Gonzo’s Betting Diary; so desperate having a dabble on the FA Cup seems like a plan

Usually I avoid the FA Cup as a competition when it comes to betting.  I’ve been burned by this unpredictable monster too many times and if I was in profit or probably anywhere near even I’d look at Europe and just sit back and watch the madness of the competition as a spectator, drinking it all in safe in the knowledge the biggest disappointment would be the injury time giant-killing scupperer, because everyone loves an upset.

Such is my desperation (and need for a bit of content to keep the search gods aware of my existence) this round I’m getting into the thick of it and becoming financially invested as I try and claw a bit of my money back.

This has gone from ‘tips’ to ‘ideas’ to wherever the hell we are now.  I’m on a shocking streak in terms of this diary, elsewhere I’ve had a few bets come in – but for all intents and purposes this should be taken as incoherent ramblings rather than sound advice.

Aston Villa v Manchester City

That aside, why are Man City as short as 3/4 in some places?  Granted the hosts are unbeaten in five but statistics don’t necessarily tell the whole story… one of those five games included a draw with Wycombe.  You can talk yourself out of it by thinking ‘oh City had a match in midweek’ but they should have the quality to outclass a very poor Villa side whatever team they put out.  Away win all the way, maybe even to nil at 2/1 but I’ll stick on the straightforward match result.

Oxford United v Blackburn Rovers

I looked at the fixtures and thought this would be a decent price but the home win is a seemingly paltry 6/4, probably as the League Two side dumped Swansea out in the last round. Normally I’d leave it alone but I’m going to follow my gut feeling.  Oxford are a hard nut to crack at home with just two defeats in the league, and they’re in good form with four wins in their last five.  Blackburn, meanwhile, are winless in six Championship games after the initial new boss burst and now look like a side low on confidence – and this kind of test away from home is probably exactly what they don’t need at this point.

Crystal Palace v Stoke City

Palace have  dipped a bit of late in terms of form but unlike Blackburn a bit of cup respite is probably what they do need in these circumstances. That’s because Stoke head into the game on the back of what must have been a demoralising League Cup exit at the hands of Liverpool, with an extra 30 minutes played and then the agony of penalties. Conventional wisdom says boss Mark Hughes is going to have to make some changes after their midweek exertions so I’m expecting Palace to have the stronger side out. Maybe they’ll bounce back, but I’m thinking they won’t and at 23/20 the hosts are a good price for the win.

As a treble this pays out at 8.65, fictionally anyway as the top prices aren’t all with the same bookmakers.  That’s all well and good but not enough to really eat into my losses so I’m making this a fourfold with a Championship bet.

Rotherham v Charlton

The Addicks look doomed and their away form has played a big part in that, with Charlton managing just one win and three draws in 14.  The Millers have only one win in their last five but at home they’ve won four in six – including victories in similar scenarios against fellow relegation candidates Bristol City and Bolton.  At 10/11 they make this a 16.4 shot, or just above 15/1 if you prefer, and as such I’m sticking them on.

As always I’ve used Oddschecker for the prices.

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Gonzo Sports Digest; Missing Men

In the absence of any midweek betting ideas I thought I’d do a run through of the players I’ve missed watching the most this season.  As always there are some big names that have been unable to play due to injuries, or bureaucracy in some cases.

The reason I’ve gone for these three guys is because I think their teams are missing them most, as much as I rate them individually or simply enjoy the way they play.

Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

It was a choice between Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshere for my ‘no brainer’ and I’ve gone for the Liverpool man simply as his team are missing him more, Arsenal have so many midfielders that at times I almost forget about Wilshere.

Liverpool on the other hand look light in numbers in attack.  I looked at their options at the start of the season and thought they had a pretty decent frontline but it hasn’t worked out that way.  Christian Benteke has only shown glimpses of the form that convinced the Anfield hierarchy to sanction a big move, Divock Origi isn’t quite the finished article, Danny Ings could very well have made this list and Sturridge has managed just the six games to date.

The really worrying thing is he keeps coming back, or nearly coming back, and then suffering setbacks.  There’s also a very real chance he could miss the Euros in the summer but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Type of injury; hamstring (previously thigh and hip)

Return date; Potentially Liverpool’s trip to Leicester on February 2, if not the visit of Sunderland the following Saturday.  How long he can sustain his fitness though remains to be seen.

Will Hughes, Derby County

I expected a big season from the star product of the Derby County academy this term but he sustained an injury in the Rams’ season opener and has been sidelined ever since.  There’s a lot to like about Will Hughes, there are shades of Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta about him – a good engine, great vision and his passing ability is unrivalled in the Championship as far as I’m concerned.

Hughes is only 20 years old so you’d expect a full recovery, indeed despite the fact he’s not featured since the opening weekend there’s still been a bit of transfer speculation surrounding him this month, albeit rumours on the more ridiculous side of tenuous given his lack of action.

Type of injury; knee (cruciate ligament)

Return date; February at the earliest, perhaps March but he is expected to make a return before this season ends.

Callum Wilson, Bournemouth

Callum Wilson was just starting to hit his stride when he was cut down for the campaign.  He had a great year in the Cherries’ promotion season as he finished as their top scorer with 23, but a hat-trick and a few other strikes in August suggested he was set to eclipse that in Bournemouth’s first year in the Premier League.  There was even some tentative ‘will he force his way into the England squad’ type of talk prior to his injury blow and since then Roy Hodgson has revealed he was keeping tabs on the forward.

Type of injury; knee (cruciate ligament)

Return date; the initial prognosis in August was six to nine months and that hasn’t changed.  The 23-year-old’s got an outside chance of playing again this season but the more likely scenario is the start of the next campaign.

When paperwork gets in the way

Football fans have been robbed of Arda Turan for much of the season after he decided to swap Atletico Madrid for Barcelona in the summer.  Their transfer ban meant he wasn’t able to register but they kept him around the squad anyway, the same goes for Aleix Vidal, who joined from Sevilla.

I only just realised Kevin Grosskreutz had been absent through paperwork issues earlier this month.  The forward, a member of Germany’s World Cup winning squad (admittedly without an appearance in Brazil), joined Galatasaray in the summer but too late to be registered.  Then he was left in limbo…

On the plus side for Grosskreutz it sounds like he was having some fun during his unexpected time off, travelling back to Germany on a regular basis according to Joachim Low via the Gala staff, presumably for nights on the beers and some traditional sausage munching.   He may have needed that time off now he’s returned to the Bundesliga to link up with struggling Stuttgart, without making a single appearance for the Turkish giants.

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Gonzo’s Betting Diary; Knowing When to Give Up

I’ve got mixed feelings about last weekend, I still feel my logic was fairly sound but only one out of the four came in. If I was sensible I’d give up but fortunately I’m not.

It is going so badly that I’m just going to throw caution to the wind this week and go for some big odds, the battles already been lost- I’m Custer, putting all his eggs in the basket of Little Bighorn, but maybe it’ll work out for me…

Probably not, here goes anyway.

Watford v Newcastle

Watford beat Newcastle in the FA Cup earlier this month, the Hornets are fairly decent at home and Newcastle have lost four of their last five away.  Conventional wisdom suggests a home win but I’ve got an inkling the Toon may just spring a surprise.  They’ve looked pretty good over the last few weeks and Jonjo Shelvey could prove to be an astute buy, and at 29/10 they’re certainly a risk but one I’ll be taking.

West Brom v Aston Villa

If you thought picking Newcastle out was crazy, how about Villa to win at West Brom and both teams to score? Sounds insane, but the Baggies have managed just one clean sheet in the last five home games, while Villa have scored in all but one of their previous five on the road. Villa head into it in reasonable form and at 17/2 with both to score it is worth a small stake – as always I’ll be adding it to the treble but if this was a tipping service I wouldn’t recommend it for guaranteed profit, it is a Hollywood bet.

Oldham v Bury

Oldham fans have witnessed just one home win all season so they’re always worth considering backing against at Boundary Park.  Bury aren’t great away from home but 2/1 on the Shakers can’t be ignored.

That makes this a 104/1 treble, worth a quid or two surly?

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Bolton Wanderers; a Stay of Execution and the Nightmare that is the Championship

Crisis club Bolton Wanderers have been given an extra 35 days by the High Court to sort their mess out, but their plight highlights some big problems in England’s second tier.

The Wanderers had been waiting for January 18 to come after being hit with a winding up order by HMRC.  The club were given a reprieve after their case was adjourned until February 22 but in truth that will do little to lift spirits among supporters.

There have been numerous reports a takeover is close but nothing has happened as yet and no doubt come February 21 they’ll be biting their fingernails again waiting for the inevitable shit to hit the fan.

How did they get here?  That would take a very long and complicated explanation; but essentially mismanagement on an unprecedented scale will have to suffice for the purposes of this article.  The more important question, is how do they get out of this?

Finding a new owner is the immediate priority but as neighbours Blackburn Rovers and fellow fallen Premier League outfit Leeds United will attest that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the misery.  Indeed, some of the individuals linked with potential bids for one of the founding members of the Football League sound particularly sketchy… One major problem, unfortunately, is the division they find themselves in, at least for the rest of this season, as the Championship is no place for a financially struggling club.

Credit to the Bolton fans; they’ve set about doing something themselves by starting a supporters’ trust – it is always a good idea to have a group of people who genuinely care about a club involved in some capacity.  I briefly followed their first meeting, or technically a meeting to decide if they would form a trust, and they had a few guys from the Portsmouth supporters’ trust who’d made the trip north to talk to the fans.  The Pompey men suggested it was possible for a club to survive on gates etc in Leagues One and Two, to break even or make a profit – but not to work effectively as a business in the Championship.

Sadly, I can’t find these quotes anywhere but I assure you it happened, you’ll just have to trust me.

Why can’t a club sustain itself without big investment in the Championship?

The simple answer is the disparity in finances between the Premier League and the Football League, and that gap will only grow following the TV deal in excess of £5bn struck last year.  The Football League’s TV revenue is almost nothing in comparison, a Premier League club can expect to receive over £60m a season in TV money – a Championship side will make maybe £2m.

That would be all well and good if the temptation to spend to secure promotion to the Premier League didn’t exist, which is where many clubs come unstuck.  Any given club can overspend in a bid to achieve a promotion but when that dream fails to materialise you could well be left with a big bill and owners who are no longer willing to pick up the tab – then comes the dreaded administration talk. Even clubs who aren’t splashing out massively to try and get into the top division still face spiralling costs simply to compete with the other teams in the Championship.

That’s not what happened to Bolton incidentally, who somewhat ironically were one of the two teams involved in the first ever televised Football League match at Blackpool in 1960.  They arrived in the Championship in a sorry state of affairs and have never really spent heavily to try and get back up; they’ve actually been attempting to cut costs in every season since their drop out of the top flight.  But that’s really beside the point, the fact that they haven’t been able to reduce their expenditure effectively is due to the economic climate of the division; despite the exits of a number of high earners, the few they have retained and any lingering bills from the high-flying days have squeezed all of the money and then some out of the Macron Stadium.

Parachute payments help but in some ways they’re a poisoned chalice.  The apparent safety net encourages top flight clubs who are potential relegation candidates to pay big wages, knowing they should be able to cover them even if they do drop out of the Premier League.  But that isn’t always the case, those payments haven’t helped the Wanderers cover their wage bill and Blackburn and Fulham are also seemingly struggling.

These parachute payments lead to other clubs attempting to match the spending of the relegated sides.  Bristol City, for example, launched an ultimately unsuccessful £10m move for Dwight Gayle in the summer.  If a team in the Championship is going to challenge for promotion they’ve got to compete financially with the biggest teams in the division and that kind of spending will lead to trouble in most cases.  It is all well and good for the Robins to spend big for a season or two, maybe more, but that is not a sustainable business model to follow in the long-term if their promotion hopes fall short and outgoings continue to exceed the money coming in.  Sides in the Championship who have legitimate hopes of getting into the Premier League need to compete with the relegated outfits and perhaps teams at the lower end of the top flight for players, and the only way to do that is by offering big wages on long deals that may ultimately put the club at risk.

In the majority of cases spending beyond your means is the only way for success in the Championship and that is something that has to change if we’re to avoid losing some great and historic clubs to financial ruin.  For every club that does make it to the promise land there will be a few who don’t, and who are then left with debts that they may not be able to honour.

How can the problem be solved?

There is a very real chance that we’ve come too far for a comprehensive solution now sadly, and in any case I doubt the Premier League will see it worthwhile to help out.  As long as they’re making money who cares, right?

One measure could be to have some kind of relegation clause inserted in the contracts of all Premier League players, possibly an exit option or a significant drop in wages in the event of relegation.  That would ease the immediate financial worries of a club who have fallen into the Championship.

Another potential option is to increase the TV money in the Championship by giving less to the clubs in Leagues One and Two, who have smaller bills – but that is a notion that doesn’t sit well with me and will probably put more clubs at risk overall even if it does make life in the second tier a little easier.

Perhaps a cap on agent fees could be more workable, given that some £26m was spent by the current Championship clubs between October 2014 and the end of September 2015 (including the three who dropped out of the Premier League last season).  Extortionate agent fees are another symptom of teams competing for players who could possibly be targets for sides in the division above, given League One sides spent just over £3m (nearly half of which came from Wigan and a further near £300,000 from Millwall, who were both relegated from the Championship) and League Two clubs just over £1m.  Massive respect to Bury, Accrington Stanley and Hartlepool United by the way – who paid nothing.

I have no idea how feasible these ideas are, but regardless a conversation needs to be had otherwise more clubs will find themselves where Bolton are now, and I wouldn’t wish that misery on any real football fan.

Further reading;

Bolton Wanderers, Gary Neville and the Northern Decline (Gonzo Sports Desk)

Premier League relegation: Is the dreaded drop that bad for your club? (The Guardian)

Premier League TV Rights Money Distribution (Total Sportek)

The Championship (Football Economy)

Football League Club Payments to Agents (Football League)

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Gonzo Sports Digest; David Haye, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder

David Haye came back with a bang on Saturday as he destroyed Mark de Mori in London, while Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury traded insults in the States.

We’ll start with The Hayemaker, now what did we learn?

Aside from seeing he’s still got phenomenal punching power and his shoulder seems to be just fine not a lot.  De Mori was in way, way, way over his head and offered almost nothing; the organisers might as well have just wandered into a bar and dragged out a big guy for Haye to knock about for two minutes for all that was worth.

Aside from the fact I had a last minute bet on a first round KO it was all a bit pointless but after a long hiatus Haye was always going to take on a lesser opponent, indeed tempting anyone half decent into the ring might have been a tough task for the former WBA champ.

The post-fight interviews, which lasted way longer than the actual bout, were a little more illuminating as Haye gave his thoughts on where he goes from here.  The former cruiserweight king played down any hopes of a Fury clash and instead talked up a potential showdown with Anthony Joshua.  If he does take on and beat Joshua an opportunity to line up a meeting with Fury could happen, there would be pressure for the current champ to take the fight despite the Gypsy King’s apparent reluctance.

But that’s all for the future.  All the De Mori fight shows is Haye is back and after a few more fights will be a contender for a title shot.

Wilder & Fury

I’m not sure Deontay Wilder is particularly good technically but he does have some power in those arms and both of those thoughts were backed up in his win over Artur Szpilka. He laboured, and struggled at times, for much of the contest but came up with a hammer blow in the ninth to knock the challenger unconscious.  Make no mistake, Wilder will only take on someone like Haye or Joshua if he is forced to; he isn’t going to face either of those guys by choice.

Fury is a different matter.  The unbeaten American seems to think he can take Fury and maybe he can if he lands a big shot, add to that stepping into the ring with the Briton would be a unification fight and it becomes an irresistible draw for Wilder.

There is, however, the small matter of a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko ahead of Fury and a win for the Ukrainian could scupper any unification chances.  Wilder was a quiet as a mouse with laryngitis when Dr Steelhammer held the belts and if Klitschko wins them back my guess is he’ll wait for him to retire rather than chase him.

Fury, somewhat predictably, managed to steal the headlines after the Wilder fight, at least on this side of the Atlantic.   He stepped into the ring and had a little sing before the two champs had a war of words.  Seemingly this fight will happen after Fury and Klitschko contest their rematch, if the former wins – which is no certainty.

There is also Charles Martin to consider after he won the vacant IBF title.  Fury was harshly stripped of that strap as he couldn’t face mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov due to his rematch commitments.  Glazkov had to retire in the third round due to a leg injury and will probably get another crack at Martin, the winner of that will then be a new big name in the heavyweight mix, simply on the basis of having a belt.

After a few fairly boring years the heavyweight division has finally got a little more interesting, and now Haye can join the likes of Fury, Wilder, perhaps Joshua, maybe Glazkov and a few others in trying to start a new rein of dominance, while Klitschko isn’t necessarily done yet either despite the fact he isn’t being mentioned by many. Good times all round really.

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Gonzo’s Betting Diary; Persistence Pays Off, yeah?

Midweek wasn’t a total bust, two out of three as only Watford let me down.   I’ve no idea where that Hornets performance came from, or the Southampton one for that matter, but that’s why we love football… and lose money on it from time to time, the unpredictable swine.

Premier League

Newcastle v West Ham

I looked at this one thinking a West Ham win, but Newcastle’s mid week performance against Manchester United could have given them a bit of belief and I’m not sure I want to back against them.  Even though neither side have been particularly prolific of late I do think there could be a few goals in this one and both teams to score at 8/11 is my call here.

Aston Villa v Leicester

Is that midweek win over Crystal Palace the spark Villa needed to mount a Leicester-esque survival push?  Who knows… but my guess is no.  The Universe has conspired to send the Foxes to Villa Park after that second league win of the season as the hosts get renewed hope on their mission impossible but I think they’ll by sent crashing back down to reality and will be backing Leicester at 5/4.


Bristol City v Middlesbrough

Sometimes you sack your manager and get a reaction, and sometimes you do it ahead of the visit of the league leaders presumably as it’s a game you’ve written off.  I think Bristol City have done the latter here and an in-form Middlesbrough at evens are on my coupon.

Ipswich v Preston

Normally I stick at three but the 7/1 treble above won’t dent my sizeable losses so this weekend I’m adding a fourth.  Ipswich have struggled at home a bit but have picked up of late and are overpriced at evens to down North End.

The fourfold pays out at just under 14/1, which looks a decent bet to me.  Odds may change so take a look at Oddschecker if you are keen to shop around.  I am not affiliated with them, or any bookmakers in any way.

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Ronnie O’Sullivan; The New Master of the Mind Game

Ronnie O’Sullivan knows all about mind games. On many, many occasions he’s inadvertently lost a mental battle with himself and now he’s seemingly turning that on his opponents.

The 2009 World Championship when he crashed out 13-11 in the second round to Mark Allen having been ahead going into the final session springs to mind. More recent examples include his Crucible exit to Stuart Bingham and last year’s The Masters humbling at the hands of Neil Robertson.  Any player can lose to any player in snooker… but the manner of some of his defeats over the course of his career have suggested he’s defeated himself rather than necessarily been beaten.

But now ‘The Rocket’ is a different kind of player.  By missing tournaments the others always have the threat of O’Sullivan hanging over them, apparently primed for a return at any given point.

Never has an absence been so noticeable in sport and you have to wonder what impact that has on the other guys, even someone as experienced and capable as Mark Selby, who was put to the sword on Thursday.

Selby is the current world number one, has won the Triple Crown, is a five-time The Masters finalist – winning it on three occasions – and the bookmakers couldn’t really split them pre-match, with the Leicester man a marginal underdog.  O’Sullivan swatted him aside 6-3, completing the victory with an awesome clearance having trailed 70-0 to win the ninth frame 73-70 – indeed snooker legend Steve Davis branded it one of the greatest clearances of all time in the immediate aftermath.

A vintage performance essentially; but not according to the man himself.

Speaking to the BBC afterwards he gave us these insights on his game.

“I don’t feel that great to be honest with you.  I’m just trying to kid myself that I’m confident.”

“Unless I start playing as if I’m confident then I’ve probably got no chance, and that probably won the game.”

As an abstract idea what he’s saying makes sense, theoretically, but it does not reflect anything I saw from that performance. I can’t believe after watching him against Selby that he’s not feeling pretty good, and besides manufactured confidence is surely as good as the naturally occurring kind.

Whether he knows he’s doing it or not; these post-match interviews where he alludes to feeling like a man in the midst of a Tiger Woods-esque case of the yips after dismantling a player of Selby’s standard are mind games.

Because all the other players will be aware of it – and that is bound to put some pressure on.  I have no idea what to make of his comments and I’m not facing the prospect of having to beat him to win The Masters… who knows what’s going on in their respective, mildly panicked minds? Whatever it is – it won’t be ‘what will I spend my winner’s prize on?’

For almost the entirety of his career questions, both external and internal, over his mentality have dogged O’Sullivan but perhaps now something inside him has turned the tables.  He may not be fully conscious of what is happening or what he’s doing, but maybe the gremlins are on his side now and a man who once struggled with self sabotaging tendencies has potentially become one of the true masters of the psychological battle.

Perhaps he’ll alter his stance if he books a place in The Masters final after seeing off either Stuart Bingham or John Higgins, but right now I’m left wondering who is he trying to kid? Because whoever it is – it’s probably working.

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Gonzo Betting Diary; Desperation

I feel like the Audley Harrison of gambling at the moment, despite (at best) abject performances and all too frequent losses I’m clinging to the belief that a huge win is around the corner.  Who knows maybe it is?  Maybe not only will I get a world title fight – I’ll win it. And by that I mean the roughly 14/1 treble listed below.

Championship; Huddersfield v Charlton (Tues)

Huddersfield won the reverse fixture earlier in the season and are in the form to do the double over the Addicks, who themselves are winless in eight.  The home side are a best price 7/10 and that looks safe to me, it may even be worth a match result and both teams to score at 14/5 but I’ll keep it simple and stick with Huddersfield in the standard match betting.

Premier League; Southampton v Watford (Weds)

This is a risk but at a best price 10/3 the Hornets have to be worth backing.  With players like Deeney and Ighalo in their side they can cause anyone problems as Southampton could well find out.  Saints are really out of form and that mauling of Arsenal recently was almost a freak result.  Watford are flying at the moment and acquitted themselves well in defeats to Spurs and Man City.  Watford and draw is around 4/5 but the straight win is over-priced in my opinion and worth backing.

Stoke v Norwich (Weds)

Stoke’s Britannia Stadium may have lost some of its reputation as a stronghold this season but it is still a pretty tricky place to go. Admittedly, the Canaries have found some form in recent weeks but most of their results have come at home, with the win at Manchester United a rare exception.  Stoke are odds against at 21/20 and that seems good value to me.

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Gonzo’s Betting Diary; FA Cup Forces a Look to Europe

You hear stories of legendary wins on FA Cup weekends, those brave/insane souls who decide to back Bradford against Chelsea or Middlesbrough against Man City. And why not? Have a punt on those crazy upsets if you want but my mind isn’t wired that way, so I’m looking to Europe again.

The FA Cup is arguably the hardest competition to bet on, I certainly find it is. The smaller teams can be well up for it, bigger teams can choose to rest players… it’s a minefield. For example, Aston Villa are odds against at Wycombe and rightly so as a Premier League team – but I’m just not confident backing a team who have won just one game this season.

My midweek Serie A bet very nearly came in, Roma were two up, then level, then winning only to concede again late on. I’m not bothering to cover profit and loss at the moment either way I’m embarrassingly down, but when I do get round to working it all out again these will be covered as singles and a treble.

Serie A; Fiorentina v Lazio

Fiorentina came in for me at Palermo on Wednesday and they should be able to down Lazio on Saturday at a best price 4/5. The visitors have won just twice on their travels this season, although that does include a win at Inter Milan in their previous away game. However, La Viola have the second best home record in the division having won seven of nine and expect them to continue their Scudetto challenge with three points on Saturday.

Carpi v Udinese

From what I’ve seen of Carpi this season they’re truly terrible, and a return to the second tier is starting to look like a case of when not if. The hosts are yet to record a home win in Serie A this season and their misery could well continue this weekend. Udinese are a little inconsistent but they head into this one on the back of consecutive victories, including a win at Torino, and at a general 6/4 they look good value.

Ligue 1;Reims v Toulouse

This is a bolder call but I’m going to pick out an away win here. Reims started the season well but have dropped off horribly with just one win since October, while Toulouse have essentially done the opposite having now recovered from a terrible start. The visitors have only managed one win away from their Stadium Municipal but having won two successive games on the road, both in cups, I’m going to back them at a top price 2/1.

As a treble that pays out at 12.5.

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Manchester United, Louis van Gaal and Adidas Meddling

I’m no fan of Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal but when sponsors like Adidas start putting pressure on the manager I have some sympathy for the dithering Dutchman – it sets a worrying precedent.

To reiterate, I genuinely think LVG’s useless.  I wrote a pretty shitty piece a while ago stating my belief he simply had to go if United were ever to get back to anywhere near where they were under Alex Ferguson, to maintain the attacking traditions of the club etc.

But I am not the sponsor who provides them with their kit.

The sportswear company’s chief exec Herbert Hainer had this to say via Suddeutsche Zeitung, although actually it came from the BBC as you have to pay/register for the German site, and fuck that.

“We sell more jerseys than expected, the foreign share is 60%. We are satisfied, even if the actual way of playing of United is not exactly what we want to see.”

So let me get this straight Hainer, you’re selling more of your generic merch than you’d expected to but still deem it worthwhile to question the “way of playing”?

I have no issue with sponsors in sport, but their involvement should be purely commercial.  For better or worse football is now a product and a capitalist enterprise, that genie popped out of the bottle a long time ago there’s no way back, but just because you’ve paid out to have them wear your shirts it shouldn’t mean you get to dictate tactics.

There are certain things sponsors can and maybe should use their voices for, morality issues for example.  Tiger Woods lost a number of deals in the wake of his infidelity scandal, had Adidas chose to question whether it is right to employ a known prostitute user or a guy who had an affair with his brother’s wife I’m not sure I’d agree with them but I’d see why they were worried about that kind of association with their brand. To weigh in on the finer nuances of how the game is played however – is complete bullshit.

The German multinational corp do have a fairly questionable record on consistency.  Horrendously named NFL outfit the Washington Redskins raised a pretty good point back in November when they blasted Adidas for backing an initiative to change high school sporting logos or mascots “from potentially harmful Native American imagery or symbolism“, while continuing to profit from professional teams that do exactly the same thing. This seems more than a little hypocritical to me, if you back a plan or ideology you should fully back it, not ignore it when it doesn’t make commercial sense. But that’s the problem with corporations, at the end of the day the priority is money, everything else comes in a very distant second.

What if a sports team they are associated with questioned, for example, their ethics?  They’ve not got the best reputation when it comes to hiring workers in the poorer countries of the world, although then again they’ve not got the worst either.  I don’t want to get into that too much as it’ll take me away from my main point but give ‘adidas labour standards’ a search and see what crops up.  Like I say they’re not too bad but they could be better, how would they feel if United or any of the teams they’re involved with started to say they didn’t want to be associated with those practices?

Not particularly well is my guess.

So far Louis van Gaal has been able to stand firm in the face of criticism from fans, former players and the press, as well as the spectre of an out-of-work Jose Mourinho hovering around seemingly waiting for the Manchester United board to wield the axe.  Executive vice president Ed Woodward clearly wants to give his appointment as long as possible to get things right but time is quickly running out for the ex-Ajax manager.

And money talks, meaning Hainer’s comments will certainly have been noted by the United hierarchy, given the £75million-a-season they’re pumping in. Whether they have any impact on the eventual outcome I’m not so sure though, but that’s simply because I feel LVG is already on borrowed time.

The comments from the very top at Adidas raise concerns that transcend Manchester United, the Premier League and football in general.  Sponsors are here to stay but if they start trying to influence athletic matters – and publicly – you have to worry where that could lead; these people are businessmen and money makers, not people who are driven by a love of football or any other sport, and ultimately that is where the concern lies for the genuine fan.

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