There are few things I want clarified more than my Paddy Power betting account history. I can read through the log of bets placed, but it is the final number I don’t need to see. That figure will show up green on Paddy’s computer, and red on mine, with a minus before it. How many digits follow it, and in what order? Am I down a hundred or a thousand? Is the first number 9, or a more respectable 4?
One week before Christmas, several news outlets reported that a Ladbrokes customer had won £5,000 after his selection of Leicester to be top at Christmas was successful. The bet was placed in August at odds of 1000-1, and when Claudio Ranieri’s team left Goodison Park with all three points on the 19th of last month, Leicester were locked down in top spot for Christmas.
How many people would have predicted that? Leicester’s appointment of Ranieri was harshly greeted with plenty of chuckles at the start of season, in part due to a string of unsuccessful jobs in recent seasons, culminating in a home loss for his Greek team by the Faroe Islands in the European Championship qualifiers.
“Down by Christmas” appeared to be a more appropriate market, but for that fan, who placed £5 at what seemed like really stingy odds at the time, this was an inspired choice. 12 months previous, Leicester were bottom of the league before their miraculous recovery.
So with the third round of the FA Cup fixtures last weekend, I tried my hand at some quick riches early in the New Year.
The beauty of betting is no matter what your stake – a €100 single or the “cheeky” 50 cent accumulator – games at Ashton Gate, Victoria Park and London Road become infinitively more interesting. But it isn’t easy, and it can’t be. Or we’d all be doing so often that the staff at Boylesports would be paying us from their own pockets.
I opted for a 7-team FA Cup accumulator, and this is how I fared.
Arsenal v Sunderland. Arsenal @ 1/3: Nothing imaginative about this one but you can’t fill your accumulator with plenty of unlikely outcome results. This is as close to a guaranteed win as you can get. Despite falling behind early, no-one really expected relegation-threatened Sunderland to cause a stir by eliminating a team going for 3-in-a-row FA Cup wins. The last time that happened was in 1886 when Blackburn Rovers needed a reply to beat West Brom on a cricket pitch in Derby. Result: Win.
Birmingham v Bournemouth. Draw @ 12/5: Perhaps the only consolation for Blues supporters is that they fared remarkably better than the last time Bournemouth turned up at St. Andrew’s – a 0-8 record home loss in October 2014. But this was a game they should have earned a replay from. First, they took the lead and then James Vaughan missed a penalty at 1-1. Jacques Maghoma also hit the post before Glenn Murray stabbed home the winner with 5 minutes remaining, ruining my big pay day. Result: Loss.
Eastleigh v Bolton. Draw @ 12/5: In 2011, I watched Wanderers play an FA Cup semi final from a small expat bar in Gwangju, South Korea, with a Bolton-born friend. I didn’t care much about his team before that night, but with no horse in the race and for a man who really believed in ‘the magic of the Cup,’ I genuinely hoped his club would prevail on the night. They didn’t. Stoke stuffed them 5-0 and almost 5 years later, Bolton are rock bottom of the Championship with just 2 wins from 25 games. Eastleigh are a non-league team and should have won. Result: Win.
Everton v Dagenham and Redbridge. Everton @ 1/6: According to the Bookies, this was a more nailed on possibility than Arsenal beating Sunderland, but it didn’t feel like that watching the updates on Sky Sports News. Kevin Miralles wrapped up the tie on 85 minutes, but it was at this moment that the accumulator suffered two fatal blows. Goals went in at St Andrew’s and Portman Road at almost the same time, ending my interest in betting that day. Result: Win.
Ipswich v Portsmouth. Ipswich @ evens: It is 6 years since Portsmouth went one further than Bolton, and reached the FA Cup final. Now they are 4th in League Two. Ipswich last won a third round tie the same year, beating Blackpool in January 2010. Mick McCarthy’s team were worth backing I felt, and eventually took the lead in the second half. Portsmouth equalised immediately, and ended my accumulator’s hopes with a second goal 5 minutes from time. Ipswich would ultimately force a reply, but it was too little…. Result: Loss
Watford v Newcastle. Watford @ 10/11: Troy Deeney settled this game late in the first half after some comedy Newcastle defending. It was a tight match, and Newcastle shaded the first half despite going a goal down, but Watford look a good bet to win at Vicarage Road every time. Result: Win
West Ham v Wolves. West Ham @ 4/5: So despondent with events elsewhere, I didn’t know West Ham had won until after their game ended. It took them a really long time to beat their championship rivals, but Nikica Jelavic’s first goal for the club means West Ham are 8 games unbeaten in all competitions. Result: Win.
The odds on this happening were 124/1.
My winnings: €0.
There is a full programme of midweek games in the league, starting tonight. Would I do it again? Absolutely.