Bearing more of a resemblance to a rock star than a professional darts player, Ryan Searle does a pretty good impression of both.
The self-proclaimed heavy metal fan is beginning to strum some serious riffs on the circuit.
Since turning pro in 2016, Searle has made steady progress, improving each year. Now looking a dangerous threat in most tournaments, it’s surely a matter of time before we see him break into the world’s top 16.
Already during 2021, the 34-year old has followed up on last year’s maiden PDC title victory in Wigan by claiming a second in Barnsley …. and three runners-up spots. Significantly, the majority of successes coming in recent months – a time which most players would choose to hit top gear.
Searle has also enjoyed deep runs in both the World Championship and UK Open. But for a narrow defeat to Stephen Bunting, it would have been a dream quarter-final appearance at Ally Pally.
At the World Grand Prix in October, Searle reached a maiden televised quarter-final where once again, it was The Bullet who halted his progress.
Throw into the mix, this year’s astronomical averages and scintillating performances on the pro-tour circuit, Heavy Metal is gradually putting the band together.
Once he discovers the formula to consistently reproduce those stellar displays on the main stage, then ultimately major titles will surely follow.
But every story has a beginning. And in Ryan’s case, it’s intriguing to discover why he chose a set of darts over perhaps a pair of drumsticks.
He said: “I have always been a fan of the game. My parents were huge enthusiasts and naturally, it rubbed off on me.
“As a child, I had a dartboard in my bedroom. Then, as most kids do with toys and games, I went through spells of playing regularly. Even at a young age, I was always fairly decent.
“Then at 21, I began to play for my local pub team. Almost immediately they complimented my ability. It just grew from there really.
“Within a few years, I was playing county as well as on the PDC Challenge Tour. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I saw darts as more than just a hobby. At the time, I had my own window cleaning business and saw chucking arrows as a bit of fun with the lads.
“But finishing second to Rob Cross on the 2016 Challenge Tour automatically earned me a tour card and altered my mindset. That was when I decided to put all my effort into darts”, he added.
As a proud Devonian, Tiverton-born Searle has since shifted a little further east within the county he loves.
“I now live in a small village called Holcombe Rogus. Most of my family are close by and the majority of my free time is spent with them.
“I’ve two children, a 7-years old son and a daughter who has just turned five. When I’m not away at the darts, I try and do as much as possible with the kids.
“My grandparents are nearby too so I often pop in there. They have always taken a keen interest in my darting career and are extremely proud.”
Music-wise, it shouldn’t be a surprise to discover Ryan’s CD collection contain the likes of System Of A Down, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. You’ll struggle to find any Kylie or Steps.
With that in mind, a subtle double entendre was used to cannily create Searle’s nickname of ‘Heavy Metal’. By wittingly making reference to his preferred genre of music and density of darts, the clever moniker almost screamed out.
Armed with 32g, the heaviest on the tour, weapons of mass destruction it’s easy to see how in combination with his musical choice, the nickname endured.
Attempting to steer clear of the topic of ‘bogey’ players Ryan instead opts to discuss his frightening lack of vision.
“Oh it’s not great”, he laughs, looking into the wrong camera in doing so.
“I recently went to the opticians and the topic of what I do for a living came up. Despite not having a clue about darts, she seemed really interested and was amazed how I’m able to do my job with such poor eyesight. To be honest, so am I!
Half an hour later, Ryan’s sight hadn’t improved, appointment times were delayed by 30 minutes much to the delight of frustrated customers – but the optician’s knowledge of darts was dramatically enhanced.
Further highlighting his visual impediment, Ryan added: “I am also colour-blind. My friends and I used to play a lot of snooker and they’d often have to tell me which colour was which. Of course, everyone found it hilarious – particularly when they lied!
“Pool wasn’t any easier. I’d have to meticulously watch the white ball as it hurtled around the table so I didn’t end up cueing on a yellow.
“Even in darts, I’m forever asking the referee if it’s in or not. I remember a match against Gary Anderson in last year’s World Championships. I had to check if I’d hit the T20 or not. Apparently, it was closer to the bull!
“Don’t get me wrong, my eyesight is ok. It’s better than it was. As long as I don’t forget my contact lenses, I’m ok. But at least I don’t have to check with the referee after every throw nowadays. Just every other one!
“For driving, I am bound by law to wear glasses. Apparently, even with them on, my vision is only just over the legal requirement to hold a licence. But I choose to drive because I’m a bad passenger.
Ironic hey! But imagine a Ryan Searle with 20/20 vision? Considering a blindfolded bat seemingly possesses superior eyesight, he doesn’t do too bad on the oche.
It’s almost like a switch was flicked when January this year hit. Performances, averages and runs in tournaments all shot up. Not to mention confidence. So what was the key?
Searle said: “Well nothing has changed in terms of equipment and my throw. But practicing with Gary Anderson has really been a huge factor. He’s only a 40-minute drive away and we get together regularly.
“I now have my man cave all finished and decked out. I’m not a huge practicer at the best of times. Now, having a fantastic new environment to throw a few darts is a nice incentive.
“But I’ve always been of the thought that if I practice and hit everything, then why bother carrying on?”
Logically, I guess that makes sense. And it must be working fine because Searle continues to impress and improve. A fifth-placed finish in this year’s Pro-Tour Order of Merit is deserved recognition of an excellent year on the floor.
His first quarter-final television major appearance at the recent World Grand Prix was a loud knock on the door to the rest of the field. A knock which few are rushing to answer.
All the crucial big stage experience in front of the television cameras has helped Searle to adjust. Now he feels more at home playing to large audiences and the eyes of the darting world upon him.
He said: “Playing on TV in front of millions used to be extremely unnerving. But now, because I have done it so many times, it’s become a lot easier. I feel far more comfortable in the major events now and playing much more consistently in them too.
“In my mind, I’m able to blank everything out and treat it as just another game. At the end of the day, I believe if I play my best, then I will win.
“A few years ago, I hit a bad spell and was constantly putting pressure on myself. I couldn’t pick up a victory to save my life. Then I won a Red Dragon event called the Champions of Champions and didn’t look back.”
Searle now seems to have found all the right ingredients and is destined for glory. Touted by many experts as a future television major champion, it seems a fairly safe bet which you won’t be waiting too long to cash in.
He has the unwavering support of not only countless darts lovers around the globe but an entire country too – presided over and ruled by a close friend.
Of course, we are referring to the leader of the Edgar Nation who needs no introduction but is going to get one …. Mr Matthew Edgar.
“Ha….yeah we get on great.”, laughed Searle. “We were just practicing on the same board one day at a pro-tour, got chatting and been good buddies since. When travelling, we usually share a room together.
“Compared to me, he’s quite the extrovert. Well, in fairness, compared to most people the same could be said. But he is a good friend – always there to support me and vice versa. It’s great to have mates on the tour as we are away quite a lot.
“My Dad often comes with me to the television events. But for the pro-tour – it’s just me and my car.
DW Editor: The author of the piece added, in a note for me, that he was certain Ryan would go far at Minehead!
Originally appeared in Darts World Magazine (Issue 577)
Images: L Lustig PDC