NATHAN ASPINALL is aiming to show his Unibet Premier League credentials when he steps onto the Motorpoint Arena stage against Michael Smith on Thursday night.
Aspinall will compete in Nottingham as the latest Contender to replace Gary Anderson during the opening nine weeks of the Premier League season.
The Stockport ace was selected in February shortly after his superb run to the World Championship semi-finals at Alexandra Palace, where he made his big-stage breakthrough.
He was eventually stopped by a brilliant Michael Smith performance in the last four - and the pair will lock horns again in Nottingham on Thursday.
"I couldn't believe it when I got the call, I was buzzing," he revealed. "I'd seen that Gary had pulled out but never in a million years did I think that I was going to get a call-up.
"When I heard, I was really happy for the PDC to put me in and give me an opportunity to show what I can do. I've got to grab that opportunity with both hands and show everybody what I can do.
"In all honesty it would have been nice to have played Michael van Gerwen, because he's the best player in the world, but to play Michael Smith after the semi-final game that we had is nice.
"It should hopefully be another good game. The semi-final was a great game - Michael played phenomenal darts so hopefully on Thursday night I can get my own back on him.
"People want it to be another exciting game and I'm sure it will be."
Aspinall has since gone on to join the PDC's list of televised title winners with his memorable UK Open success, which included wins over two other Premier League aces, Gerwyn Price and Rob Cross.
The 27-year-old has been thrust into the limelight with that triumph, and he admitted: "My name was getting about after the World Championship run, but now I've won my first major a lot more people know who I am.
"I'm not just getting brought on as a contender, I'm getting brought on as a major winner, so I'm really looking forward to the walk-on!"
That UK Open win came less than a fortnight ago as Aspinall sealed his win in the final against Cross with a stunning 170 checkout - sparking huge celebrations amongst family and friends and moving the Stockport ace into the world's top 16.
Reflecting on the reaction since, he admitted: "It's been manic!
"I had a little bit of a homecoming on the Monday night when I got back, and I've been doing a lot of interviews and spending time with the family when I can as well as practising.
"It's been really busy but that's what we do it for. I'm still trying to get my head around the whole last three months really, I've not had time for it all to sink in.
"It's been a whirlwind few months for me but now I'm out to show that I belong in the Premier League.
"I've been in the World Championship semi-finals, won a major and am in the top 16, and none of it's really sunk in. At the moment it's all a bit of a blur to be honest."
Aspinall is now focusing on the clash with Smith in Nottingham as a showcase for his own credentials as the newest member of the sport's elite.
"I want to go and show people what I can do," he adds.
"I'm going to enjoy it and hopefully it's going to be the most enjoyable game that I've played in my career so far, in front of a massive crowd.
"I know I won the UK Open, but my performances weren't my best so I want to play at the level I know I can play at and prove to everyone that I'm worth a shot in the Premier League next year."
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night Six - Thursday March 14
Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith
James Wade v Mensur Suljovic
Rob Cross v Raymond van Barneveld
Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
Tickets: 0843 373 3000 or click here