Dobey's darting dream of World Championship glory
"For me to win the world championship, I'd say it would probably be on the same level as Newcastle United winning the Premier League or FA Cup!"
This month, Newcastle United fan Chris Dobey will embark on a quest to win darts' showpiece event at London's Alexandra Palace, the PDC World Championship.
Nicknamed 'Hollywood', the world number 22 from Bedlington begins his campaign on December 19 at the second round stage and is eyeing a fairytale run to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy along with pocketing an eye-catching £500,000, which would propel the 29-year-old into the world's top ten.
So how is he feeling ahead of the highly-anticipated tournament?
"I'm preparing myself right and looking forward to it this year, especially going in as a seeded player for the first time so it's a big step in my career," Chris said.
"I'm feeling confident going into the competition. It's probably been my most successful year on the tour to date. I'm playing well at the moment and hopefully I can take that next step and get to the final and get a title under my belt.
"It is everybody's dream to be world champion. I believe in myself and know I've got the talent, it's just whatever happens on the day. I'll be preparing myself in the best way possible to hopefully lift that trophy."
Dobey takes on either Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp or New Zealand qualifier Ben Robb in the last 64 of the World Championship
Despite only playing five years as a professional, Chris is no stranger to throwing on darts' biggest stage, with the Geordie facing the retiring 16-time world champion Phil 'The Power' Taylor at the iconic Ally Pally in 2018 followed by last year's deciding set defeat to two-time world champion and mentor Gary Anderson at the fourth round stage.
"In Phil's last year (before retiring), I played him in the first round," he added. "It was one of those things where I was still learning and it was a big thing to play Taylor in his last ever world championship because I could have been the last ever person to beat him.
"That was playing on my mind and it was a great experience to play the best ever in the sport and I took a lot of confidence and learnt a great deal from that game.
"It was then a great to play Gary on the biggest stage of all and coming so close to beating him. I learnt a lot from that overall game too and, for me, it showed me where my game was at!"
It's been an enjoyable 12 months on the darting circuit for Chris, who has risen to world number 22 after reaching the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix and Player Championship Finals, losing out to both of darts' current star attractions in Dutch sensation Michael van Gerwen and Welshman Gerwyn Price.
Chris was also given the opportunity to make his Premier League debut in February, performing at the Utilita Arena in Newcastle after replacing Gary Anderson following the Scot's withdrawal.
A huge sporting ambition was fulfilled for Chris that night, with 'Hollywood' even changing his walk-on music for the big occasion, switching from 2 Unlimited's dance track 'No Limit' to Mark Knopfler's Geordie anthem 'Local Hero' as he received a rapturous hero's welcome onto the stage by 8,000 fans before holding Austrian Mensur Suljovic to an entertaining draw on home soil.
"I think playing in the Premier League at Newcastle was the kickstart of the year," he recalls with glee. "Obviously, I had less than a week to prepare for it which was quite a shock to me but once I got up there, especially after going to St. James' for the media day, it was really special to me.
Dobey poses with the PDC Premier League trophy during the media day at St. James' Park
"It was a great feeling to play in front of a home crowd and I gained a lot of confidence and experience from that game. Walking out to Local Hero had to be done as well! Being a big Newcastle fan, it was always going to happen for me whether I played in Newcastle or not.
"The hairs stood on the back of my neck that night and even Glen Durrant, who is a big Middlesbrough fan, said the same which coming from a Middlesbrough supporter is something else!"
Chris' interest in Newcastle United is clearly evident with his strong support for the club on social media. Brought up in a Newcastle-supporting family, Chris regularly visited away grounds up and down the country to cheer on his beloved Magpies.
"I've got so many great memories of supporting Newcastle United," he says whilst speaking at the club's training ground. "I have supported them all my life really but didn't start following it until about the age of four or five. My first game I attended was an FA Cup game against Everton and we won 4-1!
"I used to go to a lot of away games with my uncle and they were always special. It was until five or six years ago, where I'd been to most of the derby games at St. James' Park too and I'd never seen them lose or draw until a few years ago. They always stood out whilst supporting the club."
Chris was also a keen footballer himself growing up and featured at non-league level for a number of North east clubs but revealed a big sacrifice was made in order to take the next crucial steps in his darts career.
"I used to play football before I took up darts," he explains. "I played for Bedlington Terriers and Blyth Spartans and then as I got on in my darts career, I just started playing with friends nearby.
"As soon as I got my tour card, I knew I couldn't keep playing football because if I get one bad injury, my darts career could be knackered. It's the risk I had to take but it's probably the best decision I made in the end."
They say the best things come to those who wait but Chris, who previously worked as a road traffic operative, only took to the oche after his teenage years and revealed his move from the tarmac to tungsten began with a life-changing telephone call.
"I first picked a dart up when I was 20 years old so it's nearly ten years now," he remembers clearly. "I've come on in that time and this has been my fifth year as a professional. I've done a lot in a short space of time.
"The first time I started playing was when I got a call from a friend who was short of a player for his local pub team. I was actually at a pub having a game of bingo with my mam so it's a funny story.
"It's one of those spur of the moment things. I went up and filled in for him and I've never looked back since."
Practice is everything to exceed in darts and Dobey, who struck a nine-dart finish on the Pro Tour this year, believes the heavy dedication he has put into improving his game can only benefit him as he bids to lift his first piece of major darting silverware on New Years' Day.
But if Chris could compare winning a maiden world title to a special feat with his beloved Magpies, which would he choose?
"For me to win the world championship, I'd say it would probably be on the same level as Newcastle United winning the Premier League or FA Cup," Dobey says with deep thought.
"I'm playing more and putting a lot of time into it. Leading up to the world championships, I'm playing in a lot of local competitions and leagues so there's no reason why I can't go up onto the stage and keep the form going."