Luke Littler has become a world star after his sensational run to the final of the World Championship at Alexandra Palace.
Although the 16-year-old debutant was beaten in the decider by world number one Luke Humphries, he proved he is going to be a force to be reckoned with for many years.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what is next for the teenage sensation.
Why was his performance such a shock?
Littler has been a star in the making for some time with his performances on the junior circuit and it was winning the World Youth Championship in November that earned him a ticket to the main event. Although he had played some senior events, he had never experienced anything like the raucous atmosphere of a televised event before let alone the World Championship. Many 16-year-olds would have crumbled under the pressure, but Littler thrived on it and looked like he belonged on the biggest stage. He kept his emotions in check throughout the entire tournament and while all of his friends were enjoying their Christmas break from college, he was becoming a world star.
How good can he be?
Based on his performances over the last fortnight, the sky is the limit for ‘The Nuke’. He has already shown he is capable of matching the world’s best players and unless anything goes badly wrong, he will be at the top of the game for many years. Alongside an incredible darting talent, he also appears to have the mental strength to prevail. Former World Championship semi-finalist Wayne Mardle believes he will be a multiple world champion and he will get the chance to start winning some of the biggest tournaments from next month.
What is next for him?
Littler’s success at Ally Pally saw him earn a two-year PDC Tour card and guaranteed return to the World Championship in 2025. He left school in the summer with one GCSE – in sport – to focus on his darts and is ready to take on the professional circuit. His first shot at a major title will come at the UK Open in March as he has earned a spot in the last 64. It will be a test for Littler to handle the schedule as there is a lot of travelling both around the UK and Europe so he may have to pick and choose which events he plays.
What about a place in the Premier League?
The Premier League is a weekly round-robin competition played around the UK – with a couple of dates in Europe – between February and May. The top-four ranked players qualify automatically, with the PDC choosing four other entrants. It will come under big pressure to hand Littler one of the remaining spots after his performance at Ally Pally. The 16-year-old had said he does not think he will get picked due to his age and scheduling but it looks increasingly likely he will get the nod.
How much money can he earn?
Littler has already changed his life over the last fortnight, with his run to the final earning him a cool £200,000, which will be able to buy him a car when he can start driving lessons later this month. But that will be dwarfed by his earning potential from sponsorship and other revenue streams. He has transcended the sport of darts with his performances and personality, turning himself into a global name and the rewards will follow.