desperate for the fans to return to create the atmosphere for which the PDC circuit has become famous.
"To play in front of one or two fans would be something special at the minute! I really look forward to it - it's the fans that we play for. We enjoy playing in these big arenas with big crowds and they are sorely missed.
Commenting on the contract renewal, Target's Managing Director James Tattersall said 'We are so pleased Stephen has agreed a long term contract extension; he is an awesome player, World Champion and a great guy.'
"It does affect each and every player. You think that some people are playing better without the crowd being there, but it is difficult to say.
"It's a bit like playing back at the Lakeside again - where it's utter silence. It was the hardest thing for me to get used to when I moved over. That was the hardest transition period for me.
"I would love them back. Even when you're having bad times, you can turn round and get a bit of inspiration from the crowd - they're shouting your name. The quicker they can come back, the better."
Bunting has won two ranking titles in PDC darts, but many of his best displays have come in the major events. His run to the semis at Alexandra Palace was his 10th time in the quarter-finals or better of a major televised event since switching from the BDO.
"The Bullet" produced that run using his new signature darts, the fourth generation of Stephen Bunting arrows Target have produced, and while he has no plans at the moment to move to a new set, he would not rule it out in the coming months.
"They are absolutely flying fantastically - I'm hitting a lot of 180s and have hit quite a few nine darters in practice at home. I do feel like these are the darts that can take me to titles again.
"It was just before the Lakeside title that I first signed with Target. They are such a special company, great customer service, so it made my decision easy. I'm happy to have signed an extended deal."