Steve McClaren is a fool. Macca was a poor manager at club level, he's so far out of his depth on the international stage that it's a miracle he's not suffering from the bends.
His original decision to drop Beckham was flawed at best, but when offered the ‘get out of jail free' card that was the injuries to Hargreaves and Lennon, he preferred to utilise the ‘skills' of Jenas, Downing and Richardson. You simply can't back this England team at odds of 1.10 against a reasonable Macedonian outfit; although I wouldn't dissuade anyone from perming a 1-0 / 2-0 / 3-0 win at a much healthier 2.40.
I'm not a great admirer of Peter Crouch as a rule, but thanks to a process of elimination I've reached the shocking conclusion that he's England's most likely goal scorer. Rooney's struggling, Gerrard's wasted on the wing, Downing's a million miles from international class and Lampard would need 29 attempts to score on an 18-30 (stone) holiday. Back Crouch at 2.00 to keep up his incredible recent record.
If the England team were picked on current form, Wayne Rooney wouldn't get a look in; he's currently giving the ball away like a ginger schoolboy. Wayne hasn't scored a competitive goal for England for over two years, my initial shock at seeing 1.62 for a Rooney goal soon faded as the realisation dawned that he'll be available at 2.20 not to score. Merry Christmas, everyone.
Most people know ELO as the awful 1970's progressive rock outfit, but the ELO ratings are a tool for judging the strengths of international football teams. While FIFA have Scotland as the 34th strongest team in world football, ELO show a more realistic 40th place. Strangely, both differ dramatically from my own personal rating system, where the Sweaties are sandwiched between the Amazonian Forest and Krakatoa in 594th place.
France have the luxury of a match against Scotland at Hampden; or ‘Le Bye' as it's known in Paris. Value is normally harder to find than a Scotsman at a World Cup but the French are the literal definition at 1.70.
Call me paranoid, but before buying lamb from a butcher I always enquire from where the meat originated; you can't be too careful. Wales host Slovakia in their qualifier and an away win is definitely on the cards. The Slovaks have seen off Germany and France over the last year; you should get involved at 3.00.
How on earth did the phrase ‘the luck of the Irish' originate? An 80 year war for independence must have been grating, running out of potatoes is always annoying and if conclusive proof was needed that luck is not on their side; they landed in the same qualifying group as Germany and the Czech Republic. The Irish have been decimated by injuries for their trip to Cyprus, the draw appeals at 4.20.
Northern Ireland's recent win over Spain was perhaps the most unlikely result since Goliath took a dive against David after laying himself heavily on the exchanges. There are many phrases that could adequately describe the 1.29 on offer for a Danish side (who have recently destroyed Poland, Portugal and England) playing at home to Lawrie Sanchez's minnows; I've settled for ‘the best bet in the history of gambling'.
The Italians have stubbornly refused to win in their campaign so far, somehow knowing they were the last leg of my accer. Italy destroyed Ukraine in a world cup quarter final in the summer, a repeat at 1.50 should not be ruled out.
Ever since I watched Prisoner Cell Block H as a child, I've felt a strong affinity with the Aussies. Bea Smith's fight against drugs within the prison system was as inspirational as it was dramatic. Australia face Paraguay in a friendly match live on Eurosport, I like the Aussies at a criminally large 2.10.
There's always something happening in the Dutch camp. An injury to Huntelaar forced the Holland manager to offer Van Nistelrooy a return to the International stable, but the Ruud boy told Van Basten where to stick his olive branch, and it wasn't in a local dyke. Holland have the quality to stroll to a win in Bulgaria, the 1.80 should be snapped up.
The acc of the week:
This week's accer is so delightful; Paul McCartney is considering reuniting with Heather Mills as a direct result. “I may go out on a limb and ask her to come back,” a loved up McCartney may have mused. Slovakia, France, Holland, Denmark and Italy are the teams, the payout is a generous 17.00.
The quote of the week
“I don't like diving, football doesn't need it.”
Wayne Rooney on the curse of the modern game; Sol Campbell is currently looking for a fresh pair of underpants.
The lay man:
While the fat cats hoover up all the free money laying Northern Ireland at 17.00, us normal Joes can make a profit taking on the Sweaties at 7.00.