The first half of the SPL season has been considerably more competitive than many pundits imagined it would be when it kicked off in August. Distracted, at least for a while, by their burgeoning Champions League campaign, Celtic did not run away with the title by September as many imagined. Indeed, several teams have briefly challenged Celtic’s domestic hegemony, although as we reach the campaign’s half way point, it’s difficult to argue with their 1/200 odds (William Hill) to secure the league crown.
Fortunately, most bookies offer a market which excludes Celtic from the reckoning and it’s here that value remains accessible. Motherwell are currently 11/4 with bet365 to ‘win’ the SPL without Celtic, while Aberdeen are 7/2 (BetVictor.com) and Inverness are Stan James’s 5/1 shot.
Given Inverness’s elevated league position, it’s a surprise to see that Terry Butcher is Paddy Power’s 10/3 favourite to be the next SPL manager to leave his post; Peter Houston is 7/2 with the same firm.
Punters may believe there’s more value, and perhaps a greater sense of predictability, in the top flight’s leading goalscorer market.
There are currently three players (Lee Griffiths, Niall McGinn and Billy McKay) level on 14 league goals apiece, yet it’s Celtic’s Gary Hooper, with 9 goals, who is Ladbrokes’ 3/1 favourite to end the season as the league’s top marksman.
Hooper has been a marvellous acquisition, scoring 53 goals in 76 appearances since joining from Scunthorpe two-and-a-half years ago and while making up a five-goal difference on one opponent is feasible, doing it against three may prove beyond him. Accordingly, Griffiths (4/1, Stan James) and McGinn (11/2, bet365) offer better value, while McKay, with 12 goals in his last nine matches, looks a very decent bet (6/1, Skybet) to secure Scotland’s golden boot.
Elsewhere, St Johnstone are the only side currently occupying a top six berth to be priced at odds-against (13/8, Paddy Power) to finish the season in the top six, while, not surprisingly, Dundee are 1/8 (BetVictor.com) to finish bottom.
Away from the SPL, Celtic are 5/6 favourites (Ladbrokes) to lift the SFA Cup, a market in which Rangers are 12/1 (Stan James) third favourites, while the Hoops are also favoured (2/5, Skybet) to lift the League Cup. However, many punters believe that Inverness (8/1, Stan James) offer a more attractive alternative.
Finally, with Rangers 17 points clear and Queen of the South 11 points ahead in the third and second divisions respectively, their odds to be crowned champions are ridiculously short. It’s a different matter in the first division where Partick are 5/6 (bet365) to win the title, with the team currently topping the league, Morton, priced at 5/1 by BetVictor.com.
League Cup winners: Inverness – 8/1 (Stan James)
Division One winners: Partick – 5/6 (bet365)
SPL winners (w/o Celtic): Aberdeen – 7/2 (BetVictor)
Scottish Cup winners: Celtic – 5/6 (Ladbrokes)
A £10 win accumulator on the above – 130/1 (Betfred)