Rising darts star Luke Littler has apologized after posing in an issue of The Sun newspaper.

Littler will face darts legend Raymond van Barneveld on Saturday night in the World Darts Championship, becoming the youngest player to reach this stage of the competition.

The 16-year-old gave an interview to The Sun after his fame soared and was photographed holding a copy of the newspaper on Friday.

Hailing from Runcorn, near Liverpool, fans resented Littler because the paper was extremely unpopular in the area. Over the years, the publication has come under massive scrutiny for its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Now the teenager has written a statement. He says: “Today a photo of me holding a newspaper was published in the media. The media attention I received was very new to me and at the time I didn’t fully understand what was being asked of me.

“I do not in any way endorse this newspaper or the headline accompanying the article and I sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused. “I am now focusing on my next match against Barney and would like to thank everyone for their great support.”

Scottish darts star Gary Anderson also criticized the media for covering Littler’s rise to stardom.

Anderson said: “I’ll say this right now: We had another guy named Josh Rock who was totally destroyed by all his pressure and everything.

“So if Luke gets in trouble, pat himself on the back, because that’s what he is. Let your child play darts. Today I was depressed, there were cameras, Zoom calls, heavenly meetings.

“Let the child play darts. He had a great tournament, he performed well, but what if he leaves now, Pete Tong? You guys ruined everything, didn’t you? So let’s let a guy play darts, he’s 16, he plays well and, like Josh Rock, he’s a fantastic player, but they lock him up for two or three years.

“You have no idea how many young darts players we see come through the system and people say, ‘This will be the best option.’ The pressure is on, everything is going Pete Tong, where are they now?

“We have seen this in the past. You look at darts over the last 10 years, how many young people have come through and everyone says, “This is going to be the next big thing.” Where are?”