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Snake now just one bite from trophy

Peter Wright's wife apparently works as a hairdresser.

Peter Wright will have to overcome Michael van Gerwen in tonight's PDC World Championship final. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Peter Wright will have to overcome Michael van Gerwen in tonight's PDC World Championship final. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Perhaps she is out of practice, having presumably taken a few weeks off to cheer on her husband at the PDC World Championship. It might be the only way to explain Wright's customarily bizarre array of hairstyles, which makes one wonder if he has been dipped upside down in a deranged rainbow, rather than sat and nattered about his holidays for 20 minutes.

Darts is the perfect game for an eccentric character like 'Snakebite' Wright, who takes on Michael van Gerwen in the final this evening. The lights, the girls, the music, the boozy crowd . . . it is one of the few arenas in which madness can thrive. It is certainly almost impossible to imagine him wandering out at the bowls, fist-pumping the crowd with a wild, hissing snake painted beneath his marble-splattered Mohawk, to stony silence and dropped jaws.

Scottish-born, and with Scottish parents, Wright moved to London from West Lothian with his mother when he was just three years old. His father was in jail then, and Wright has not seen him since, having lived a wandering lifestyle that always seemed to  end with him stepping up at the oche. He is now 43, and only played a full schedule of events for the first time in 2008.

Darts, though, can reward late bloomers. Rather than face an eight-year period of peak physical fitness and a chance at a flurry of trophies, instead the larger-than- life superstars of the game - Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, Simon Whitlock - toss their tungsten across generations. It also makes it something of a closed shop.

But with his neon locks, which change colours from night to night like a gaudy neighbour's Christmas tree, it is easy to see the talented Wright swaggering up to darts' top table, demanding a roasted hog and a saucer of marshmallows to the eager delight of money-daft tournament sponsors.

It says a lot that in Monday's 6-2 semi-final defeat of Whitlock, he made the Australian - who sports a ZZ Top-style blonde goatee and a three-foot plaited pony-tail - look like someone you would not even spare a second glance for on the early-evening bus home from work.

Wright, though, has certainly caught the eye. The Scot has, admittedly, had some fortune, in that the hole left by the toppled giant, 16-time champion Taylor, gave a more forgiving run to the semi-finals. But then Whitlock was overcome on Monday with impressive ease, and the Wizard of Oz had been one of those heavily fancied to cast his spell over the trophy. Wright's reaching the final, too, should now ensure a place in the lucrative McCoy's Premier League.

Unfortunately for the Scot, his opponent tonight - Van Gerwen, the young prodigy who takes baldness to a baffling new level as the Lex Luthor to Taylor's Superman - looks in fine, merciless fettle, destroying Adrian Lewis - himself a two-time champion - 6-0 in the semi-final. The Dutchman, too, has knocked Wright out early in two of the last five years.

"I've just been going up there and just pretending it's a first-round match," Wright admits, with a wisdom which belies his barnet. "I've got more experience so I'll be more prepared to play Michael. I'll give him a better game and push him all the way."

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