PDC World Darts: Gary Anderson takes success in his stride
Round about now they'll be getting the costumes ready, the giant Minion outfits, the alligator suits, the girls dressed as crayons, the boys dressed as bananas and the his-and-hers traffic cones that double up as acceptable garb at Ally Pally when the darts is on.
On 17 December, Gary Anderson will begin the defence of the world title he won in those crazy days and nights of early January 2015, a victory that catapulted him into a new stratosphere where only the elite reside.
All world titles are special no matter how they're achieved, but Anderson's had drama as well as glory. His final, against the made man Phil Taylor, had the twists and turns and the heart-stopping quality that made it a classic. Even now, as Anderson is remembering it, the emotions are so crystal clear they still make him smile.
"I remember winning the leg to go 6-4," says the Scot. "I'm walking off the stage [for a break] and I'm saying to myself, 'don't leave the stage, stay where you are, keep throwing', but I went off and came back on and Phil took the next two sets. At 6-4, I'm happy. At 6-6 my boxers are in a mess."
Anderson looked across at the great man and knew what he was thinking. "I know for a fact that he'd have been thinking 'I got you now', because that's the way Phil is. I was thinking the same. If anybody knows how to come back and win, it's Phil Taylor.
"But I had the throw and my first throw was a 180, which settled me. Once the first three darts left my hand I thought, 'right, I have a chance here'."
He won a cool quarter of a million that night. Soon after, he won another £200,000 when crowned Premier League champion. A team of forensic scientists could be deployed to find clues of how all of this has changed his life and no matter how long or hard they searched they'd come up short.
He says he still doesn't think of himself as the champion. The money remains unspent. "An extra shot of coffee in my cappuccino is about as extravagant as I've got," he jokes. "That's me pushing the boat out."
A replica of the world championship trophy sits in his house, which is unusual, because normally he doesn't keep them. He doesn't know where most of his silverware has ended up. Maybe some are in a pub some place. Maybe Tommy Gilmour, his manager, has a few sitting in his office.
"They're dust collectors," he explains. "There might be a few on Tommy's desk as paperweights. It doesn't interest me, keeping them. It's just more things in the house to clean. I'll not change. I'm the same bloke. I've got my circle - my friends, my family and anything outside that circle I don't give a damn about. I stay in my wee bubble. The day I change, somebody slap me."
Anderson is world champion, but darts has changed since he won his title and it's Michael van Gerwen, the 26-year-old Dutchman, who has the touch of the invincible about him right now.
To his eye, Anderson says there has been three players in his years of watching darts who have had an extraordinary capacity to bring their best stuff to the oche time and time again - Eric Bristow, Taylor and he puts Van Gerwen in that company now.
He says it warmly, with not a hint of competitive jealousy.
Happy to take what success he can, he smiles. There's been plenty. Almost £2m in prize-money, which is almost £2m more than he ever thought he'd make.
|PDC Order of Merit|
|1: Michael van Gerwen (Netherlands) £1,291,750|
|2: Gary Anderson (Scotland) £626,250|
|3: Phil Taylor (England) £466,250|
|4: Peter Wright (Scotland) £418,250|
|5: Adrian Lewis (England) £393,750|
"I always remember my dad sitting and watching darts," he recalls. "The first time I remember watching darts myself was in George McNeill's house. You know George, the runner? I kicked about with his kids up in Tranent. I'm sure it was the [Keith] Deller v Bristow match [in 1983]. After that, it's just a blank until I started playing.
"I just got roped in. Everybody was playing. I couldn't count worth a damn, still can't count worth a damn. But I could hit that treble. Hitting it was the easy bit, working out what I had left was the hard bit.
"People say it was natural. I don't know what's natural and what's not. I find it hard trying to teach somebody to throw darts and explaining to them why is that going across there and that's going across there. Just throw them straight. I can't work out why they can't throw straight."
There's a story about Anderson that tells you something about the kind of character he is and the kind of values he holds dear. It goes back to March 2011 when the travelling circus that is the darts tour fetched-up at Glasgow's SECC.
The crowd was not so much boisterous as totally abusive of Anderson's opponent, Adrian Lewis, the world champion from England. They threw beer at him during his walk-on and then flung coins at him on stage.
Anderson raced into a 3-0 lead but as the crowd's treatment of his opponent got worse he made a decision. He was going to show his support for his mate. It finished 8-3 to Lewis.
"It was bad that night," he sighs. "I'll say it over and over, I'm a proud Scotsman but when that happened, it sickened me. There was coins getting thrown. Aidy is a good friend of mine. It was terrible.
"I didn't want to win a game where that happened. I thought it was a disgrace, to be quite honest.
"If I'm going to play a game, I'm going to play it right. With them doing that, Aidy couldn't play with that going on. Nah, it wasn't right to win the game."
Installing fireplaces was his gig in his previous life, a life that was thrown into turmoil in late 2011 and early 2012 when, tragically, he lost his brother and then his father.
"There were a few years when I didn't want to play darts," he says. "Take the last 12 months out and it was the two years before then. Losing my dad and my brother, I didn't want to travel, didn't want to be jumping in the car and driving eight hours to go and play a game of darts, flying here, flying there.
"Every family goes through it. Darts players have lost their mum or their dad while they've actually been at the darts.
"I had no interest in it. And when I was playing I was getting beat by players, and it's a horrible thing to say, that I didn't think I should be losing to. I was terrible, but that was down to lack of practice, turning up on the day and playing, then shooting off."
The arrival of his son, Tai, was the catalyst for the recovery. Twenty-month-old Tai, plus Anderson's two older sons, are in that bubble he talks about. He plays not for glory, but for his family, living and dead.
He doesn't know how the worlds will go, or whether Van Gerwen is stoppable, but he knows one thing - no matter what happens, he'll take it in his stride. If there's a cheque and a trophy at the end of it, all very good. If not, he'll carry on.
Being world champion this past year has been nice, but it doesn't define him.
"We're not rock stars or movie stars," he says. "We're darts players."