Mark Hylton Article and Interview, by Daz Plant

mark hylton

Thanks to another darts mad writer for contributing this article to Darts, Beers & Cheers!  Daz knows his darts, and you can find him on twitter here.  It’s comes at a great time, with Mark about to debut at the World Match Play in Blackpool, against no other than Phil Taylor.  Check out my preview and betting guide with links to put a few quid on.

For years, Mark Hylton was flying high as an Airline Cabin manager, but after only joining the Professional Darts Corporation 18 months ago, he is already looking at flying high up the PDC Order of Merit.  Hylton – who goes by the nickname of ‘Mile High – is a substantial novice in comparison with the star-studded names that will take to the oche in Blackpool for the World Matchplay but his achievements in such a short space of time have put the upper echelon of darts on notice that there is a new force waiting to challenge them for honours.

The 45-year-old from Rugeley in Staffordshire was a slow starter when he joined the PDC, but in the space of a year, he has defeated two PDC major winners on the way to reaching the last 16 of the World Championships, reached the quarter-final of the UK Open and qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts. Such displays, as well as his success in PDC floor tournaments, have earned Hylton plaudits from all quarters of the darting spectrum and the draw for the Winter Gardens showcase has landed the 2010 PDC Newcomer of the year will his sternest test – a date with Phil Taylor in the first round.

Mark has very kindly spared a small amount of his time to answer a few questions about his up-coming match with the greatest darts player in history and his continuing progress in the PDC.

The World Matchplay draw has thrown yourself up against Phil Taylor.  Is that the type of draw you craved – against one of the star names – or was you looking for an easier draw to ‘get warmed up’ in Blackpool?

In the Matchplay there are no easy games due to it being the best 16 and the 16 ‘in-form’ players.
It is fantastic to be part of it this year and the dream scenario is to meet someone like Phil in the final!
However, everyone’s draw is tough and it is fantastic to play Phil on one of the best stages in darts!  It is always a pleasure to play the finest player ever especially after only 18 months of professional experience.

Phil is still up there producing the 100 plus averages on a regular basis, but he has evidently been lacking something to get over the finish line in the last few major tournaments.  Is that a result of the pressure he is now been put under by the other top names or is it an inkling that Taylor might be losing ‘The Power’?

Phil is still the best player in the world in my opinion – the standard overall is getting higher and that is clear.
However I must worry about myself, producing my best darts on any and all occasions.
I seem to recall the last time people thought that Phil was finished and he returned and produced a clean sweep of TV events.  Therefore,  I shall concentrate on giving my best performance.

What’s the plan when you get to Blackpool.  The Winter Gardens is obviously a new venue for you, so are you going to take in a few matches before you play on Monday or will preparations be under-taken at home?

After my experiences in the major events over the last 12 months, I have an organised and efficient pre event routine, concentrating on specific practise and competitive play.
My team and I then approach each major with the intent to go as far as possible but still on a game by game basis – it seems to be working very well up to now!

You reached your first (and hopefully not last!) quarter-final of a PDC major at the UK Open last month.  How was the whole four days for you as a whole?

I was very pleased to get to my first quarter-finals!   I was not surprised because I had been playing well, but very proud.
It was a fantastic experience to return to Bolton after getting there as a amateur four years ago and the ranking improvment is also very welcome!

Obviously the turning point of your early PDC career was making the decision to travel to Australia last August.  Was that always the plan – to take the chance to travel to Australia – or was that plan only implemented after the first few months in the PDC?  PS – I notice that the Aussie Players Championships have disappeared this year!

As a new player myself and my manager planned the entire year in order to get a tour card. We built in options at each stage, however I strongly believe that my form at that time was good enough that i would have done whatever was required to get into the World Championships,
I had settled approximately a month before and started to pick up more money and good wins against higher ranked players.
The Australian experience was as beneficial in confidence as anything else and has enabled me to build strongly on my own form and experience since.

You have enjoyed some superb performances in the floor tournaments since that trip and taken some impressive scalps – most notably in the past six weeks.   Is there a certain match, or a point in a match that was the catalyst to take you to two quarter-finals and two semi-finals in the past eight floor events?

Obviously the improvement has been solid and steady since June last year. I have been improving in Practise, Opens and PDC. I think the turning point has come in two parts.  I defeated Micheal Van Gerwen and Jamie Caven in Haarlem last year. This then proved I could translate my real form  to the higher level games.
Then this year, I had slipped slightly behind my targets for the year and was unhappy about it. In Vienna I was unwell and disappointed in myself but determined to put it right.
I managed to reach the quarter-finals that day ( when below my best) and it again added another layer of belief which has been seen in my results since.

You’re just one of a few players who have recently made the breakthrough on the PDC Tour, but for whatever reason, perhaps haven’t received the same media-coverage and plaudits as them.  Do you think there is any particular reason for this, and if so, does it only add to the motivation to show people how good Mark Hylton really is?

I think it maybe because that as I don’t come from a traditional background, it seems that I have slipped though unaware’s.
I have had a lot of credit behind the scene’s, from officials and others closely involved.  I’ve also had many supportive friends on the open circuit – I know my manager feels that I am some sort of fairytale come true!
But, I have always had doubters whether local or otherwise, some seem to think I am a flash in the pan.
I do use some of it to spur me on, but really I am proving things to myself and those who have always believed in me.  I have also learned to appreciate the support that I do get and those who have supported or sponsored me when others would not!

Do you and Callum (Mark’s manager) have a target of where you want to be, in say 6-12 months time, or are you just taking each tournament as it comes and seeing what happens?

With the Order of Merit, Tour Card and seeding systems, as well as the regular calendar changes, it is important to professionally plan each stage of a career in darts. However it cannot be robotically plotted.
Therefore we set goals and revise them as the season progresses.  This also helps with preparations and plans for forthcoming events and keeps the focus on the present.  It has worked well, but is constantly under review!  For example, we aimed to reach the top 32 as soon as possible and gain more major experience in 2011/12 – whether that transpires or not, we will have to wait and see!

Cheers to Daz and Mark Hylton for that really interesting peek at a real up n coming player in the PDC.  I’ve personally a lot of time for Mark and Callum, who are always ready to stop and have a chat.

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