RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD has revealed he fell into depression after his last appearance at Ally Pally ended in embarrassment – but his new girlfriend gave him renewed focus.

Holland’s five-time world darts champion was humbled by American outsider Darin Young in the first round of the PDC World Darts Championships in December 2019.

That loss really hurt and it ruined his Christmas two years ago and as he trundled out of the exit door, the crestfallen star told reporters: "I’ll hate myself every single day."

But rejuvenated Barney is beginning to smile again thanks to his new love after he divorced wife Silvia after more than 25 years of marriage.

He has settled down with Londoner Julia and the pair have grown stronger over the past two years of the pandemic.

The 54-year-old dramatically quit the sport in January 2020 but then did a U-Turn later that year when Covid ruined his chance of doing the exhibition circuit.

To his credit, having relinquished his Tour card, he secured a spot via the 2021 Q School and will now play Lourence Ilagan of the Philippines in the first round on Monday evening – with the winner facing Rob Cross in the second round.

Barney, the 2007 PDC world darts champion, told SunSport about his troubles last year, saying: “I was convinced I’d have a good run in the 2020 world championships even though the whole year had been poor.

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Barney and Julia have enjoyed holidays in the sunCredit: Instagram
The 54-year-old is 17 years older than his new partnerCredit: Instagram
The darts legend was with ex-wife Silvia for 25 years

“When I was beaten by Darin it felt like the floor was gone under my feet. I thought: ‘Wow, this isn’t happening.’

“I gave a stupid interview to Sky Sports. I was devastated. This was my only and last chance ever. I couldn’t forgive myself.

“Later that month I stayed with my girlfriend Julia in London. I was really depressed with Christmas as well. Never happy.

“Julia helped me through it. On January 1, I said to myself: ‘Ray, this needs to stop. You still have a fantastic life, had a fantastic career, a lovely new girlfriend, kids and family.’

“I said now we’ll stop this – and show them the new, better Ray.

“Three months later, I feel more energised, I don’t play with stress anymore.”

Barney, who is diabetic, won a Players Championship in Bolton to show that he was back on the circuit and is ranked 68th in the world.

But he had a scare last March in Milton Keynes when he had a funny turn and collapsed while marking a match.

Barney said: “I’m the worst loser in this darts world. I don’t want to play one or two rounds and then go home again. I’m not a person like that.

“I’d rather retire and sit home and watch the darts, do exhibitions. I’m a winner. I want to lift trophies.

“Going out in the first or second rounds – those moments are devastating and it kills me inside.

“I’m the only one of two other players who have five or more world championships. The others are Phil Taylor and Eric Bristow. I’m proud of that.

“People say to me: ‘Ray, you are different now.’ Well, I’m more laidback.

“Normally I was always focused and had no time for others. Now I can be myself.

“My whole life, from when I was 16-17 years old, was darts, darts, darts. Now I see other things.

“I can meet friends and see my family again. Have a nice weekend abroad or a holiday.”

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