From the Terraces

Lifelong Hammer Russ Bray will take to the stage for one of the biggest televised sporting events of the year on Sunday
Lifelong Hammer Russ Bray takes to the stage for one of the biggest televised sporting events of the year on Sunday night...
It is the first weekend of the New Year and that can mean only two things – football and the PDC World Darts Championship final!

You are talking about the two biggest sports on Sky Sports now. A big football match is obviously the top pull, but the next biggest in terms of viewer numbers is the darts. When you consider we are competing against golf, tennis and the motor racing, it’s unbelievable.

The tournament itself is also growing and growing, with 3,000 people coming to every session at the Alexandra Palace!

We have got 600 more people in per session this year by changing the position of the stage, so on the days we have got two sessions we have got 1,200 more people in – that’s the demand and how big this is getting year-in, year-out.

We have got fantastic players from all over the world now too. Darts is truly becoming a world game, like football, with players from Japan, China and Australia taking part this year – and all of them can play a bit too.

The tour is growing every year with tournaments all over the world. We go to Japan, China, the United States and this year I’ve got flights booked for a tour of Australia – it’s literally worldwide now.

Even for me, as a referee, I’m becoming known all over the world now and we even have our own darts channel on Sky now. It’s getting bigger and better.

I have to pinch myself every day. I just don’t want to wake up from the dream, because that’s what it is. I get to see the world and get paid for it. What was my hobby has now become my living and you just can’t get any better than that.

Of course all the travelling means I don’t get to see as much live West Ham as I would like, but I’ve got my laptop and my tablet and all the Apps I need to see the games when I’m abroad.

We have had a few big injuries with Sakho and Payet out – players who’ve made the difference – but to be fair we’ve gone to places like Man United and drawn and we are holding our own. I think we’re doing really well at the moment.

We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet at the moment, which is great. I didn’t know much about Slaven’s managerial credentials when he was appointed, but I think he’s done absolutely terrific.

This year, 2016, is a big one for West Ham with us moving to a new stadium.

We did something similar when we took the World Championship from the Circus Tavern in Purfleet – just down the road from where I grew up in Ockendon – to Alexandra Palace in 2008.

We could only fit a thousand people in for every session at the Tavern, but now we have three times that for every session.

It’s about demand and you need a bigger premises and that can raise standards across the board – let’s hope we see the same with West Ham.

When we move, if we can fill it then it’s a lot more space for the fans, and hopefully it will attract better players and we can win more games and, dare I say it, a trophy or two!

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United.