Columnists 10.5.2017 02:43 pm

Football wager that goes down to the wire

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

The weekend had started beautifully for the Ferocious Fireman, so called for his waspish sense of humour rather than any inherent belligerence he displays towards the members of the usual gathering.

A lifelong West Ham supporter – he often wears a T-shirt with the slogan “On the sixth day the Lord created West Ham” – his mood had been greatly lifted by the Hammers dealing a blow to the title Tottenham Hotspur aspire to snatching from Chelsea with a 1-0 home victory at the London Stadium over Spurs on Friday evening.

“That,” said the Fireman, an almost beatific smile wreathing his face in the wake of Manuel Lanzini’s fierce finish earning victory for the Claret and Blues over their London rivals, “was exactly what the doctor ordered.”

The source of his jubilation was a wager he had been dragooned into by the Broken-nosed Bridge Builder, which brought down to basics, hinged on last season’s surprise champions Leicester City finishing higher on the Premier League table than the Hammers. Tottenham must hope the Blues slip up in a favourable-looking run-in, which includes home games against three sides in the bottom seven.

But the Fireman had celebrated somewhat prematurely as the following afternoon as the Foxes registered a 3-0 win over struggling Watford the goals coming from Wilfred Ndidi, Riyad Mahrez and an injury time effort from Marc Albrighton when he fired home Jamie Vardy’s pass. “Can you believe it,” said the Fireman. “We get ourselves a little breathing space, and Leicester climb a point above the Hammers – and with a game in hand.

I can’t wait to see how the Bridge Builder will gloat about that. “The worst thing about it all is that he doesn’t support the Foxes. He’s a Chelsea fan… and I have said it before … anyone but Chelsea or Arsenal.” Though it might sound much like London bigotry at its worst, the Fireman had never lost confidence in his side. “You have to remember that Leicester still have three games to play. The Foxes have Manchester City away, then Spurs and finally Bournemouth, both at home.

“West Ham have a tough one with Liverpool at home to start. But if we can beat Spurs, we can beat anyone and they don’t exactly have an away record this season to inspire great confidence. Then in our final match of the season, we travel to Burnley.”

Neither side in the equation have what can be described as the inside track on the run-in, something that has become apparent to both participants. But the actual handshake which had sealed the deal at the start of the English football season was not the prime factor which had kept the members of the gathering intrigued. It had been cut and thrust throughout the campaign and the eventual outcome had faded as match after match went on.

Rather, they had enjoyed the banter enormously between the pair. This went along the lines of: “What about that R2 000 bet?” from whoever it was who had established an edge. Or “How’s that R20 bet?” as the lead switched sides.

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