Raymond van Barneveld’s glittering career came to an emotional conclusion on Saturday evening as he suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Darin Young in the first round of the World Championship.
The five-time world champion averaged 96 – nine points more than his American opponent, but ‘Big Daddy’ secured the biggest win of his career to send shockwaves around the partisan crowd at Alexandra Palace.
The doyen of Dutch darts was in desolate mood in the immediate aftermath of his defeat, but upon reflection he will surely look back with immense pride at a quite astonishing career.
Van Barneveld has been a trailblazer for darts in the Netherlands, inspiring a new generation of talent including world No 1 Michael van Gerwen.
He’s produced a multitude of magical moments throughout his career, including five televised nine-dart finishes, 26 major titles and of course that famous 2007 final against Phil Taylor at the Circus Tavern.
As the 52-year-old bows out from the sport following three decades at the top level, we spoke to our team of pundits and Barney’s fellow players about their memories of the remarkable Raymond van Barneveld…
Michael van Gerwen: We always have great games and we always have a little bit extra because Raymond always had the feeling if he lost to me he had failed for his country. It’s his last World Championship. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when people get older – they stop playing. It happened with Phil and now it’s going to happen with Raymond.
Glen Durrant: I went to Bridlington for the British Open in about 2001. Barney had his own marker. All I looked over and saw was 100, 140, 140, 121 out. 180, 140, 81, 100 out. 100, 100, 180, 121 out. I just went home and I said to my wife ‘is there any point in me playing darts?’ because at that stage I was averaging 23-25 per dart on a Superleague stage. There were times between 2002-2007 where I was practicing seven hours per day and that’s down to Barney.
Nathan Aspinall: Him beating me last month [at the Players Championship Finals]. I’ve not really spent too much time with Raymond because he was winding down while I was coming in. I’ll always remember Rotterdam, the reception he got was spine-tingling. I look at that and hopefully in the future I might have a reception like that. He will be missed, I think he’s making the right decision, even though he did beat me last month. I wish him all the best in his retirement.
Wayne Mardle: The first time I ever met Raymond was the World Championship in the BDO in 2000. I remember watching him on TV and then meeting him and all I remember is that you are an absolute mountain! Barney stood really tall and he had this confidence about him. I remember chatting with him and he was saying, ‘Just enjoy it, it is fun. Obviously we all want to win but there can only be one winner’ and as he said that he laughed and I’m thinking you really do believe you’re going to win this. There’s me as a debutant just thinking I want to win a leg!
Mark Webster: My favourite memory of Raymond was when he beat Michael van Gerwen 4-3 in an amazing game in 2016. Van Gerwen kept coming back at him but he just kept swatting it away. It was a complete performance and it was only a third-round game but there was a massive show of emotion and he ran down towards his friends and family who were with him.
Devon Petersen: When Barney came over and won the world title at that point- that final stands out for me. The grit he showed and the joy it brought him, beating Phil Taylor in the final. You could see the mind games starting early on when Taylor wore the orange shirt to throw him off. Barney has shown how great he is, obviously playing in the Premier League for so many years. He’s been a legend of the sport for so many years.
Luke Humphries: I remember the first time I saw him walk into a room and he just has this aura about him. When you’re in a room with Barney, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen it feels strange. It feels like you’re in a dream as you’ve grown up watching these players and all of a sudden you’re in the same room possibly playing against them. He’s grown the game with the likes of Phil [Taylor] over the last 15 years to greater heights than we could ever have imagined.
Ted Evetts: When I first started watching darts when I was about 10, my grandma was the one who was mad keen into the darts. Her favourite player was Barney. I’ve been fortunate to play him in my short career and the result was more than in favour of him but I’ve got great respect for the guy. He’s such a great player and what he’s done for the game alongside other players is just magnificent.
Keith Deller: The 2007 final against Phil [Taylor]. He was 3-0 down. Russ Bray and I do a lot of shows together – he was refereeing and he tells me all about it – set by set! To me that is the best final ever. You can’t argue with that final. Two 180s in that last leg – it was an unbelievable final.
Colin Lloyd: It wasn’t when he came back and beat me when I was 3-0 up! I only had odd darts to beat him. I had a dart at the bull for a 124 checkout, a dart at tops that crashed into the wire for a 145 and another dart at bull. I never had two or three in hand. It was fate that year. It was one of the greatest finals there’s ever been in the world of darts.
In some ways it was pleasing for me that he went on to win it the way he did. It went all the way to the very last leg and I ended up losing to the champion that year. It just goes to show what a player Barney has been. He’s a great champion, he’s a great fella. We’ve always got on well and I wish him well in his retirement.
Laura Turner: It has to be the last final at the Circus Tavern. You get those games where you never want them to end and that delivered in that respect. Barney had just transitioned from the BDO so it was a great occasion against Phil. I don’t know how people keep their nerve up there!
Rod Studd: To be in the Circus Tavern on that night at the 2007 Worlds was magical. I wasn’t working for Sky then. I was just in the crowd but I still feel the thrill of being stood up by the bar watching an enthralling, gripping, epic game unfolding in front of your eyes in the most spellbinding atmosphere.
These are memories that will never leave you because they’re magical times. Also that Rocky Balboa clash when he beat Michael van Gerwen in the 2016 Worlds when he was a massive underdog. Just generally Barney’s enthusiasm for the World Championship and the way he optimises the difference between ecstasy and agony at the worlds.
Dave Clark: Winning in 2007 was absolutely incredible because it changed the face of the sport. Everybody was watching so the viewing figures went through the roof. That match put darts on the map. One of the greatest sporting events I’ve ever been to.
Rod Harrington: The last World Championship at the Circus Tavern. Although I had won 60 or 70 tournaments worldwide, I remember being in awe of what was going on and it was like watching two heavyweights smashing the hell out of each other. When it went to that last leg, Barney made Phil leave the outer bullseye, he flicked off that dart and got the bullseye. Of course that bull was the difference between winning and losing.
David Croft: In 2015 when he played Michael van Gerwen. I was chatting with Gary Anderson backstage and we were talking away and Michael van Gerwen came out. He went to the loo and then Barney came out and said ‘where is Michael’? We said he’s just gone to the loo. He said ‘Ah right’. He gave Gary his darts and went to shake the portaloo.
Michael comes out saying: ‘What’s going on?’ Barney is giggling and he’s in that frame of mind that you want to see Barney in. He’s happy, he’s calm, relaxed. The players then went off for the walk-ons and I said to Gary Anderson, Barney wins this tonight. He said ‘really?’ I said look at him. He’s as happy as he is ever going to be. They produced seven amazing set of darts. It was a sensational match. I was really glad I was there to witness it.
Laura Woods: Barney was one of the first players I interviewed when I started working at Sky. He was so welcoming, so warm. My first Barney memory was 2007 but I wasn’t working at the darts at the time. Barney stretched out arms on that stage at the Circus Tavern after beating Phil Taylor. I don’t think it gets any better than that really. His walk-on never gets boring – Eye of The Tiger. He dips his head from one side to the other, he looks so mean. I miss that Barney vs Taylor rivalry more than anything. It was genuinely unrivalled. It was like old friends but old foes.