Humphries poised for ‘nostalgic’ Exeter return

Luke Humphries (Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Luke Humphries is relishing a return to familiar territory on Night Five of the BetMGM Premier League, as he prepares to take on Michael van Gerwen in his quarter-final tie in Exeter.

The world’s top two players will go head-to-head at Westpoint Exeter in Thursday’s curtain-raiser, as reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen targets an unprecedented fourth consecutive nightly victory.

The Dutch superstar already boasts an eight-point lead at the Premier League summit, winning nine straight matches to celebrate success in Berlin, Glasgow and Newcastle respectively.

Humphries, meanwhile, is aiming to regain his place in the Play-Off positions after being leapfrogged in the table by Rob Cross, following his deciding-leg defeat to the 2018 World Champion in Tyneside.

World number one Humphries is featuring in his first fully-fledged Premier League campaign in 2024, although he’s no stranger to Exeter, having twice featured in the south-west as a ‘challenger’ in 2019 and 2020.

The 29-year-old earned a 6-6 draw with Gerwyn Price in the 2019 edition, before becoming the first and only ‘challenger’ to triumph in the Premier League 12 months later, courtesy of a 7-5 success against Gary Anderson.

“Being back in Exeter brings back some nostalgic vibes for me,” admitted Humphries, who is aiming to maintain his unbeaten record at the Westpoint on Thursday.

“This is where I first began my journey of playing in big TV tournaments, so this is a venue that holds a place close to my heart.

“Little did I know that four years later I'd be playing in the Premier League as the World Champion!”

Humphries boasts the highest tournament average of this year’s roadshow ahead of Night Five, having registered six consecutive ton-topping averages since Night One.

Despite this, the World Champion arrives in Exeter in fifth position, trailing Van Gerwen, Michael Smith, Luke Littler and Cross in the embryonic table.

“My performances have been good so far. If you’re averaging over a ton you’re at a decent level,” added the Newbury-born star.

“I’ve been getting into winning positions and not really getting over the line. I haven’t been as clinical as I was at the back end of last year, but that’s the only real difference.

“My performances have been as consistent as they can be really, and if I keep playing that way, the results and the nightly wins will come.

“I’ve just got to keep the faith and keep working hard.”

Humphries faces a tough opening assignment on Thursday, as he takes on a rampant Van Gerwen for a place in the semi-finals.

The pair locked horns in Glasgow’s Night Three showpiece a fortnight ago, with Van Gerwen overturning a 4-2 deficit to triumph in a last-leg shoot-out.

“Michael has got to lose at some point, and I’m hoping it’s this week!” quipped the World Champion.

“He’s won the last three nights so he’s going to be full of confidence, and he’s going to want to break the record of winning four consecutive nights.

“It is up to me to stop him, and I feel my game is in a good place. I’m second on the Form Guide, so there’s no panic from me. I think the results will come.

“He knows how well I can play, and I know how well he can play. It’s going to be a tough test against Michael, but I’m looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully it should be a good game.”

The 2024 BetMGM Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.

2024 BetMGM Premier League
Thursday February 29, Night Five
Westpoint Exeter

Luke Humphries v Michael van Gerwen
Nathan Aspinall v Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross
Luke Littler v Michael Smith

Humphries/Van Gerwen v Aspinall/Wright
Price/Cross v Littler/Smith

Humphries/Van Gerwen/Aspinall/Wright v Price/Cross/Littler/Smith