THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

15 April ~ I'm a Spurs fan. This is the perfect opportunity for us to reach another FA Cup final. I settle down in front of the TV. I've bought myself a special bottle of Belgian beer for half-time. After an hour I have a bad feeling. Spurs are labouring, moving the ball too slowly. How we miss Aaron Lennon. Extra time comes and goes and I feel flat and disappointed like all Spurs fans. However, I am £40 richer. It's time to confess. For the last 15 years I've been consistently betting against my team. It makes perfect sense to me. If you're going to be let down by your team at least you should benefit financially. And yet, well, let's just say my habit provokes strong emotions among my footballing friends.

How did it come to this? I was a Spurs member during the 1980s. Ricky Villa, the UEFA Cup win in 1984, Hoddle, Waddle, the Clive Allen season; when they got it right it was fantastic. I had a real passion for the team. The degree to which I enjoyed my weekends depended on the Spurs result. Glenn Hoddle was my hero. I made sure I got to the ground early enough to watch him warm up. That alone was worth the admission money. I once wrote to the then England manager Bobby Robson explaining that he should be picking Hoddle for a number of reasons. To my amazement I received a detailed reply from the great man pointing out that he wanted to try some younger players and thanking me for my interest.

In April 1985, Spurs played Arsenal at White Hart Lane. I travelled to the game with a good friend of mine (an Arsenal fan). I was in the North Stand and he went in with the Arsenal fans. Arsenal scored first. Spurs then pushed forward without really coming close (although the ref turned down a blatant penalty). Right at the end Arsenal broke and Charlie Nicholas scored their second. He celebrated by doing that jig where you raise your knees as high as you can. I was filled with such rage that had my friend appeared at that moment I would have punched him in the face. I'm not remotely violent but I was ready to take anybody on that night.

So where did that passion go? Gradually it was diluted by girlfriends, marriage, children, the rubbish Spurs side of the early 1990s, more live games on TV, more expensive match tickets, overpaid players who dive too much, Andy Gray. The plain truth is that as I got older Spurs meant less to me.

I've always loved gambling but there has to be a bit of skill in it. I went to a casino once and was bored stiff – it was all total luck. Sports gambling is all about spotting decent odds and beating the bookmaker on something you know inside out. I picked Zach Johnson to win the Masters at 150/1 (only £1 each way but still pretty impressive). But when it comes to football my best results have been betting against Spurs. This season the home defeats against Stoke and Wolves were wallet stretchers for me. You won't be surprised to hear that I won loads when Juande Ramos was in charge.

"Call yourself a fan?" is the most common accusation levelled against me. What can I say? Spurs are still my team, always will be. I just like a bit of insurance for when they inevitably trip up in the great Spurs tradition. Do I feel like a traitor? Sometimes. Perhaps it's in my character to soften life's disappointments by not fully committing. Or am I just being practical – I know my team's eccentricities, I've been following them for forty years. My wife once asked a question that bothers me to this day. "At which point does the money become more important than the result?" I'm still working on that one. Keith Robertson

Comments (16)
Comment by bearlion 2010-04-15 10:26:44

I have to ask Keith - did you take a position on last night's game????

Comment by Kid A 2010-04-15 10:32:00

I put some money on Barcelona v Arsenal in exactly the same thought process. I would have been happy to have lost the cash but it didn't seem likely. Similarly laying England at the World Cup is a no-brainer, surely?

Comment by mattlufc 2010-04-15 10:35:29

too right, there is nothing disloyal about it. If Spurs win you dont care about the money! you are effectively buying your happiness! If they dont its no comfort at all but you have more money! I will have £1 on Gillingham to beat Leeds and a 50p on Millwall Swindon and Charlton to win this weekend! Beer money to drown my sorrows if it happens, a small price to pay for 3 more points nearer to the championship if not!

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2010-04-15 10:54:21

I have my money on Argentina at 10-1 for the World Cup, pretty good odds for a half decent side with the best player in the world! So, even when they have a controversial knock out game against England settled by a dodgy referee, penalty shoot out or inevitable John Terry sending off (check out the odds for that when the time comes!) I will at least have some crumb of hope for the tournament.

Comment by wingco 2010-04-15 11:02:08

Peter Cook, also a Spurs fan, famously did this.

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2010-04-15 11:03:29

I've always had the exact same view but never actually tried (though I do generally bet once every 5 years).

Thanks to this article I have put a fiver on Millwall to beat my lot (Huddersfield) on Friday as I have a horrible feeling we'll get caned and probably end up missing out on the Play-Offs altogether...

Comment by LanceB 2010-04-15 12:02:03

I nearly always back my team Millwall and have made hay over last few months (and hats off to Steve Morison who is the bet-ever goal minutes buy). But I took a similar doublethink approach at the FA Cup final v Man Utd - our form leading up to the match was so appalling I feared a 0-5 (or even worse) and so I took the unusual step of backing Man Utd on assorted spread bets, meaning that the heavier the beating, the higher my takings.

In the end we lost 0-3 and I must admit, it did act like a kind of anesthetic, an effective way to numb the pain that I knew was coming!

Comment by Cavalry Trouser Tips 2010-04-15 14:14:18

t.j.vickerman: after Tuesday night, how can you not think we're now going all the way to Wembley and beyond?

Comment by Tomazao 2010-04-15 15:00:49

Cavalry Trouser Tips and t.j.vickerman

I'm also a hudds fan. and like t.j have considered but never done this before. but can't see us beating or drawing with Millwall after we nearly messed it right up on Tuesday.

If we win or draw i'll be as confident as before tuesday (very) but lose like i expect and think we might not make the playoffs.

Feels strange this but;
€5 on the Wall, Come on you terriers!!

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2010-04-15 15:01:21

@Cavalry Trouser Tips - I don't see the coming back from 2-3 down with 2 goals at the death to take the 3 points. I see the squandering of a 2-0 lead against 10 men against a team entrenched in the bottom half of the table. Glass half empty and all that!

Comment by Kiwi40 2010-04-15 15:59:42

Bearlion,

Yes - I did put twenty pounds (out of the forty pounds I won on Sunday) on Arsenal at 5/4 which felt like an easy stroll to the cashpoint. By the end of the game I could feel some of the old passion returning - I was pacing around and couldn't wait for the ref to blow.

I'll still be betting on Chelsea this Saturday.

Keith Robertson

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2010-04-16 21:39:55

Well, just lost a fiver but it's probably the best fiver I've ever spent!

Comment by Roches P.A. 2010-04-17 00:01:48

In the run-in to the 2005/06 season, along similar lines to the author above, I was enticed to back Arsenal to pip my beloved Spurs to fourth place. Despite being in fourth spot, three quarters of the way through the season, I was still not impressed with the Spurs side and viewed many of their victories (particularly at home) as having been fortunate. And this was Spurs. I didn't care what the table looked like, I still couldn't see it lasting. So between March and May, I repeatedly backed Arsenal to finish fourth at odds varying from 7/4 to 3/1. By the final game of the season, it was quite an amount at stake. Spurs fell short in the end, but as a consequence I won enough to be fed and watered for a fortnight in Germany at the World Cup the following month.

One thing I must add is that I felt compromised by it all. I can still recall the penultimate game at home to Bolton and thinking that it wouldn't be so bad for Spurs to miss out on qualification for the CL (or more likely elimination at the CL preliminary stage). I didn't feel comfortable about it so I've never done it since.

Comment by Kiwi40 2010-04-17 20:34:15

Spurs have just beaten Chelsea so my £40 profit from the Portsmouth game has gone in just two games - it won't stop me betting against them, I still feel my theory is sound.

Beating Arsenal and Chelsea in the same week (having lost a Wembley semi-final after extra time) says a lot for the character of the team - especially when Arsenal and Chelsea were so desperate for the points and when you consider what a hopeless record Spurs have against both clubs. It's not often Spurs fans can feel smug but I'm feeling that way tonight.

tj vickerman - congratulations for last night's win.

Keith

Comment by dawg_pound_mcr 2010-04-20 08:12:45

I decided to try it and won a few quid as my team (Stockport) continued their limp descent into League Two. Had I started this at the beginning of the season I'd be living in the Bahamas by now !!

Comment by jackofalltrades 2010-04-20 09:03:32

Lovely one-liner buried in the story about Bobby Robson taking the time to reply to a young England fan's letter - these little illustrations of his generosity of spirit continue to surface long after his death. A true gentleman - RIP Sir Bobby.

Related articles

The Team That Dared To Do: Tottenham 1994-95
by Gerry Francis and Chris SleggPitch Publishing, £16.99Reviewed by Alan FisherFrom WSC 377, July/August 2018Buy the book On a Tuesday...
How Everton and Tottenham's pioneering tour gave Walter Tull his chance
Embed from Getty Images // Visits to exotic climes are nothing new for English clubs. In WSC 271, September 2009, Simon Hart charted the...
White Hart Lane: The Spurs glory years 1899-2017 by Martin Lipton
W&N, £20Reviewed by Annelise JespersenFrom WSC 373, March 2018Buy the book “The catering arrangements here are the finest on any...