“What’s the point of San Marino?” wondered Gareth Southgate as I wondered what the point in Gareth Southgate was. Well Gareth, the point of San Marino is that they always get hammered, which is a bit of a waste of time for all concerned unless you’re compiling a £10 to £10k Challenge.
Luckily enough for me, I am compiling said challenge and I felt like making hay courtesy of a pathetic bunch of losers with no hope of ever achieving anything in international football – England.
My mole harboured deep within the heart of Sanmarinese football reliably fed intelligence back that the tiny principality had conceded 70 goals in their last ten away games and hadn’t scored on the road since 2003.
Even my dubious maths works that out as an average of seven conceded every game while scoring none, which immediately got my mind ticking towards an England win after overcoming a big enough handicap.
The Three Lions to win despite starting off 4-0 down was very nicely priced at 7/25, meaning the returns on putting my £79.30 for bet 14 of the challenge would take me over £100 to £101.50.
I sat back expecting to see a deluge of goals and another bet come in with aplomb but with over an hour gone at Wembley and England only 2-0 up, I began penning an angry letter to the British embassy in an attempt to renounce my citizenship.
England have given me plenty of reasons to get mad in the past but them polishing off my £10k assault would have been the final straw. Two-thirds of the way through the clash and against a team of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers there was little sign of another three goals coming along as the hosts indelicately tried to pass through a wall made of biscuit.
Luckily enough, the rigours of a day at work followed by a trip to London finally caught up with the plucky Sanmarinese, who caved in and shipped another three to make me a very relieved – if not conclusively satisfied – man. I highly doubt even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family celebrated the fifth with as much joy as I did.
Anyhow, the long and short of it is that after 14 bets, I have increased my initial stake ten times over and if that seems like pretty slow progress then that’s because it is. The terms of the challenge in putting on around 73 bets of roughly 1/10 to turn £10 into £10,000 meant the initial incrementals were pretty marginal.
However, the reason I was so keen to cross the £100 mark was to finally see some fruition in the prize pot and where to start with my bets were going up by a pound or so, they’ll now be climbing by a tenner or more each time. It’s tempting fate but if I had the money or the minerals to have started this challenge on £100, I’d be now sitting on well over £500 – so here’s to the next 14.
As the stakes rise I’ve been caveated by the editors to take my time and pick prices of closer to 1/10 rather than sailing close to the wind as I have done on occasion. With these words ringing in my ears, I am conscious of playing safe on bets of long odds-on but the inner gambler inside is telling me that I shouldn’t change tack and to peruse the weekend’s global fixture lists for something which should come off and at a decent reward too.
After consulting John Terry’s legal team, they’ve suggested I can’t get sacked or fined for bringing bwin into disrepute for sticking to my guns, but the mounting pile of unpaid utility bills magnetised to the fridge is telling me not to balls this up.
Talking of which, regular readers may – but probably won’t – have noticed that I gave the midweek bet a rest this week with more international games going on and it’s a good job I did. I was toying with the idea of backing Germany to beat Sweden as the next punt, which looked inspired for an hour and then, in a roundabout sort of way, even more inspired come full-time.
Letting slip a 4-0 lead at home with 20 minutes to go is exactly the sort of unforeseen circumstance I can do little about so again, there’s no point fretting on what could and should have been. With the collapse of the ‘Berlin four’ and the editors’ words of wisdom put firmly to the back of my mind, I shall be ploughing on further with another bet which, on the face of it, is already a done deal.
For bet 15 of the £10k challenge I will be off to Greece, which seems ironic given that my £101.50 is probably more than the Greek government have got in the national bank. Perhaps if they decided to invest all of the country’s capital on doing a £10k challenge they could wipe out their debt and get Angela Merkel off their back.
So, my words to the Greek government are this: get on Olympiakos to beat Xanthi at home at 11/50 and if you’ve got a spare £101.50 knocking around or even a few loose drachmas, you could turn that into £123.83 or a couple of trillion drachma. Route one economics.
The only plausible reason I can find for Olympiakos to be as long as 11/50 is that Roy Carroll plays in nets for them and recalling his many misdemeanours over the years, I was slightly taken aback before putting this bet on.
But if the Spanish La Liga is a two-horse race then the Greek Super League definitely consists of one pony ambling unabated towards the finish line on his own. The ‘Thrylos’ have won 14 of the last 16 titles and their home record is exactly what you’d expect in a one-team monopoly.
At the intimidating Karaiskakis Stadium, the perennial champions have won 30 of their last 34 home games and are unsurprisingly top of the pile again this year with six wins in six. Leonardo Jardim’s side do have to travel to Montpellier for a Champions League tie on Wednesday but Xanthi are a poor bunch, losing six of the last nine away games, and they routinely get rolled over by Olympiakos.
The letter to the British Embassy has been scrapped, but one’s on its way to George Osborne.
Bet 15: Olympiakos to beat Xanthi @ 11/50
Current Balance: £101.50
Potential Balance: £123.83