Sunday, 28 July 2013

Wanna bet?

This week, at the age of 50, I did something I’ve never done before: I went into a bookmaker’s and placed a bet.

I’ve done plenty of betting in the past (I wrote about it here), mainly on football, but always online. I didn’t have anything against the idea of going into a betting shop; it was just easier, particularly with the kind of small bets I was putting on matches, to do it at my desk at work on a Friday lunchtime.

This week, though, I decided it was time to step it up a notch. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a growing conviction that Watford really are going to be the dominant force in the Championship this season, and I decided to back that conviction with some cold hard cash. A savvy colleague at work pointed me towards the Oddschecker site so that I could find the best odds on Watford to win the Championship, and then directed me towards the nearest branch of Coral. (It turned out to be 100 yards from the office – I’d walked past it hundreds of times without ever noticing it.)

In case you’re interested, I got 12-1, and you can still get those odds at Coral and one or two other places. According to Oddschecker, over 20% of online bets placed on the Championship winner have gone on the Hornets, and we’re as low as 9-1 with some betting sites, and falling.

It’s that, as much as the strength of our squad, the skill of our manager and the acumen of our owners, that gives me such confidence about the coming season. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that the bookies will do anything to avoid losing money.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Time out

When it comes to the summer (what used to be called the ‘close season’, though the phrase seems to have slipped out of currency), football fans fall into two camps.

There are some who just can’t do without their fix, and latch on to any football they can find with the urgency of the true addict. You can see them on Twitter, desperately swapping news of televised games. During June they fed their habit with the European Under-21 Championships, the Confederations Cup and the early rounds of qualifying for next season’s European club competitions. Now that July’s here there are pre-season friendlies and those daft competitions that tend to get screened on Channel 5, and those will see them through to August and the resumption of proper football.

I fall into the other camp. Much as I love football, I cherish the two months’ break between seasons when I can forget all about it.* I enjoy watching most top-level sport (pretty much anything not involving cars or horses – that’s not sport, it’s transport), and I love the traditional landmarks of an English summer; Wimbledon, the Open, Test cricket, a major athletics championship (it’s the Worlds this year).

I’ve happily ignored the football listed above, and while I will take a passing interest in Watford’s friendlies, there’s no point investing too much emotion in them. Last year, I seem to remember that Piero Mingoia played a prominent role in pre-season, and that didn’t exactly turn out to be a significant indicator of things to come, did it? I’ve never been to a pre-season friendly, however glamorous (didn’t we play Milan or Juventus, or someone like that, a few years ago?), and I doubt I ever will.

Yes, yes, there are new signings, loanees coming on board full-time, a promising squad taking shape… It’s all important, of course, but I’m not going to let the news from Vicarage Road (or northern Italy) take over my life. I’ll start getting excited some time around August 1st, when there’s a proper competitive fixture in the offing and the team news actually means something.

Until then, I’m on a break.

*This is more complicated in those summers when there’s a World Cup or European Championship, but that’s a subject for another day.