“In the 2012/13 Championship season, which club went six points clear in second place with three games to go, yet failed to win promotion?”
That’s how quizmasters of the future will tantalise their audiences with a question whose answer everyone will instantly half-remember. It’ll only take a moment to come…the stunned expression of the fans on that night’s highlights. The distraught players. The inconsolable manager. It’s it’s…I’ll get it in a second…Hull City! And so those entrants into brainteasers yet to come will chuckle at the Devon Lochian collapse of a second tier football team in the past, and no-one will remember how a season of glittering promise unravelled at the end.
That sort of nightmarish scenario must have been tormenting more than a few minds in recent days, ever since City’s damaging draw against Bristol was compounded by Watford’s thumping, confidence-restoring victory at the weekend. Surely not? Surely we cannot throw this away? Yet no amount of logic can overcome the TypicalCity factor in our fractious minds.
What follows isn’t intended to make anyone feel better. But it’s worth taking a look at how the outside world, and in particular its bookmaking fraternity, view a race that sudden has two possible winners, yet one a several lengths clear with only two to jump.
For City are massive favourites to take second place. Massive. You won’t find anything better than 1/12 (BetVictor) on the Tigers finishing second, though the same odds are available (Bet365) on City being promoted by any means including the play-offs, if you want that insurance. Which we don’t.
We’re a whopping 8/1 to make the play-offs (Bet365) – contrast that to Watford, who are 1/14 (Bet365) They, incidentally, are tied with Brighton to win them (11/4 apiece, Bet365). The sheer improbability of City requiring them makes us the 25/1 (SkyBet) outsiders.
Much of this is because the bookies don’t seem to expect the race to last beyond this weekend. Anything short of victory for Watford at Leicester will probably do for them, yet they’re sturdy outsiders to win at the King Power Stadium. A Leicester win that’ll promote City is actually odds-on with most firms (Boylesports go evens), while Watford are 29/10 (BetVictor) to close to the gap to a point. They’re not fancied at all.
By contrast, City’s (theoretically) gentler assignment at Barnsley has them as favourites – 6/4 (Coral) is the best out there on a win that’ll guarantee promotion whatever the previous night brings, while a home win is as long as 11/5 (BetVictor).
Feeling better now?
No, thought not.