Cheeky Punt: Thanking Totti, Martial, Hawkins

Date published: Wednesday 27th April 2016 9:17

Francesco Totti

‘Old wood best to burn, Old wine to drink, Old friends to trust, and Old authors to read.’

So said Francis Bacon, the Renaissance philosopher, author and scientist. Well after last Wednesday night Mr Bacon can also add ‘old Italian strikers who continue to defy the ageing process’ to that list.

On Wednesday I had a football treble consisting of West Ham, Manchester United and Roma paying better than 4/1.

United breezed past Crystal Palace 2-0 while the Hammers strolled to a 3-1 win over an underwhelming Watford. Alas, Roma were 2-1 down at home against Torino with less than five minutes to go and I was wondering out loud what the Italian phrase was for ‘Roman sh*t houses’. Then it happened. Baldy coach Luciano Spalletti sent on Francesco Totti. And thereafter things went a bit mental.

The 39-year-old stabbed home an equaliser almost immediately, but wasn’t finished there. In the last minute he smashed home from the spot to secure a breathless 3-2 win.

The ultimate one-club man, Totti has been at Roma since 1989. I too was a champion in 1989, going on what is known in Teesbrooke Avenue folklore as ‘The run’ as I beat all-comers at Kerby. Indeed I was top dog in my street until 1992, but the onset of puberty and discovery of girls and MD 20/20 fortified wine meant I was never destined to win Sports Personality of the Year. And to this day that still rankles.

*****

Punters are always looking for signs and I knew the weekend was going to be a good one after hearing Prefab Sprout classic ‘The King of Rock n Roll’ on the radio early doors on
Saturday. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and life was sweet.  Hot dog, jumping frog indeed.

I decided against hitting the demon drink and instead spent the day doing household chores while gambling steadily in a pair of 20-year-old Bermuda shorts (which remain one of my most controversial fashion purchases of the 1990s). It was one of those rare weekends where everything I touched turned to gold (apart from the grass – I still can’t get the hang of that old f*cking Flymo).

On Saturday I was all over Sprinter Sacre and Manchester United to beat Everton in their FA Cup semi-final. Both did the business in contrasting fashion with the Red Devils needing an injury-time winner to get my bet up. The highlight on Sunday was piling into Eliud Kipchoge to win the London Marathon. £200 at 6/4 was the wager and I watched in awe as Kipchoge blitzed the field while sporting a rather snazzy fluorescent headband.

But the most special touch of the whole weekend was backing The Young Master at 8/1 at Sandown on Saturday.

Truth be told I didn’t even research the bet, only backing the nag as that was my nickname at school on account of my sexual techniques and penchant for engaging in consensually aggressive, uninhibited intercourse. Only joking. I was a virgin till I was 23.

*****

They say the best things come to those who wait. And poor Barry Hawkins had to wait 14 long years to record a victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan. But victory finally arrived on the grandest stage of all, the Crucible in Sheffield on Monday night, where Hawkins produced the shock of the tournament so far to dismiss ‘The Rocket’.

It was compelling stuff, made all the more watchable by the fact I had 40 sovs on Hawkins to win a day previously at 9/4 in-running. He was tenacity personified as he went 12-9 up with a patient display of grinding.

The best grinder of them all for me was Peter Ebdon. I truly miss Ebbo and his idiosyncratic ways. Nipping imaginary dust off the table at any given opportunity. Or eyeing up a straightforward blue for one minutes 34 seconds. Before thinking ‘f*ck that’ and electing to play safe.

At 12-9 Hawkins was on the brink. But Ronnie then clicked into gear and began playing snooker from the Gods. It was 12-12 before you could say ‘Whispering Ted Lowe’ and at that point I thought I had done my dough.

Incredibly though Hawkins held his nerve in the decider, slamming home a break of 56 that eventually got him over the line.

I’m an O’Sullivan fan but was buzzing for little Barry. 14 years a slave and then he finally gets one over on ‘The Rocket’. Hawkins skipped off the table after saluting the crowd with the grin of a man who had just discovered the TV in his hotel room had access to The Adult Channel.

Cheeky’s Punt of the Week: Hull City (-1) to beat Bolton at 7/5 (Paddy Power)

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