Darting legend Raymond van Barneveld has revealed he never wanted to retire, but the 53-year-old Dutchman feels he has been given a second chance at the big time.

After playing the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Phil Taylor for many years, Barney will be among the hundreds of hopefuls at the H+ Hotel in Niedernhausen, Germany.

It will a career first for the Dutchman who took his final bow on the professional stage when Darin Young delivered a 3-1 defeat to the former postman at the world championship in December 2019.

However, just over a year since putting away his arrows, the five-time world champion is ready to have another crack at darting glory, having announced his intention to compete at Qualifying School as he bids to regain his PDC Tour Card.

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But why? After all, he has scooped 26 major titles, landed five televised nine-dart finishes and inspired a generation of budding young players in his homeland.

“In all fairness, I miss it,” Van Barneveld told Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie. “My future when I gave up the game, I was thinking I was going to do exhibitions, I still see my colleagues and I still see the fans and the first three months went okay and then COVID came and it became worse and worse.

“After three or four months I didn’t have work to do. I didn’t play exhibitions anymore, I didn’t have clinics and I didn’t play tournaments because I was retired and I started missing it.

“I went from 100 per cent attention on TV and press to nothing and I never liked that. I wanted to be involved in the game as an analyst for TV or playing exhibitions and clinics and that wasn’t happening anymore so after a couple of months I felt sad.”

Barney feels a sabbatical rather than retirement would have been the better option for him. But nevertheless, he is certain of adding to his haul of trophies this time around.

“It was maybe better if I took a sabbatical for one year. I would have kept my Tour Card but now I have to start all over again but I’m pretty sure I can do it,” said the 2014 Premier League champion.

“I’m not going to say it’s realistic I can lift the world championship. My first target is to get a Tour Card and that is realistic.

“It is hard. It’s like starting from scratch. I’m an amateur who will be playing with amateurs and there are a lot of top players there so it won’t be easy. If Dirk van Duijvenbode and Jeffrey de Zwaan can get one why can’t I?

“There will be players with a 60 average. I don’t know them, but they know me and hopefully they’ll get really nervous playing me.”

Van Barneveld recalls the moment he made a darting U-turn, admitting he has missed the adulation of his adoring fans.

He said: “I met my old coach in town and he said ‘what you must do is pick up your darts again, start practising and apply for Q-School, we still believe in you, you can still do this. The decision you made was not the right decision’.

“I really missed the game and the attention from the fans but in all fairness if you want to pick a year to leave the sport, pick 2020.”

“Sometimes I had to deal with three or four defeats in one single week and I hated losing just the once.

“This time I’m renewed and I feel much better. I have a goal to get the Tour Card and then my next goal is to get myself to the world championship. Nine out of 10 times, if I give myself a goal I will manage it. Everything that comes in my path to that world championship will be an extra bonus.

“The Tour Card is hard to get and if you do get one, you start at scratch. You have to do really well to get yourself in these major tournaments but it’s not impossible.”

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The Dutchman also recalled arguably the darkest day of his illustrious career, when he made a shock first-round exit at Alexandra Palace.

“The world championship defeat to Darin Young, I felt like the whole world was laughing at me. I was a joke and I felt ashamed. That was the hardest moment of my life. I always said to myself if I ever, ever got the chance to come back, I want to do it well and better,” he added.

“To be fair, I don’t think Darin Young had ever beat me before that match and it all came together for him.

“I was never happy with the decision to retire. I never thought ‘this will be good for me’ and me quitting darts, I never quit.”

Both the UK and European Qualifying Schools will see Stage One held across two blocks of three days, from February 8-10 and 11-13, before the Final Stage is held from February 14-17.

Watch full coverage of every night of the Premier League on Sky Sports, and stick with us through the year as we bring you the latest darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts

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