If at first you don’t succeed…

Needless to say, the midweek Serie A bets did not go well.  I went in down and ended up losing another 0.60 so I’m now over a point down with a one point per bet system after nine attempts. Had Torino not conceded an equaliser with the last kick of the game I’d be up, but they did, and I’m not – so we go again.

Of course losing is half of gambling, maybe more for most people, and without it winning wouldn’t be so sweet and so on and so forth…  I’ll get my excuses out now and hopefully I won’t have to use them again.

Watford had a good win at Stoke last weekend and Troy Deeney grabbed a goal so maybe going against them is a mistake but regardless of that I do fancy West Ham.  I covered that game and I’m not sure how good the Hornets actually were last week, Stoke had a lot of the ball but didn’t do much with it and Geoff Cameron going off early destabilised them a bit.  The Hammers have a decent away record this year and Watford just can’t seem to score at home, although I have a feeling Deeney might be a bit more dangerous now he’s got one.  This one is close but my gut is saying West Ham and at 2/1 they’re worth the risk.

There isn’t much else grabbing me in the Premier League in all honesty, if I was in profit I might have a punt on Crystal Palace at home to Manchester United at around 3/1, simply as Louis van Gaal’s men aren’t scoring and played in midweek, but I’m not that confident.  Leicester are also worth a mention but at 8/5 against a West Brom team who could frustrate them I think they’re too short a price.  The Baggies don’t concede many and are fairly reluctant to really push forward, which could render Leicester’s counter-attacking style pointless if they don’t score early.

Instead I’ve decided to put one point on a Championship double that pays out at 27/10, with Burnley a top price of 4/5 to beat Huddersfield and Middlesbrough at 4/9 to down Charlton. At home both the Clarets and Boro should be too strong for their respective opponents and I’m thinking doubling up makes sense as I try and claw back some losses.

Despite my midweek struggles in Serie A I’m going to finish with another from Italy and go for a Roma win at Inter Milan at 13/8.  Inter have picked up a lot of points but they’re yet to really impress in terms of a great performance.  Roma beat early Scudetto rivals Fiorentina last weekend and you get the sense they’re starting to smell some silverware after years of playing second fiddle to Juventus.  Roma have managed 10 goals in just five away games this season and only one side, Inter as it happens, have a better record on their travels so far this term.  Again this is another close one, but Roma just have that bit more cohesion and quality about them and I reckon they’ll just edge it.

Profit/loss: -1.24


Snooker: A Crown Without A King

It always feels a little strange when a champion doesn’t return to defend their title, and that’s what is going to happen at a Ronnie O’Sullivan-less UK Championship this year.

O’Sullivan is the undisputed star of snooker, a towering figure in the mold of Muhammad  Ali, Ayrton Senna or Usain Bolt, and arguably he is bigger than the sport itself.

At least that’s how the BBC seem to see it. They felt compelled to quote World Snooker as saying they “were still expecting “a great event””, while noting it will “disappoint many fans” in their report of his absence.  To me, this implies they think the tournament will be less exciting, a little strange for the company who will broadcast the event.  World Snooker, incidentally, have declined to publish O’Sullivan’s decision not to enter on their official website.

Clearly major events are often adversely effected when the king doesn’t return to defend his crown, the FA Cup has probably been irreparably damaged by Manchester United’s decision to skip the tournament in 1999-2000 (former boss Sir Alex Fergsuon has since claimed the call was based on politics) and when boxers fight for a vacant belt it just isn’t the same as a challenger going toe-to-two with the champ.  The exception to that rule is if the champion has retired.

That allows the fan to think ‘that’s the end of an era, who will step up and dominate now?’ but we don’t know if that’s what we should be thinking or not here.  O’Sullivan’s future for me seems pretty up in the air, he’s taken long breaks before and returned rejuvenated and hungry for silverware, but he has, on more than one occasion, admitted he’s thought about ending his career and has felt dissatisfied with his life in the sport.  The Rocket – typically – is giving very little away. Is he happy with his media work and playing Snooker Legends from time to time?  Is he planning to call time for good or is he just taking an extended break?  Will there at least be one final hurrah at the World Championship in Sheffield?  Does he still have that desire to match or better Stephen Hendry’s record?  I haven’t got a clue, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the man himself isn’t sure, all I do know is he hasn’t played competitively since April.

As big a star as O’Sullivan is, snooker will not die when he does decide to put down his cue, sit back and reflect on the tremendous feats he achieved.  I really hope he does continue but I’m not going to give up on the game if he doesn’t.  Admittedly, O’Sullivan is the kind of player you’ll put stuff to one side to watch, I might stop working or risk the wrath of the girlfriend to watch a frame when normally I wouldn’t but if he isn’t there someone will eventually fill that void.

At this point I feel I need to explain my love of the game a bit.  Snooker isn’t rocket science – it’s much more complicated and intricate than that. I used to think of it as a fairly weird game, played by odd, slightly (or very) nerdy guys who were inexplicably dressed in waistcoats.  Then I went off to university, had a bit more time on my hands and when, one hazy afternoon after three or four of us had split a twenty bag of weed, one of my buddies put the snooker on and my on-off love affair began.

I’ve got no idea who was playing that day but I was transfixed, it probably would have been the Worlds in 2004 or 2005.  You see with snooker, the more you know – the less you understand.  There are so many nuances to the game; safety play, shot selection, white ball placement, getting snookers, getting out of snookers, when to break the reds up, when to take a risk… and all the time you’ve got to be thinking at least three or four shots ahead – if not way beyond.  On top of that you’ve got to outsmart your opponent, deal psychological blows and anticipate their next moves.  For me and many others, it’s a game like no other.

The players who I’d previously considered probable freaks devoid of personality were in fact anything but.  These guys were real sports stars who made up for athletic shortcomings with incredible skill and dogged determination.  Snooker is not an easy game but you could be forgiven for thinking it was when watching the pros.  Those guys smash in centuries on a regular basis but go to an amateur club and quite often a lot of people will crowd around a table when someone is on one, and invariably that sees them fuck it up.  I was a regular at a snooker club for about a year before life got in the way and I bet I didn’t see more than two or three tons during that time, I never even managed to get even halfway there myself.

The re-emergence of darts has probably cost snooker a few fans in recent years and I can see the appeal.  For one thing you can go and watch it, get pissed up and have a good shout and sing-along, which is practically unthinkable in snooker.  They did try it with Power Snooker, but I think they’ve given up on that frankly ludicrous concept now.  The difference for me with darts is I find it hard to take seriously as a legitimate sport – any chump with an arm can throw a 180 with a bit of practice.  I know plenty of people who claim to have hit a 180 and I don’t see any reason not to believe them, a 100 isn’t even the best thing you can do in snooker but they’re pretty rare and I’ve never met anyone who says they’ve managed a 147 in an actual game, and if I did I doubt I’d believe them.

I said on-off love affair earlier and that’s because snooker is a time consuming pastime, both as a spectator and as a player.  Some years I’m just too busy to get into a tournament and following all the events across the world is basically impossible, I tend to stick to the Worlds, UKs and Masters, but I always come back.  That’s the concern with O’Sullivan’s extended absence, who is holding the appeal for the flaky fan if he’s not there?  At 39 he’s already gone beyond what is generally viewed as a ‘prime’ in snooker but he carried on winning and looked as if he could go on forever, even if he does continue he clearly can’t do so indefinitely.

What makes O’Sullivan such an intriguing figure is his insane aptitude for the sport – he is the most naturally gifted player I’ve ever seen and that’s the general consensus – coupled with a complex and occasionally troubled personality and a reluctance to really accept whatever praise is thrown his way.  Whether any current or future player can put a package together to match that remains to be seen but people have said that about the stars of the past too (Alex Higgins, Jimmy White etc) yet along came Ronnie.

Sure, this year’s UKs have been devalued a bit by O’Sullivan missing out but there are other former winners there, plus world champion Stuart Bingham, and the likes of Judd Trump, Mark Allen and Ding Junhui know how to excite – essentially each player brings something unique to the table regardless of whether or not the superstar is there.  The five-time world champion’s decision to skip it is a blow to the event but it is just a flesh wound in the grand scheme of things, and certainly not the kind of trauma that will lead to a terminal decline.

Serie A bets

I’ve decided to keep track of my profits and loss and after two posts it isn’t going too badly.  Had I included all the selections I’d tentatively picked out I may well be up but in the interests of fairness I’m just counting the main choices and I’m a little down.  Using a simple system of one point per bet I’m on -0.64, which isn’t too bad all things considered.

Anyway, there’s a full round of Serie A fixtures this week and I’ll use that as a chance to get back into profit with three home teams.

First up I’ve gone for Frosinone to beat Carpi in a clash between two promoted sides.  Carpi have won just once in their opening nine games, with six losses and two draws, as they sit bottom of Serie A.  Carpi were beaten by fellow struggles Bologna at home last time out and you feel it could be a very long season for them in the elite Italian division.  Frosinone have fared a little better and they head into tonight’s game on the back of two consecutive home victories, over Empoli and Sampdoria, and at a best price of 7/5 I think they’re good value for the win.

Torino were one of my home bankers last season and they’re showing similar form in Turin this year, with four wins and one draw in their last five fixtures.  Il Toro host Genoa today and at 21/20 they’re worth backing.  Genoa have four losses and one draw in their last five away games and they could well be heading for more misery on their travels this evening.

My final pick takes place on Thursday as Sampdoria host Empoli and at a best price 11/8 Samp are hard to ignore.  The Genoa outfit have won four out of their five Serie A home games to date this term, only Lazio have a better home record, while Empoli have struggled for points on their travels with one win and three defeats in the league to date.

I’ll be backing this as a treble but for the interests of the profit loss system I’m using I’ll count these as singles, largely because any more maths will just confuse the shit out of me.

I can assure you I get the occasional big win in, at the weekend I landed a 30/1 fourfold (Swansea, Brentford, Burton and Middlesbrough) but as I didn’t tip it up on here you’ll just have to believe me, or lambaste me as a filthy lying scumbag if that’s your prerogative. I’m not affiliated with any bookmakers or services but I’m using oddschecker for the best prices and they’re well worth a look for any serious gambler.

Don’t ask, don’t tell, who cares?

Last week reports emerged that two Premier League players are planning to come out as gay, and I really hope they do.

I’ve always been proud to be a football/soccer fan but the failure of the sport in general to tackle homophobia is a source of embarrassment to a degree.  Personally, I don’t understand why sexuality should be an issue in sport – if you can score a thirty yard screamer or take on three men and produce a killer pass I don’t mind where you put your winky as long as it’s consensual and legal – but for some reason there is still a ‘stigma’ attached to being a gay footballer, when to all intents and purposes that stigma does not exist anymore in the real world.

Now it isn’t even particularly necessary for celebrities to ‘come out’, and when they do it isn’t a big deal. Maybe there are niche areas where homophobia is still rife or prevalent, country and hip hop music for example, but overwhelmingly the tide has turned and any reasonably minded person knows discrimination based on sexuality is wholly unacceptable, ridiculous and outdated.

Social media and the terraces have been rampant with speculation as to the identities of the two players so says the Daily Mail but I have no intention of fuelling the rumour mill by having a guess.  Like I said, really who cares? These guys will go down as trailblazers in English football if they do come out but it comes at least 10 years too late and so far behind the rest of society it’s laughable.  It should have happened with Justin Fashanu, but his unfortunate fate is often used as a reason why it has taken so long for football to catch up, or get anywhere near catching up, with the rest of the world.

Until we get to a point where a player can live his life as a gay man, without having to officially announce his sexuality or be scrutinised as a result, football and sport will lag behind civilised society and I fear that moment is still a long way away.

Homage to Catalonia

2000px-Estelada_blava.svgA worrying, though not wholly unsurprising report, appeared on the BBC website today – taken from Spanish publication L’Esportiu.

An assistant referee was allegedly told to fix a forthcoming Barcelona match in favour of Barcelona’s opposition – the match in question is believed to be November’s El Clasico against Real Madrid.

(At this point it is worth noting these allegations are yet to be proven and La Liga president Javier Tebas has called them “a little implausible”.  For the sake of this post let’s assume they are true, this post therefore should be viewed as fiction.)

The ramifications could be huge for Spanish football, think the Calciopoli scandal in Italy back in 2006, if it transpires this kind of problem is rife in La Liga – but what if it isn’t?

Politics and football are intertwined in Spain and Barcelona’s rivalry with Real Madrid is about much more than the beautiful game – the history behind the fixture is probably deeper than any other derby in world football.

Barcelona seem to be getting a really rough ride at the moment when it comes to off-field issues, and if the assistant referee’s claims are proved to be true the troubles would have spread to the pitch -in El Clasico no less. To add to that, Barca stars Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Neymar have all recently been charged or accused with tax offences, and the club are under a transfer embargo regarding the way they recruit youth team players.  These events have all transpired in a relatively short time-frame.

It is all wildly speculative, but the timings of these attacks, at a time when the Catalan region is making a real push for independence as calls for a referendum grow, could be viewed as well orchestrated – be that by fate or by a physical entity.

Or not, as in this case as whoever plotted to have the Clasico fixed has seen this plan foiled, unless they have other officials who can be persuaded.

There is every chance each individual and the club are indeed guilty of these offences, but why is it only Barcelona who are being attacked? Are we to believe all goings on at the Bernebeu are fully above board and squeaky clean, or are Real (and other Spanish clubs) being handed a free pass while the authorities go after Barcelona?  Could this relentless attack from that appears to be coming from various assailants – namely the tax man, Fifa (who imposed their transfer embargo) and whoever told the official to fix the match – actually all be coming from the same source?

Tuesday’s bets

The Champions League returns tonight but to be honest there isn’t that much grabbing me value wise.

Dinamo Zagreb could be worth a look based on what I saw of their win over Arsenal, but Olympiakos are no mugs either and that’s a huge game as the winner will fancy their chances of getting out of that group.  Similarly Zenit St Petersburg should be too hot for Lyon at home but the French side desperately need a win, or at least a point, to keep their European hopes alive so again I’m going to leave it.

There’s no value in backing Barcelona at BATE Borisov in the standard match betting markets, unless you’re just looking to make up the numbers on a multiple, but they’re around 4/6 in the -1 handicap market and that could be worth some consideration.

That leaves me with the Championship and Football League.  Often these leagues are pretty unpredictable but a few teams are starting to stand out and Burnley are proving to be a side who know how to win games.  The Clarets struggled at times against Bolton last time out but managed to grab a 2-0 win regardless, largely thanks to the presence of striker Andre Gray – a great summer addition by boss Sean Dyche.  Burnley travel to Nottingham Forest who were woeful at Bristol over the weekend and an away win at around 6/4 looks a good bet to me.

Reading have won four on the spin away from home and they travel to lowly Rotherham tonight.  The Royals are just shy of evens, admittedly a little lower than I’d like for an away side but still worth it in this case I feel.

League leaders Brighton are my last pick at home to Bristol City and at just shy of evens I reckon the Seagulls are overpriced.  The Robins did look good against Forest but I wonder whether that says more about just how bad Dougie Freedman’s men are rather than demonstrating any real quality in the squad at Ashton Gate.

As a treble this pays out at just under 9/1 so I’ll be having a go with that I reckon.  Going for the multiples is a bigger risk but sometimes you’ve just got to back yourself, or Burnley, Brighton and Reading as the case may be.

I’m not affiliated with any bookmakers or other services, but I recommend using Oddschecker to find the best prices.  Good luck.

Wise words from Roy

Footballers have a habit of getting themselves into trouble, we’re all used to that now and very little surprises me. Unfortunately people have somehow contrived to bill top players, particularly England internationals, as role models and people the rest of us mere mortals should aspire to be.

Personally, I couldn’t care less how many times any particular player has cheated on his significant other, done the dirty with his team-mates’ partners or indulged in a bit of dogging. As long as the other party is a consenting adult and nothing illegal happens. Who am I, or we, to judge? People who probably have their own shit to hide too, that’s who.

It seems as if England manager Roy Hodgson has the same viewpoint. This is what he’s had to say recently.

“You just have to deal with it and hope your players are lucky enough to stay out of the clutches of this type of journalism when something they have done in their private life – away from football – lands them in hot water,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“They are young men and people do make mistakes.

“It is a lot more difficult for players to do anything which people think they shouldn’t do as professional footballers, when it is being captured on a mobile phone and people are making money out of it by selling it to newspapers.”

Simply put, he’s not saying “don’t do it”, he’s saying “for Christ’s sake. Do. Not. Get. Caught”. The vast majority of professional footballers never wanted any kind of role model status, they just want to kick an inflated piece of leather around a field and get paid a shitload of money for doing it. It comes with perks, women for one, but you can’t go too far.

It’s a bit like being given a Ferrari but then being told it has to stay on the drive, only you can take it for a ride there’s nothing stopping you apart from consequences that may or may not arise after you’ve had your high-speed, turbocharged fun. I know I’d risk taking it for a spin; the temptation would be too great and I have no willpower anyway.

If they’re smart chances are they won’t get caught but unfortunately most footballers are stupid as hell. If you’re going to use prostitutes, it’s probably best you don’t sign autographs afterwards, if you’re going to cheat on the Mrs, go for someone who will keep it discreet not some aspiring Z lister desperate for her 15 minutes and for the love of god whatever you do – do not film it, or at the very least keep your face out of the shot.

The England boss also seems to be attacking journalists but in all probability the hacks he’s targeting won’t be reading these quotes. The people who come up with these kiss and tell stories aren’t the guys who write about sport all week, they don’t digest every word that comes out of his mouth, they’re just seeking the next scandal or whatever and if you’re in the public eye you’re fair game, you’re Cecil the Lion and they’re Walter Palmer. It could be John Terry, it could be Kim Kardashian it doesn’t matter, just so long as it gets people clicking on their stories.

I’m not judging; there’s a market for this because people are interested and that’s the bottom line – it makes money. There’s going to be one scandal at least involving an England player or players before Euro 2016, that’s almost guaranteed.  All we can hope for is that it is a mildly amusing one.

First post.

This site won’t always be betting tips/ideas/advice.  I intend to write features fairly regularly but this is just to get the ball rolling.

Spurs V Liverpool – away win

I’m not into the early kick off for a variety of reasons.  They tend to be fairly shit games for one, they can ruin an accumulator before all the other games have kicked off and what do you do?  Do you start drinking early and risk an early KO, falling asleep before the highlights show is finished later on, or do you settle for a cup of tea and struggle to get into the game at all?

All that aside, I’ll be having a flutter on Liverpool tomorrow simply because it’s Jurgen Klopp’s first game.  They’ve done nothing to suggest they can win at White Hart Lane so far this season but he’s probably the only German ever to be blessed with charisma, the good kind anyway, and that could just pull the men from Merseyside over the line.  I also want to watch it and I’ve not decided whether to involve alcohol or not and a small stake will keep me interested.

Liverpool are around the 2/1 mark, or slightly higher on the exchanges if you’re not looking to add it to a multiple.

Man City V Bournemouth – home win

Even without Sergio Aguero and David Silva – City should rip through the Cherries.  I like Bournemouth they play the game the right way, but they’re an open team and on home soil City should be just a bit too good.   If Eddie Howe tries to adopt more defensive tactics, which he probably won’t, that could backfire as well.  Only a lunatic would back Bournemouth here and City are probably worth adding to a multiple at around 1/3, I’m also tempted by the hosts with a -1 handicap and that’s paying out at just under evens.

Reading v Charlton – home win

There isn’t much else grabbing me in the Premier League so I’ve dropped down to the Championship and Reading seem a home banker here.  Granted, the Championship is a cruel mistress (how did Bristol City win at Middlesbrough? For example) but Charlton are terrible away from home with four losses on the spin.  The Royals are 8/15, hardly big potatoes calling this one but again it is worth sticking on the bet slip to boost your odds somewhere along the way surely.

I’m not a tipster per-say, just a guy who likes a good bet.  Hopefully these will pay out but don’t hold me liable for any losses – if you’re betting you’re over 18 and responsible for your own actions.  Good luck.