Monday 27 June 2016

All Over

What perfect timing for my Euro 2016 post and the profits to be had from backing Unders.

Cue a day which saw all three matches go Over, including a match where a team (France) came from losing at half-time to winning at full-time in a Euros knock-out game - something not achieved since the first ever knock-out game on July 6th, 1960.

Coincidentally, that game was also in France and also involved France, who led Yugoslavia 2:1 at half-time before losing 4:5. They actually led 4:2 with 15 minutes left before Yugoslavia scored three goals in four minutes.

Since that first knock-out game, 64 more have been played, with just six teams trailing at half-time coming back to advance - three after extra-time, two on penalties, and one via the golden goal.

France become the only team to have come from losing at half-time to advancing twice, the others accomplishing this are Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Italy, West Germany, Spain and Portugal.

On the losing side are Yugoslavia (3 times), plus France, Denmark, Portugal, England and now the Republic of Ireland.

Sunday 26 June 2016

BLUnders Wrap Up 2015

Now that the 2015-16 NBA season is over, we can take a look at the final BLUnders numbers. For the fifth consecutive season, the system returned a profit, albeit lower than the previous four seasons.

Most qualifying matches are, as might be expected, home games, but on the rare occasions (less rare over the past two seasons) when it is the Away team favoured, the results are:
The second system I play alongside the BLUnders mentioned previously meant that the combined totals for the season ended up as below:
Not the sexiest of profits perhaps, but as I have said before, their value lies in the churn volume and the ease with which selections are determined. Roll on NBA 2016, where Luke Walton might find wins a little harder to come by in his new position.

Euro Expansion - And Contraction

Since the Euros expanded to 16 teams in 1996, now up to 24 of course, the 38 knock-out stage games have gone Under 2.5 goals 26 times (implied odds 1.46). Fewer goals means more draws, and 18 matches have ended even (2.11) with eleven have been 'perfect draws' at 0:0 (3.45) and seven have finished 1:1 (5.43). 21 matches (1.81) have been 0:0 at half-time.

Being aware of such statistics certainly eased the pain of watching the Wales v Northern Ireland and Portugal v Croatia games yesterday. I know 0:0 draws are not everyone's cup of tea, but I rather like them. I can tell you that with a little money on one or more of the above outcomes, your whole perspective on the game changes.
The table above includes the 23 all Euro match-ups in World Cup knock-out games over the same time-frame. Arguably perhaps I should have only included match-ups on European soil, so I have broken those out in case anyone is interested.

** A couple of comments on my previous post have been removed at the commenter's request, and this is an updated post. We all say things that we sometimes regret, and many people vote one way and instantly regret it afterwards, which brings me to the EU Brexit referendum result.

I can't say I am delighted at the result. Quite the opposite in fact. I think it's a disaster for the United Kingdom, although there might not be much of that left after Scotland depart (and who can blame them) and the case for a united Ireland becomes more of an issue once again. Referenda are terrible ideas, and this is what happens when you let average people vote. As Sir Winston Chuchill said:
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
The average voter (embarrassingly including my old parents) apparently believed the lies of the Leave campaign, the £350 million a week to the NHS (oh, that was a mistake we heard the day after the vote), the reduction of immigration into the tens of thousands (oh, we never said that) and so it goes on. Add in the large numbers of people calling the electoral commission to change their "protest" votes because "I didn't think we'd really be leaving" and you can see why giving people votes that actually count, is not a good idea.
Oops - Mistake. Sorry About That
Still, the last time nationalism was on the rise in Europe back in the 1930s, and austerity policies were in place, everything turned out OK - didn't it? An increase in overt racism has already been reported in the UK.

Fortunately, the referendum isn't legally binding, so write to your MP and tell them we want another one! There's a precedent - the Irish referendum to ratify the Lisbon treaty failed in 2008, but passed with a big majority the following year. And yes, I'm aware that Cameron (who could well go down in history as the man who destroyed not only the EU but also the UK - what a legacy!) said there would not be a second referendum, but he's lied before (quite often in fact) and this is far too consequential an issue to be decided by people who don't have many years to live with the consequences. Votes should be weighted for age - if old people are allowed to vote at all. If under 18s can't vote, I think there's a good case for not allowing over 70s to vote either. And not to say I told you so, but, well, I did warn against Cameron more than six years ago. Does no one read this blog? It sometimes feels like the Daily Mail has more readers!

Friday 24 June 2016

Cod Peace

If we exclude the meaningless friendlies, as we should, of 1982 (1:1) and 2004 (6:1 to England), we are left with just three relatively recent contests between England and Iceland which those of a certain vintage may recall.

Iceland went with a simple 2 – 4 formation (two large and four small patrol vessels) in the First Cod War of 1958 to 1961, while England (OK, technically the UK) went with a rather more complicated 17 – 19 – 1 – 1 – 10 formation (17 destroyers, 19 frigates, 1 fast minelayer, 1 minesweeper and 10 Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply vessels). The outcome was a victory for Iceland; England were smited as Reykjavík Grapevine ‏( @rvkgrapevine ) might say.

The Second Cod War (1972-1973) saw Iceland switch to a 3 – 2 – 1 formation. It would appear that they combined two of their small patrol vessels into one large one - which is riveting stuff. A one armed whaler was added to the team, although whether this was a whaler with one arm (Captain Boomer perhaps?) or a whaling ship armed with a solitary gun, is unclear. I suspect the latter, since Boomer lost his right arm to Moby Dick in a novel written over a hundred years previously.

CW2 saw England made drastic changes, setting a record that held until Roy Hodgson’s team selection for the recent Slovakia game. The 17 destroyers from the First Cod War were reduced to just one, while the 19 frigates were increased to 30. The number of RFA supply vessels stayed about the same at 11, but dropped after receiving just the one cap each, were the fast minelayer and the minesweeper. I’m not terribly surprised. Is it just me who finds it a bit odd that one ship would be laying mines while the second one would be following along behind, sweeping them up? There may well be a good reason, but it’s not obvious to me, although I should clarify that my naval commanding experience is somewhat limited. Anyway, fearing this new formation left the Royal Navy a little open at the back, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chipped in with 5 defence tugs. That was very nice of them, but again the result was an Icelandic victory, and another smiting.

The Third Cod War (1975-1976) again saw Iceland make minor changes, going with a of 4 – 2 – 2 formation (four large patrol vessels, two small patrol vessels and two armed trawlers, while the Royal Navy dropped the destroyers completely, going with a paltry 22 frigates and 7 RFA supply vessels. Once again the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food helped out at the back by providing 6 defence tugs, but the ‘net’ (pun intended) outcome of all this tinkering was yet another Icelandic victory and a third smiting.

So Iceland does have some form, winning all three encounters despite being seriously, and literally, out-gunned. Interesting to note that subs were not used in any of the three previous contests, but I expect that to change on Monday.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

D E F Advantage

There have only been four major finals tournaments with 24 teams competing, which were the World Cups of 1982 to 1994.

In 1982 the format was six groups of four, with the top two in each qualifying for a second group stage comprised of four groups of three, with the winners making the semi-final. It was all rather unsatisfactory, with the so-called “Disgrace of Gijón” at the forefront, the event which resulted in the final two games in each group subsequently being played simultaneously. 

Also unsatisfactory was the three-team Second Round group format, with one team by necessity completing its schedule before the other two teams played each other. Not surprisingly, this format has never been used again. England were eliminated without losing and conceding just one goal, as were Cameroon.

The 1986, 1990 and 1994 World Cups featured the six four-team group format with the four best third-placed teams joining the top two from each group in a round of sixteen. One problem with this format is that it favours the later groups who have the advantage of knowing what the records are of the earlier groups’ third-placed teams. Groups D, E and F have seen their third place teams advance eight times out of a possible nine, (Groups E and F have a 100% record), while the earlier Groups A, B and C have seen third-place advancement just four times from nine.

Interestingly, two of the third-placed teams in these events went on to reach the Final – Argentina in 1990 and Italy in 1994. Belgium reached the semi-final as a third-placed team in 1986. The other nine advancers all lost in the Round of 16.

With Euro 2016 following the same format, in Group E Belgium know that a draw will suffice versus Sweden, while the Swedes and Republic of Ireland (v Italy) know they need to win.

In Group F, Iceland and Portugal both know that draws today will see them advance, while Austria have to win against Iceland to progress.

It certainly looks like the knock-out phase will see two halves that are anything but equal. The bottom half looks far stronger, with five of the top six seeded teams plus host already there - Germany (seeded 1), Spain (2), England (3), Portugal (4), Belgium (5), Italy (6) plus hosts France. Portugal and Belgium are yet to have their position in the next phase decided.

Winning Group F would be well worth Hungary's efforts. 

Wednesday 15 June 2016

On The Spot

In my haste to finish the last post, I rather rushed the penalty kick observation from Peter Webb, notably as someone kindly pointed out, that all penalty kicks are not equal. In the same way that Peter erred by including an opening match that was an elimination game with opening matches that were group games, his analysis of penalty shoot-outs is flawed. Peter wrote:
According to data I’ve collected over the years there is an 84.62% chance of scoring a penalty. (Sample taken from 1794 penalties taken in the Premier League). Forgoing complexity, you would expect the chance of winning a penalty shoot out to be fairly random at that scoring rate. However England’s record is way below 50% waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay below.
It should be clear that a penalty kick in a Premier League game is not the same as a penalty kick in a major tournament penalty shoot out. Not only do penalty shoot-outs force second and third choice players to take kicks, and sometimes fourth, fifth and more, but the pressure is ratcheted up enormously. Even penalties in the Premier League are not equal. Compare a first minute penalty at home for a top team versus a lower team with a 94th minute penalty in a drawn game in which a win keeps the team up / qualifies them for the Champions league / wins the Premier League. There's not too much pressure on the penalty taker when their side is 5:0 up etc.

In World Cup and Euro shoot-outs, I have the strike rate at 73.2% (271 scored from 370 kicks). Not surprising that percentage is considerably lower than that of Peter's Premier League sample. We're comparing apples and oranges here. Also worth noting is that (since 1998) the pre-match favourites have won 78.5% of World Cup shoot-outs, while the team shooting first has won 57.7%.

The country that has taken the most shoot-out penalty kicks is, as you might have guessed, England, who have converted 23 of their 35 winning just once (v Spain).

England and Italy are pretty close in terms of strike rate, with the Azzurri just ahead with 22 out off 33, but they have managed to win 3 of their 7 shoot-outs, while England have lost 6.

Germany, as you might have guessed, have the highest percentage for countries taking more than ten penalties, with 23 of 24 being scored, while England are the worst.

Of all teams, 100% scoring records are owned by the Czech Republic, Belgium, Paraguay, South Korea and Turkey, while Switzerland have a 0% record missing all three attempts - but their flag is a big plus...

Monday 13 June 2016

Cycle Of Defeat

Peter Webb is anxious to assign a psychologist to the England football team, deducing that from a sample size of nine, their failure to win any opening Euro matches is statistically significant.

I'm not sure that Peter's inclusion of the 1968 tournament, in which England's first game in the Finals was actually a knock-out game, is copacetic if one is comparing like with like, (the others were all group games), so that takes the meaningful sample size down to eight. I don't have the odds on England's opening group games available, but Peter writes:

If you bump up England’s chance of winning to an average of 50%, pretty fair given the opponents in the tournaments.
England's opening group games haven't been quite as easy as Peter suggests. Of the seven games in completed tournaments, they opened against the eventual winners once (1992), runners-up once (1980) as well as a semi-finalist (2000) and a quarter finalist (2004).

There's also the fact that opening group games are typically defensive in nature - conventional wisdom is that it's not essential to win, but you can't afford to lose. Since the Euros moved to an opening group stage format in 1980, the 56 matches between 1980 and 2012 have seen the Under 2.5 a winner 40 times (71.4%), and 21 draws (37.5%) - 2.67 in Betfair odds. Fewer goals means more draws, as readers of this blog will know.

So all in all, I think Peter has jumped the gun a little in finding this, admittedly disappointing, sequence to be significant.

One other sequence that continued was that when England score in their opening games, they always score first, but six times now they have failed to hold that lead, including a 2-0 lead v Portugal in 2000 which they contrived to convert into a 2-3 loss.

Peter does have more of a point on the penalty kicks conclusion. I recall reading a study in which the conclusion was that while England's penalty woes were not yet statistically significant, one more shoot-out loss and they would be. Unfortunately, that is more likely to come to pass than not:
Geir Jordet wrote an academic study, ‘Team history and choking under pressure in major soccer penalty shootouts’, on the effect that losing one or two preceding shoot-outs had on the next shoot-out.
The conclusion? England is more likely to lose a shoot-out in its next shoot-out because it had lost its last two shoot-outs (in fact, England has lost its last five shoot-outs, but Jordet could not run analysis on that, because no other national team has managed that feat).
The results showed that a player’s likelihood of converting a penalty for a team whose last two shoot-outs ended in defeat drop considerably, to 57%, even if that player was not part of the team at the time of those defeats. The winning habit is also contagious, and the chances of scoring for a side that has won its last two shoot-outs rises to 89%. The cycle of defeat is a vicious one.

Saturday 11 June 2016

Solar System

The above Tweet piqued my interest yesterday, not because it was news to me, but because it's rare too see others publish their statistics and I wanted to compare or contrast them with my numbers. They are close - for home favourites in this season's play-offs ATS I had 38-19 and since 2005 I have 423-369-8 (53.4%). 

Unfortunately for those hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers would increase the winning percentages, the Golden State Warriors not only covered the spread, but won the game by 13 points. 

For me, there are a few problems with broad-brush systems such as the above Tweet, (not that the Tweet actually said to back the Cavs, but the implication was there), but I'll focus on the one relevant to yesterday which is that it doesn't take the teams into consideration. The Golden State Warriors were also underdogs (+3) on the road in the last series playing Oklahoma City Thunder and won the game by 7 points. 

Looking at opposing the Warriors in this season's play-off games is a tiny and meaningless sample size, but over the whole season, home team favourites versus the Warriors are 2-6 ATS. Still a small sample, but a warning sign that perhaps the Warriors are not your typical team and an example of how additional filters can make a big difference to a 'broad-brush' system. 

With a 3-1 lead in the Finals, the Warriors are 7 point favourites to end the season at home on Monday night. The Warriors have been favourites in every home game this season, winning 50 of 53 and are 30-21-2 ATS. No NBA team has ever come from 1-3 down in the Finals, and it's hard to argue that losing at home last night was anything but a huge psychological blow for the Cavaliers. Taking into consideration the basic numbers, the teams involved and the context of the game, Warriors -7 look to be value.

Not betting related, but I hadn't seen this before, nor was I aware of the plan, but this a very well written piece on the topic of adding the youth sides of Premier League clubs to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Published in March on The Set Pieces and written by Iain Macintosh, it's worth a couple of minutes of your time:
I remember the 2013 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy well. The sun-soaked green of the Wembley turf, the clear blue skies, the buoyancy of hope in my heart and the gurgles of anxiety in my bottom. I remember the huge bank of Southend supporters, and the smaller, but noisy, enthusiastic and ultimately jubilant section of Crewe fans. But I guess I remember most of all thinking that it would all be so much better if we weren’t playing Crewe, with their pride and their history and their passion. I remember thinking that I’d much rather be playing the Chelsea development squad.
Now it seems that those childhood dreams of watching my team go into battle against eleven teenage reserve players could finally be realised. The Premier League is reported to be in negotiations with the Football League as they seek to drop up to 16 U21 teams into the competition next season. And why not? We’ve been too slow to tackle the menace of smaller clubs enjoying an unforgettable day at Wembley.
I’ve written here before about the plight of the lower league clubs and the onslaught they’ve faced in recent years. It’s the same old charge sheet. First the big clubs came for the shared gate receipts. Then they came for the TV money. Then they came for our young players. Then they came for our league places. We thought that was it. We didn’t think we had anything else they could take. We didn’t even consider that they might want our modest little lower league cup competition too.
The counter-argument you hear when you object to these proposals is never less than amusing.
“Don’t you think these Premier League youngsters would benefit from playing in a proper competition? Don’t you want them to fulfil their potential?”
This argument comes up so often that I’m starting to suspect our answer isn’t being heard. So if you wouldn’t mind just sitting down and paying attention for a moment, I’ll issue our response once again.
We do not give a fuck about your Premier League youngsters. Not a flying fuck. Not a walking fuck. Not a static fuck. We have been to the cupboard and we have no fucks. We have checked online and there are no fucks in stock. When Alexander saw the breadth of your argument, he wept. For there were no more fucks left to give.
Don’t get upset. Getting upset because we do not care about your Premier League youngsters is like Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda getting upset because the local butcher they’ve driven to the brink of bankruptcy doesn’t want to help them lobby for longer Sunday opening hours.
And do not, for shame, speak of helping the England team. You have no interest in that and you never have. You bicker with the England team over every match they play, you resent their use of your players. Do not dare tell us that you’ve suddenly come over all patriotic.
The motivation for this is simple. It is greed. You have proved too feckless and incompetent to manage your resources. You have scooped up so many youngsters that you don’t know what to do with them. You stockpile them and they stagnate and you don’t know what to do. And so once again you seek to squeeze the life out of us for a marginal gain on your balance sheet.
You ignore the fact that the answer to your problem is staring you in the face. If you want your players to develop as footballers, play them in football matches or don’t buy them until they have done so. The brightest talents in the England squad played first team football either at a lower level, like Dele Alli and John Stones, or at teams where youth development was taken seriously, like Harry Kane and Ross Barkley. This isn’t difficult. You’ve only got two feet. Stop buying so many shoes.
You also have your own development league and if that isn’t fit for purpose, change it. The old reserve leagues were a mix of grizzled veterans and young starlets, and they seemed to work just fine. Why not return to that? Why not insist that all reserve teams must contain four or five players over the age of the 28? Why not specifically hire players for the purpose of playing reserve team football? If you all do it, you’ll have the senior opposition you desire. Hell, you’ve got enough money to group-fund a dozen sparring squads of veterans if you wanted.
Ultimately, there’s nothing we can do. History has proved that if you want something badly enough, you’ll eventually take it. But think about this; most of your teams will only be involved for a game or two, maybe three. You’re getting very little out of this. And yet you’re taking away so much.
On that day in 2013, two teams that had been relentlessly crapped upon by modern football were granted a chance to see how the other half live. That’s the sole purpose of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. It gives us just a little bit of hope. Do you really want to snuff that out?

Friday 10 June 2016

Only Mistakes

We all make them; in fact, and I hope you are sitting down for this, even the author of your favourite blog has been known to make the very occasional one, evidence, if any is needed, that no one is perfect.

I'm not sure I have mentioned her before, but articles from the Financial Times’ Lucy Kellaway are usually worth reading. Not only does she write content worth reading, but she does so in an entertaining style and with a dry sense of humour – rather like myself, I hear you say.

Lucy Kellaway (@LucyKellaway) first came to my attention when she was the commencement speaker at my son’s graduation (University of Essex) a few years ago, and she has a habit of cutting through the BS and talking common sense.

The article below about mistakes was triggered by the comment by UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti to his employees that "henceforth it was OK for them to make mistakes". I meant to post this a few months ago, but I made a mistake and filed it in the wrong place. But that’s OK; I've learned from it and here is the article now, none the less relevant than the day it was written:
UBS head should make clear that all can take risks but none may make light of mistakes
Last week the chief executive of UBS told all the bankers who work for him that henceforth it was OK for them to make mistakes. A culture in which everyone was petrified of taking risks, Sergio Ermotti said, was not in the interests of the bank or its clients.
How mature, came the response. How refreshing to hear a bank chief acknowledge that risks need to be taken and honest mistakes will sometimes be made.
But it wasn’t mature. It was mad.
In a limited sort of way what he said made sense. The main point about risks is that they are risky — and risky things have a way of going wrong. Places where people get a bollocking for making the slightest slip tend not to be where the best decisions are made.
Yet the answer is not to tell bankers that it is fine to screw up. Mistakes are never OK. And they are particularly un-OK in banking. If I were a UBS client, I would be exceedingly displeased to learn that the bankers to whom I was handing over a king’s ransom were being taught that errors were perfectly acceptable.
This mistake-loving nonsense is an export from Silicon Valley, where “fail fast and fail often” is what passes for wisdom. Errors have been elevated to such a level that to get something wrong is spoken of as more admirable than getting it right.
One company that dares to be different is Amazon. Among its values is the seditiously sensible notion that its leaders “are right, a lot”. Far from stifling innovation, this seems to have done the reverse. On the 2015 Forbes list of the world’s most innovative companies, Amazon is number eight. Facebook and Google, which have long talked about the marvellousness of failing, are not on it at all.
The glorification of failure is based on a couple of psychological misapprehensions. The first is the idea that we learn from our mistakes, when there is no evidence of anything of the kind. I certainly don’t learn from mine. I keep buying uncomfortable shoes, each time thinking I will wear them in. But they go on being uncomfortable, and I go out and buy more that pinch just as badly.
The world is full of people who go on making the same mistake. Men marry the same sort of unsuitable woman. Most of the journalists I’ve ever worked with display extraordinary loyalty to their particular brand of mistake — they are endlessly inaccurate, or endlessly prone to cliché.
A study a few years ago by neuroscientists at MIT showed that monkeys learn much more from getting things right than getting things wrong. When rewarded for making a correct choice they remembered it and could repeat it, but after a wrong choice they remembered nothing.
The second fallacy — which UBS has fallen for — says that fear of making mistakes paralyses us, so we must make them seem less scary.
The experience of Henry Marsh, one of Britain’s best neurosurgeons, shows this is nonsense.
He has to take mistakes seriously as when he screws up people die. Far from consoling himself with the thought that honest mistakes are fine, he has written a book, "Do No Harm", cataloguing all his errors in goriest detail and making each one appear as un-fine as possible.
Yet even with mistakes cast as catastrophes, Mr. Marsh has not been paralysed. He admits to feeling dread before every operation, but once he gets started he feels a “fierce and happy concentration”. Nor is there any sign that his proper dread has stopped him taking risks.
Instead he has pioneered a brilliant and daring system, in which patients are kept awake while he rummages around in their brains.
He catalogues his failures not in a Pollyanna-ish attempt to show how much he learnt, but simply as a fact of life — and death. It is as if the mistakes have become part of him, and have made him the person he is.
Equally the mistakes we’ve made make us the employees we are.
I haven’t killed anyone through my work, but I have harmed them. I often write about people anonymously in my columns, but sometimes they recognise themselves and they feel rightly hurt.
Each time I have failed to disguise them well enough, or have misjudged their reactions.
Yet far from learning, I go on doing it. I never think: honest mistakes are OK. Instead I remember all the people I have wronged and wear them as a guilty badge. It might not make me a better journalist, but it makes me more clear sighted about what I do for a living.
What Mr. Ermotti should have made clear was that sometimes his employees must take risks, and sometimes things will go wrong. When that happens, no one must ever make light of their cock-ups. Instead they should carry the memory of all their mistakes as part of their own internal score sheet of how they have fared as a banker.
From a trading or betting viewpoint, a loss doesn't necessarily mean a mistake was made of course, but anyone who has been seriously active in betting for any length of time will have made a mistake. The important thing is to have a short memory for them while learning from them and not repeating that error again. Unfortunately, there seems to be no end of ways in which mistakes can be made, but if we can eliminate the most common or likely ones, that's pretty good. My work requires me to drill down and determine the "root cause" of problems - it's a handy exercise in my betting life too.

James had this to say on the satirical opening to my recent post looking at P and L blogs:
Well, Green All Over is certainly the most ground breaking of websites.
I've never known anyone alter their P/L to make themselves look worse than they really are.
However, you yourself have mentioned Benford's Law so I can discount your first paragraph as jovial folly.
The actual perpetrator is probably none the wiser.
Finally, I must thank you for pointing out that CPFC does try to include the more wholesome aspects of continental ultra support even though they have yet to pass GCSE Geography.
If you want to come in with me on an investment plan I have to start Surrey's first ASSOCIATION foote-ball club since 1965 then I would be more than happy to have you. I was thinking of two locations...
1) Woking Whisperers (on presumption that the support will be typically English) or
2) Guildford Bombers, errr maybe not.
Green All Over, with its 1.2 million plus hits and more than eight year history, has certainly been ground-breaking, a term that always reminds me of the joke about the shovel being one of mankind's most important inventions.

If only those made up numbers were actually worse than the truth! I have indeed mentioned Benford several times, the most recent being a look back taken in January of this year. Overall the numbers were close to expectation, with the exception of 7 which was, and still is, letting the side down a little.

Surrey does have several Football Association Clubs - it's just that none of them are in the Football League. It's about time Woking woke up. They were the visiting team when the record attendance for a Conference game was set (excluding play-offs) at Oxford United (11,065 on Boxing Day 2006) - not a lot of people know that.

James mentions Guildford, but they do already have a club with a name worthy of the top levels of the game - Guildford City. Unfortunately, it appears the name is far grander than their current circumstances of the club merit:
The record attendance was set on 8 September 2012 when the visit of Kingstonian in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round drew a crowd of 295 spectators
295! I'm expecting more than that at my funeral!

"Bombers" is unlikely to become a nickname, either official or unofficial, any time soon, but a little Surrey trivia for you all is that a "carbon-copy" of the Guildford bombings actually took place in Caterham in August 1975, when the Caterham Arms was the target. I remember the incident well, as I would cycle close by the pub on my way to (and from) work in those days.

The nearby Barracks (hence the reason the pub was selected as a target) closed in 1995, but the Caterham Arms is still thriving after a spell when it was known as the "Village Inn". My brother-in-law still goes there occasionally, thriving after a spell when he was known as the "Village Idiot". I should apologise for that joke as he became a granddad yesterday, at the same moment I became a great-uncle.

Enough of this frivolity. James can be a good and a bad influence on me.

Robbo the trader was concerned:
Phew, James is alive and well, I posted a comment to his blog about the pnl's and it never appeared. To be honest I was getting a bit worried all that back patting had done him some harm.
I think James is just fine, possibly busy working on his next book, and enjoying the Test Match at Lords. Not being a football man, he's probably not too excited about the start of Euro 2016 tonight.

One article I read on the Crystal Palace FC stated that:
 "with four players called up to the tournament, there are only 32 clubs that have provided more players to Euro 2016 than Palace". 
I love the use of "only" in that sentence.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Cubs, Hotties And F-L Bias

Since MLB went to a 162 game regular season in 1962*, only two teams have won more than 70% of their games.  The New York Yankees in 1998 won 114 games (70.4%) and the Seattle Mariners won 116 (71.6%) in 2001.

Pre-season favourites for the 2016 World Series were the Chicago Cubs, and they remain so (4.8 on Betfair) with a rather impressive winning percentage to date of 72.2% (39-15).

However, it's worth mentioning that the last time a National League team had the best regular season record and went on to win the World Series was in 1986 (New York Mets). Since then, only five teams with the best regular season record (all American League) have gone on to win the World Series The Chicago Cubs of course, play in the National League.

While backing the Cubs for the World Series may not offer any value, backing the Cubs so far this season is a profitable activity, +12.96 points from 54 games Straight Up, and +17.70 points on the Run Line. 

As I have written on this blog before, backing MLB shorties has become a winning strategy in recent years, with big profits in 2012, 2014 and 2015, and it's so far so good this season as the table below shows: 
Away (road)  teams have an impressive 8-1 record straight up this season, and this is no surprise as since the 2012 season, their record is 58-10 (85.3%) and +36.45 points. 

As I wrote last season, the conclusion that the favourite–longshot bias is found in reverse in baseball doesn't seem to be the case any longer. Don't tell anyone.

* In 1961, American League clubs played 162 games, while the National League played just 154 games.   

Saturday 4 June 2016


Although this blog tries to stay away from being about profit and loss, it does occur to me that as a self-declared zen master of sports, trading football, horse racing, cricket, tennis, shinty and shove ha'penny, whilst Forex trading and juggling chainsaws all at the same time I might add, my numbers for June so far might be of interest.

On Tuesday 1st June, I made £3,698.87 backing Manchester United to win the Cup Final in 90 minutes

On Thursday 3rd June, I made £4,875.43 on the NBL finals - Golden State Lakers v Cleveland Browns

On Friday 4th June, I made £5,368.73 on the Royal Ascot Derby. A total profit of £18,730.12 so far as you can clearly see. I'll be selling my secrets soon but until then, keep checking back for more in-depth quality analysis from the Great Cassini.

Nice to get that out of the way, before looking at James' latest comment. About my last post, Mr Picky had this to say:
Call me Mr Picky but shouldn't that CPFC sign, which reads, "Heartbeat of South London since 1905" read "Heartbeat of the County of Surrey 1905-1965, whereupon it was absorbed into Greater London."?
And I thought I was pedantic! James is quite right - in 1965 the County Borough of Croydon was abolished and much to my mother's chagrin, was combined with the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District to form the London Borough of Croydon. She is still in denial over the decision, referring to her home as Purley, SURREY at every opportunity. It was initially proposed that Caterham be included in London, but that plan was dropped, although anyone who knows the area would probably struggle to justify why Purley and Coulsdon are London towns, but Caterham and Warlingham aren't.    

I hope that the people responsible for that banner are reading this and feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves! For those who like trivia, Surrey hasn't had a Football League club since London expanded.

I'm reading one of those profit and loss blogs at the moment. You know the type, "Look at me. Ego the size of a planet. I'm going to master sports trading football, horse racing, cricket, tennis, shinty and shove ha'penny, whilst forex trading and juggling chainsaws all at the same time."

Fine. Good for you. But please try and be consistent in your "journal". If on the first day of the month you posted a loss then your monthly tally cannot and can never be positive.

Figures that don't add up are an obvious hint to readers that you are not telling the truth. Maybe you made a mistake but if you cannot add up then you're in the wrong game. Dropping a strategy from your portfolio when it begins to go south so that you can quietly remove its losses from your monthly figures just makes you look like a clown.

No wonder the majority of these bloggers don't post their real names.
I'd love to know which blog he's... hey, wait a minute!

Friday 3 June 2016

Play On Play-Offs

James, aka the Blogging Prodder, had a few thoughts on the end to the football season in England. He writes:
I'm not a fan of the game so I suppose I have no right to talk about it. However, I find it odd that a team that comes third in a division gets promotion and a slap on the back whereas the team coming 7th gets a trip to Wembley and a trophy. Of course, it's all about money and the FA must have an awfully large debt to pay after building their new stadium.
Winning the league, or clinching promotion via an automatic place, is often an anti-climax. The likely outcome may well have been known for weeks or months, and the excitement just isn't there. Compare Leicester City's title this season with that of Manchester City's title win of 2012. Not only were Leicester City not on the field when they won it, but they still had two matches to go. They had led the table from January 16th, so the drama would have been had they not won the title. Manchester City's title came in slightly different circumstances of course, and with the twist of depriving their city rivals of the title they thought was theirs (sorry Baz). There should be a formula for this, something along the lines of EXCITEMENT LEVEL = DESIRED OUTCOME / TIME ELAPSED SINCE DESIRED OUTCOME BECAME ODDS-ON.

James mentions 7th place and a trip to Wembley, so he is referring to AFC Wimbledon, a team I saw play my son's former team (Chipstead) when they started life in the Combined Counties League in 2002 (level 9 of the English Football league system. They have come a long way in 14 seasons. I should clarify that my son was 11 at the time, and wasn't yet in the first team. So yes, again the "playoffs are not fair" shouts are heard, with AFC Wimbledon finishing 10 points behind 4th placed Accrington Stanley, but the playoffs aren't about being fair. They are about keeping the season interesting for longer, and about offering a dramatic finish with a final at Wembley. I'm sure the additional revenue for Wembley helps, but playoff finals have been one-off matches since 1990 and as a Crystal Palace fan, I love the playoffs. For supporters, there's no better way to gain promotion, especially into the Premier League. One game, winner takes (almost) all. 

Incidentally, the Serie B play-off rules have some flexibility, so that among other rules, "if the third-place team finishes 10 or more points above the fourth place team, no playoffs will be held". 

James continues:     
As Leicester is the nearest EPL team to where I live I did pay some attention to them this season. I don't think their winning the EPL was a "freak". Personally, I think it will be more common with all the TV money flowing in. Regardless of what the "hardcore fan" thinks it is what the owners think that matters and for them coming fourth in the EPL is more important than winning a Victorian throwback FA Cup or even coming first in the EPL. Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Leicester will be entering revised incomes streams into their data models.
I stand by my use of the word "freak" which is defined as "a very unusual and unexpected event or situation." I would say that a 5,000-1 win fits that definition, and although the Premier League's wealth distribution is more equitable (with its equal rights TV share) than it could be, the big boys still have an advantage. 

Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United all made more money from the Premier League last season than champions Leicester City who made £90 million. But they made £72 million last season, so winning the league didn't exactly make a huge difference. What's £18 million between friends these days? While I like the idea that a club can only have 11 players on the field at one time, I really don't see the miracle of Leicester City's win being repeated any time soon. The dominance of the 'super-clubs' shows no sign of ending. I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this though because football was a lot more interesting when I first discovered it in the 1960s. 

James continues: 
Also, Leicester put paid to the nonsense about "soulless bowls". I've never heard such noise from an EPL team. More than in your trad four sheds. Mind you on the day Leicester received its EPL trophy the crowd was not as raucous as the rest of the season. I suppose it was the English reserve kicking in again.

The Emirates Stadium is referred to as a library but you could quite happily read a book in peace at just about any EPL stadium this season. Talking of being otherwise engaged I found it rather amusing when, at the beginning of the Champion's League final, the cameras were trained on the assembled UEFA and FIFA élite in their corporate box. To a man their heads were bowed as they examined the screens of their mobile phones and not paying the slightest attention to a game they supposedly govern. Still, I was glad that Blatter and Platini were not there. Public executions for halftime entertainment? It would make up for a bore-draw.
Apparently James has yet to visit Selhurst Park, where the Holmesdale Fanatics lead the constant singing, wave the fags, and bang the drum whether Palace are winning, drawing or (rather too often) losing and book reading there is most certainly not an option. As fellow Palace fan Jim Daly (not James) wrote recently  
A lot of that has been thanks to the Holmesdale Fanatics, a small group of fans who took it upon themselves to recreate the "ultra" atmosphere often seen on the continent.
And it has worked. Their chants, drumming, banners and enthusiasm has swept around the ground and encouraged those who might before have politely clapped along to get on their feet and sing -- at home and away.
A real club, with real supporters. Wouldn't have it any other way. As for the UEFA and FIFA élite, I guess big matches are just another day in the office for them. It all goes back to my Cup Final post and the downside of perennial success - it gets boring. The public loves the underdog - unless he's named Donald Trump.

What is most definitely not boring, are the NBA Finals, this year in a 2-2-1-1-1 best of seven format.
A nice start to the finals with the Warriors winning a low scoring game 104-89. Game 2 will be higher scoring. And closer.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Penalty Shot In The Foot

I didn’t realised at the time, but the Champions League Final penalty shoot-out was rather unusual in that the side winning the toss, Atletico, chose to kick second, seemingly handing the advantage to Real as teams kicking second have just a 40% probability of winning a shoot-out. A case of shooting themselves in the foot perhaps?

The referee chooses the end at which the penalties are to be taken, and typically “choose the less partisan goal for the shootout”. In this case, Mr. Manu Clattenburg chose the Real end – as I touched upon in my Cup Final review, going for your eleventh title isn’t quite as exciting as going for your first.

Had the FA Cup Final gone to penalties, there’s no doubt about the end at which they would have been taken!

It was also interesting to see the large number of empty seats at the Hull City end during the play-off game earlier that Saturday. Hull City have had a couple of recent visits to Wembley, Sheffield Wednesday haven't, and this was evident from the level of support (numbers and passion) seen. The fact that table topping Hull FC were hosting St Helens the same day in front of 11,247 supporters didn't help! 

Baz commented on the FA Cup Final:
Living about two miles from Old Trafford and a season ticket holder I was obviously pleased when we won the FA Cup but your post has almost got me wishing we hadn't and winning almost seemed a hollow victory it having been a disappointing season in which I attended every game and but enjoyed just a few, the cup win seemed to happen on Saturday and be forgotten on Sunday. It must be hard for fans who start the season knowing their team will probably win nothing, something United fans may have to get used to. I have followed Man Utd since the fifties and I am really pleased that the premier league is becoming more open.
I'm not sure I share the opinion that Manchester United supporters may have to get used to not winning anything, but it does emphasise my point that winning the FA Cup (or League Cup for that matter) means far more to supporters of the non-elites. Leicester City's freak Premier League win was most refreshing, and while we may not have to wait another 5,000 years for a similar shock, I'm not expecting another one any time soon, so any major trophy wins will be in the form of a Cup or possibly the Europa 'League'.

Finally, and admittedly off topic, but I found this saved on my computer while going through a spring clean. Unfortunately I can't remember the source, but it amused me:
If you want to be fit you have to keep doing exercise forever, it has emerged.
Healthy eating and sport have been condemned as a scam after it was revealed that they only lead to more healthy eating and more sport.
Carolyn Ryan of Cardiff said: “After two months of going to the gym I asked my personal trainer when I’d be fit enough to stop all this and eat the fuck out of some pies.
“The look on her face. She said that if I relaxed my diet regime even for a week then the fat would pile on again even faster than before, and if anything I should be stepping it up.
“I thought it’d be like A-levels where once you’ve passed you never think about history ever again, but it’s more like revising history five nights a week for the rest of your life.
“She says after a while I won’t even want a Toblerone any more. That made me cry.”
Personal trainer Donna Sheridan said: “Getting healthy isn’t a sprint, it’s an endless marathon through featureless terrain pretending that chips and sitting around watching telly don’t exist.
“However I do have the warm glow of knowing that I’m better than everyone else.
“Unless they’re right and I’m the moron. Which I occasionally think, but I get that out of my system with a nice eight-mile run.”