SEPTEMBER. FOR AN ANTE-POST SPECULATOR LIKE MYSELF, September represents the start of the year, with the football season in its embryonic stages and Europe’s elite competition just being finalised. On top of that, this month sees the start of the 2015 Rugby World Cup (Union) and the 2015/16 NFL season, US Open tennis at Flushing Meadow, and we’ve not even mentioned Christoper Biggins yet! More later…
But firstly a quick word on how well August’s tips are doing: it may be bad news for Dick Advocaat, of whom I advised in the sack race at 10/1, but it’s good news for Bernie the Book as I filled my boots at that price and he is currently even money favourite. Let’s hope Sunderland go from bad to worse. Similarly Leyton Orient (advised at 12/1) are top of Division 2 and the price for winning has halved. I also have high hopes for my ante-post predictions of Stoke City and Middlesbrough. This seems an appropriate place to start as in the market for Premier League without the big six, although I have advised Stoke City at 10/1, it is certainly time to hedge or put a revised choice (as all teams have now played four games) and that is EVERTON. With no European distractions and a team with a settled and balanced side, I think the 11/4 currently available with a number of layers is great odds.
Further to the start of the Premier League season, I have been much impressed by Bournemouth who I think will easily be the highest finishing promoted side, it’s a three-man league with Watford (won’t score enough goals) and Norwich (squad not strong enough) and I think the 13/8 on offer at Corals should be snapped up. That’s BOURNEMOUTH at 13/8 for top promoted side.
Finally, in the football section, the groups for the Champions League have just been announced and irrespective of “easy groups” and “groups of death” the one thing people keep forgetting is that it only gets serious in the knockout stages and secondly the big teams will always qualify (largely). Therefore be aware that Barcelona’s transfer embargo finishes in January and even though some of their supposed star names might have left for other clubs, let’s not forget that the one stellar signing they have made thus far is the Atletico Madrid enforcer Arda Turan which will complement their exquisite passing game. Barcelona are currently 3/1 for a repeat but I feel this price will largely stay unchanged until January and therefore at this early stage I would recommend both PSG (16/1) and MANCHESTER CITY (18/1) in the belief their price will tumble after qualification (hopefully).
Which brings me nicely on to Europe’s other competition, the Europa League. Until recently this competition has been a major distraction for the elite teams of Europe, mainly because the fixtures are always on a Thursday which disrupts the forthcoming weekend’s fixtures; also because of the non-elite nature of the teams especially until December at the end of the group stage, you could end up playing in Kurdistan with a five-hour time difference before an important fixture on Sunday. However this year, for the second year, the Europa League does offer one irresistible carrot in that the winner of the competition goes straight into the Champions League the next season. And for teams who simply have to qualify for the Champions League to keep up domestically with the Joneses and also for teams with strong squads, I think this year there will be a greater emphasis on winning this competition. Therefore unquestionably my number one selection for this year’s competition at this very early stage (remember it doesn’t include the third place teams in the Champions League group stage yet) is LIVERPOOL who are a stand out 20/1 with Boyles and 16/1 generally for cup glory. If you consider the English Premier League together with La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga are Europe’s major leagues and Liverpool are certainly vying for top three, top four or top five. I think they are great value.
On the same basis my second pick is FIORIENTINA at 22/1 who are also doing well in Serie A and who ultimately might just do too well in their domestic league and therefore take their eye off the ball. in the Europa League.
Which brings us nicely on to the US Open in the Big Apple. The Queen of New York is undoubtedly Serena Williams but I feel that the quest for a calendar grand slam and the expectation that will bring, added to her age might just count against her this year. And a lady who was on the comeback trail at Wimbledon and who gave Serena a fright is VICTORIA AZARENKA and on her favourite surface (hard) and at 10/1 with Boyle Sport she has to be the selection. It is hard to look beyond the big three in the mens’, but certainly the renaissance of ROGER FEDERER cannot be ignored and at 11/2 generally, certainly commands a sporting wager.
This notion of the group of death (see Champions League) brings me nicely on to this year’s Rugby World Cup. The common perception is that Australia, Wales and England are in the group of death with only two of these established nations to qualify for the knockout stages. I would go further: whoever wins the group of death will go into the side of the draw which won’t contain New Zealand, South Africa and the second qualifier in the group of death. Therefore at the prices you clearly want to side with the bottom half of the draw which is likely to contain Ireland and France. Indeed it’s a mini Six Nations. ENGLAND are clearly not the finished article but in their favour is the fact that both their group games against Wales and Australia are at Twickenham and should they qualify top (I certainly think they will qualify) then they will face home games against the other home nations. At 5/1 they represent tremendous value to qualify to at least the final and on that basis have to be backed. At a much bigger price the enfant terrible, les bleus FRANCE has to be the alternative selection. They have an enviable and long-standing World Cup record and always seem to peak (like their meringues) for the big competitions. They are widely available at 14/1 but are a standout 20/1 with Bet Victor and at odds of 1/3 the first 2, that’s over 6/1 just to reach the final.
And so to my favourite sport, the forthcoming American football season. Although I’ll expand on this in next month’s column, with a season about to start, I think it best to put my initial picks down now. There is no doubt that INDIANAPOLIS COLTS are the coming force, and though they were the victims of the infamous deflation debacle, their luck under the auspices of their stellar quarterback Andrew Luck is about to change. They are currently available at 12/1 for the ultimate prize. I think they are the strongest team in the weaker AFC and on that basis my other two selections in the stronger NFC are DETROIT LIONS (at a whopping 40/1) and the DALLAS COWBOYS at a respectable 18/1. Dallas are the strongest team in the strongest division of the NFL (the NFC East) and certainly are the coming force in the league.
I don’t know if he has definitely committed to Celebrity Big Brother, but one thing I do know is that one of the nation’s biggest treasures, who has previously won a viewer telephone competition in the Australian jungle, and is simply known by his surname (thereby showing his universal popularity) is old lukewarm himself CHRISTOPHER BIGGINS and at an unbelievable 7/1 with Coral just has to be backed. Check with Corals as to their rules because if he doesn’t line up in the house you might have lost your money, but my feeling is he will be a top price 2/1 if he is confirmed on Big Brother and I am more than prepared to risk my money now.
And lastly, speaking of IACGMOOH, one person who has already stated on his retirement that you will never see him in the jungle, but according to his best friend, Ruby Walsh, would be an ideal candidate for eating kangaroo testicles is the iron-man himself, the now-retired (so he’s available) AP McCOY and he is a whopping 16/1 just to appear in the jungle! Surely it’s got to be worth a score (see Bet Fred). On this irreverent theme I’m sure that next month’s column will contain a winner of Strictly! Until next time.
BERNIE THE BOOK