FOOTBALL BETTING: Celtic and Rangers once again go head to head in the SPL for the annual 2 horse race but what about the fight for 3rd? Peter Sharkey looks on.
The weeks leading up to another pulsating season in the SPL offer an ideal opportunity to seek out the early value among bookies and anyone fancying Rangers to defend their crown should note Betdaq’s 13/10 price.
Though comfortable winners last May, Rangers will be without scorer Kris Boyd this time around, which may hand the initiative to Celtic, currently 8/11 with bet365.
Walter Smith will want to end his final season on a high, though, and The Gers’ odds may tumble if he starts spending in the next fortnight – something promising rookie-manager, Neil Lennon, has done at Celtic this summer.
Another popular market is the SPL winner without the Old Firm, headed by Dundee United, who are quoted at 13/8 with 888sport to repeat last season’s feat, while Hibernian, who finished fourth last year, are 7/2 (Stan James).
Following their third place finish in the SPL and Scottish Cup victory, The Terrors will be well backed by punters to clich third, but value-seekers may want to look beyond them as six of the last 10 teams to finish third in the SPL finished fifth to eighth the previous year. With that in mind, step forward Motherwell (15/2, Betfred), Hearts (9/2, William Hill) and St Johnstone (20/1, Ladbrokes). Hearts may have been seventh last season, but are usually more consistent and boast a trio of third-spot finishes since 2000.
Aberdeen (10/1, Paddy Power) can only improve this season following a disappointing end to their last campaign and Mark McGhee recently made his sixth summer signing in the form of influential midfielder, Paul Hartley. They should be considered more seriously in this market than to finish bottom of the pile (16/1, Victor Chandler).
As for who will prop the league table up, some punters may be attracted by bet365’s odds of 7/2 about newly-promoted Inverness, but it’s worth noting that since 2000, only Gretna have turned the joy of promotion into relegation the following season. This statistic would suggest that St Mirren (3/1, Jaxx.com), Kilmarnock (4/1, Totesport) and Hamilton (5/1, Ladbrokes) are in the reckoning.
Kilmarnock just missed the trap door last season and could be the most vulnerable, as two teams that finished second from bottom in the last 10 years both fell through it the following season – Motherwell in 2001 and Dunfermline in 2005. Killie drew with Premier League newboys Blackpool in a recent friendly and will need to carry that sort of form into their opening match away at Rangers on August 14th if they are to hit the ground running…