Luke Littler lost - but Jude Bellingham must still do this to snatch SPOTY 2024 award

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Jude Bellingham and teenage darts sensation Luke Littler will be in the running for 2024's BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

He's only 16, y'know. Not sure if you've heard. Never before has a schoolboy so utterly exuded the energy and soul of a private hire coach driver with early onset gout. Never before has one grouped darts with the consistency and accuracy of a vengeful, laser-scoped cyborg - a Half Term-inator, if you will. Never before has one adolescent done more for kebab sales, or memories of that mechanic from The Inbetweeners, or the giddy fervour that occasionally sweeps around the Ally Pally and laps at the consciousness of this splintered island like the steady caress of a rising tide.

Against all the odds and most accepted wisdoms, Luke Littler, that Methuselah-faced teenager from Runcorn who calls himself 'The Nuke' and looks as if he did his paper round in Chernobyl, came within a proverbial whisker of becoming the PDC darts champion of the world on Wednesday night, and, just a fortnight after the last one was doled out, will presumably be a serious contender for this year's BBC Sports Personality.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Who else could capture the public imagination like he has? Who else could magnetise lapsed eyeballs and spark conversation from dormant tongues in the same fashion? Who else could be bigger than Littler? Well, as the dizziness of recency bias subsides, the answer is, quite a few people.

These coming 12 months, looming large as they now do, are unusually brimming with sporting spectacle. In the footballing world alone, there is the small matter of a European Championship to consider. (Littler, by the way, was not born until the January after the last major tournament held on German soil, the 2006 World Cup.) Fifty-eight years of hurt is an intangible concept to a person still too young to sit their driving test, but England now carry with them a certain weight of rabid expectation. Partially, this is brought on by their recent flirtations with silverware under Gareth Southgate, and partially, it is due to the emergence of talent like Jude Bellingham.

There is a very persuasive argument that the Real Madrid midfielder is the best player in world football right now. So far this season, he has registered 17 goals and five assists in 22 outings for the Spanish giants, and his contributions have helped steer Los Blancos to the summit of La Liga and the top of their Champions League group, which they won with a perfect, unblemished record. Bellingham, for his part, has been nothing short of sensational, and, at this stage in the campaign, there is still a 'Real' possibility that he and his teammates could secure a domestic and continental treble in the coming months.

That alone still might not be enough to win him a Sports Personality of the Year - after all, it did little for the likes of Jack Grealish or John Stones last season - but factor in an influential turn as the fulcrum in a trophy-winning England side, and it would be hard to look past the former Birmingham City prodigy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The same could be said of Harry Kane. Ever since the striker left boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur over the summer, he has flourished in ways that reassert his status as one of the finest centre-forwards of his generation. Twenty-five goals and eight assists in just 22 appearances for Bayern Munich have catapulted him into the Ballon d'Or conversation, and were he to follow up his Bavarian exploits with, say, a Golden Boot at Euro 2024, the England captain would be a surefire favourite for recognition from the BBC as well.

Or perhaps Euro 2024 will make a hero out of somebody we are still yet to properly consider, just as last year's World Cup cemented Mary Earps as a national idol. Maybe it will be a Jordan Pickford or a Bukayo Saka, a Phil Foden or a Harry Maguire. These things are unknowable until suddenly they are not.

Outside of football's glittering bubble, Paris will host the summer Olympics, a gathering of unfathomable superhumans who captivate just as much as they humble. The likes of swimmer Adam Peaty or heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, in particular, could etch their names into the lauded annals of British sporting folklore, and, consequently, the hearts of the watching public.

And then there are the others, the seeming ever-presents of the SPOTY shortlist: Tyson Fury, puncher of things; Ben Stokes, thrower, catcher, and batter of things; Lewis Hamilton, steerer and revver of things. Their chances are slimmer, their prospects are probably somewhat dimmer, but they will no doubt be in the conversation because, to be blunt, they always are.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All of them will have to beat Littler, though. Even in defeat, there is something Cupid-esque about the teenager - the cherubic demeanour, the slinging of arrows to entice affections. From here, his renown and his résumé will only grow, but forevermore, he will always be the 16-year-old who made the world championship final at his first time of asking. He is to darts what a fresh-faced Pele was to Brazilian football, or a freakishly precocious Boris Becker was to Wimbledon's centre court.

If anybody is to pip the pipsqueak to the Sports Personality throne this year, however, perhaps the most likely candidate is a household name with Three Lions on their shirt.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.