“If I were a betting man …”

Here, for the fourth successive month, is a screenshot taken from the BBC website that shows the top of the Championship, the second tier of English football.


Like its three predecessors, beginning with this piece in August, it shows Leeds United (the team that I have followed since childhood) top of the table. Leeds spent most of the last month in the top three, but their time at the top was brief, captured in the screenshot here, on 2 October. Now, at the start of November, I am including the image above in case it’s the only time that Leeds are in pole position in the coming weeks.

It’s Sunday morning, Preston North End play at Charlton at noon today, and a win will put them ahead of Leeds on goal difference. West Bromwich Albion play tomorrow (Monday) at Stoke City, and they will go top of the table if they win. If neither Preston nor West Brom win, Leeds will stay top until next Saturday at least.

“If I were a betting man …” is a phrase that I have used often, most recently yesterday morning. I predicted the outcome of the afternoon’s home game against QPR exactly, over breakfast with my daughter: “Leeds will win 2-0,” I told her, “A goal in each half, and we’ll go top of the table.” I even had a dream about it on Friday night. It’s exactly what happened in the equivalent fixture 28 years ago. A 2-0 home win against QPR in November 1991 put Leeds top of the old Football League, in the season that they went on to become English Champions. I recall the match report from BBC Radio that afternoon. Back then it was the only way to find out what had happened on the day, ahead of the following morning’s papers. The reporter said that the taxi driver who drove him to the ground had correctly predicted the outcome beforehand.

If I were a betting man, and had put my money where my mouth is, I would have made a profit from the result. But if I were a betting man I would probably have lost plenty of money on other results. As the scores came in yesterday afternoon, and Jack Harrison’s 82nd minute goal eased the nerves of Leeds fans everywhere, I was wondering what it would take to prompt me to place a bet.

I felt the same way in June, after predicting the outcome of the Champions League final, also while chatting to my daughter. It was the same prediction, and the same result: 2-0 (to Liverpool in this case) with a goal in each half. Last weekend my son and I watched Liverpool’s comeback victory against Spurs (their opponents in that Champions League final) in a local pub, at the invitation of my son’s godfather (a West Ham fan) and a Liverpool fan. Spurs scored early but we were all predicting a Liverpool victory. My son’s godfather is a betting man (occasionally at least, a few quid here and there) and has an App on his phone, and an account with one of those online gambling firms. We kept our eye on the in-play odds, something I have done only a handful of times before. At half-time, with Spurs still leading 1-0, the odds on a Liverpool win had lengthened to 6/4. “That’s a good bet,” we all agreed, but none of us put any money, online or otherwise, on the outcome. Even with those odds, none of us were betting men.



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