Rob Cross sometimes has to pinch himself just how quick his journey from armchair fan to world champion was.

The former electrician went from watching the World Championship on television to winning it in just 12 months, announcing himself on the world stage with a stunning fortnight.

And now Cross, nicknamed the Voltage due to his former profession, is plotting a defence to the title he won on New Year’s Day when the action gets under way at the Alexandra Palace on Thursday.

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“I can remember when I wasn’t playing at Christmas we’d always put the darts on, it was always special to me even before I was a professional,” the 28-year-old told Press Association Sport.

“It is just phenomenal when you go there. It’s the biggest one, it’s the one that everyone wants and if you can get it then it’s life-changing.

“I’ve always had the ability to know that I could become number one in the world, I believe I can play better. But the timeframe takes some believing in how everything happened, it was very quick.”

Life has changed inexplicably for Cross and the demands of being one of the big guns took its toll as results in 2018 have not lived up to expectations.

“It’s different in a lot of ways, I’m not a person who craves attention and then all of a sudden you are getting it and it’s new because you are not used to that,” he added.

Rob Cross stunned Michael van Gerwen in last year's finalRob Cross stunned Michael Van Gerwen in last year’s final (Steven Paston/PA)

“Things have changed. It’s not all about throwing darts, it’s about what’s going on in the background. Next year will be better anyway.

“I am a better player, better mentally, but as there are more pressures put on I probably did dip through the year. I couldn’t carry on at the same rate I was going, no one can do that in sport, everyone has to have a little bit of a down period.

“It has been a drastic change, everything has changed, but that’s why buying my house and having a nice place to come back to with the family, as long as I get that it’s fine and I feel great.”

Cross’ defence could come under a stern test in the second round as he is likely to face Jeffrey de Zwaan – a man who has twice beaten Michael Van Gerwen this year.

The Kent thrower had to qualify for his place in last year’s tournament, so is not one to underestimate any player, but thinks he has enough to progress.

“I got a place at the Worlds last year and went on to win it which just goes to show you can’t take anything for granted,” he said.

“You have to go there and perform well and if you don’t anyone can bite you on the bum, they’re all there on merit.

“I have got a good record against him, Van Gerwen has lost against him twice this year. I won’t look any further than Jeffrey and take it one game at a time.

“If I play like I am playing at the minute then I will win anyway, I am enjoying it.

“It is the most relaxed I am feeling all year, I am enjoying myself and I can’t wait to get in there and go and play.”