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by Ben, last updated 2007-12-20 14:59:53

 Charity, Empathy and Chas to Tea

 by Gerry McDonnell

I remain a slave to tradition. Every year, I make a complete fool of myself at the office Christmas party, and this year was no exception. After consuming a few too many ales, I made a misguided play for the cleaner under the mistletoe. He was absolutely livid.

My luck is unlikely to improve over the holidays. The wife has invited her mother and her sister to Christmas dinner. Ho Ho Ho.

I refuse to wallow in self pity though, as there are children in this world who live in near poverty. In a completely selfless gesture on my part, I've bought myself a new pair of trainers to reward their strong work ethic.

In an uncharacteristic piece of good fortune, I've been spared the expense of weighing in for gifts for my own kids. As Blackburn fought back to 2-2 against Arsenal in midweek, the little ones overheard me say that Santa was literally on fire. I'm investing the savings on a Blackburn win over Chelsea at 7/2.

The most annoying aspect of the 'festive' period is probably the repetitive advertisements. Ian Wright looked to have won the award for the most grating commercial, until Jamie Redknapp and Tim Lovejoy formed an unstoppable axis of evil.

I've disgracefully found myself singing along to that awful ad that accuses Reo-Coker of buying knock-off DVDs. Such a practise is reprehensible: you can download movies for free off the internet. 11/10 for a Villa win over Manchester City is another spectacular giveaway.

Michael Owen must be a happy man after Manchester City declared an interest in his services. The miniscule hitman has suffered more than his fair share of injuries throughout his career, and under Sam Allardyce, a strained neck is almost inevitable. I'm hardly sticking my neck out by suggesting a Newcastle win over Derby at 2/5.

Tottenham and Arsenal do not get along. The animosity was born in 1913 when Arsenal invaded their territory, and tensions rose further when the Gunners replaced them in the top flight after a ballot in 1919. The relationship between the two clubs completely deteriorated in 2007, when Alan Davies tried to eat Chas and Dave for resembling the homeless. I'm putting my house on a draw between the fierce rivals at 3/1.

When Gary Megson arrived at Bolton, he had a 1.7% approval rate, and there was a 2% margin for error. The people of Bolton are warming to the ginger Mourinho; he can turn the screw on Birmingham at even money.

Alan Curbishley is worried that Anton Ferdinand is in danger of embracing a pop-star culture. The West Ham boss has nothing to worry about; all pop-stars are good-lookers, with the exception of Lily Allen. I'll be happy to get on the 23/10 for a draw between Middlesbrough and West Ham.

I felt sorry for Steve Bennett as he had to face Roy Keane after ruling out a legitimate Sunderland winner last week. I'd sooner go into a tunnel with Henri Paul than the volatile Irishman. I'll be absolutely smashed when Reading oblige at even money against Sunderland.

Manchester United are way too short at 4/9 for the visit of Everton. The Moyes Boys are on a 12 match unbeaten run, and they've left Old Trafford with a point on two of their last three trips. The Toffeemen are available at 9/4 to avoid defeat, which has left me as excited as Wayne Rooney on 'Gran Slam Sunday'.

These cold mornings are absolutely killing me. The wife nicked my toast this morning, which was bordering on an absolute liberty. Ronaldo can empathise with my situation, as Marcus Bent has reportedly been playing with his porridge. I've got the oats to get my cash down on a Fulham win over Wigan at 23/20.

Christmas is especially hard on little orphan children. It's perfectly understandable that the more vulnerable will struggle to adapt to a strange new home at this time of year, and some will even consider running away. I heard reports just last weekend that a young Spanish lad went missing in Liverpool. Fernando will mark his return by sleighing Pompey at 4/7.

I'm all for enjoying the excesses of the festive period, but I also take the time to contemplate the real meaning of Christmas.

To those with faith, he was a saviour; but he suffered on the cross. I just hope he lets a few more in for Pompey this weekend. Liverpool, Aston Villa, Bolton, Reading and Newcastle form a nailed-on Christmas accer at a perfectly pious 15/1.


Weekend Betting:


Arsenal v Tottenham Saturday 22nd December 12:45 Live on Sky

Arsenal 8/15
Draw 3/1
Tottenham 13/2

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
A player to be sent off in the match 3/1

Aston Villa v Man City Saturday 22nd December 15:00

Aston Villa 11/10
Draw 23/10
Man City 16/5

Get on: Aston Villa

Match Special:
Aston Villa to win and keep a clean sheet 5/2

Bolton v Birmingham Saturday 22nd December 15:00

Bolton Evs
Draw 23/10
Birmingham 10/3

Get on: Bolton

Match Special:
Anelka to score two or more goals 13/2

Fulham v Wigan Saturday 22nd December 15:00

Fulham 23/20
Draw 12/5
Wigan 14/5

Get on: Fulham

Match Special:
Fulham to be winning at half-time 9/5

Liverpool v Portsmouth Saturday 22nd December 15:00

Liverpool 4/7
Draw 3/1
Portsmouth 13/2

Get on: Liverpool

Match Special:
Torres to score a hat-trick 25/1

Middlesbrough v West Ham Saturday 22nd December 15:00

Middlesbrough 13/10
Draw 23/10
West Ham 11/5

Get on: Draw

Match Special:
Ashton to score in a 1-1 draw 20/1

Reading v Sunderland Saturday 22nd December 15:00

Reading Evs
Draw 23/10
Sunderland 10/3

Get on: Reading

Match Special:
Reading to score three or more goals 7/2

Man Utd v Everton Sunday 23rd December 12:00 Live on Setanta

Man Utd 4/9
Draw 3/1
Everton 17/2

Get on: Everton

Match Special:
Andy Johnson to score the only goal of the game 120/1

Newcastle v Derby Sunday 23rd December 14:00 Live on Sky

Newcastle 2/5
Draw 4/1
Derby 10/1

Get on: Newcastle

Match Special:
Joey Barton to be booked 2/1

Blackburn v Chelsea Sunday 23rd December 16:10 Live on Sky

Blackburn 7/2
Draw 5/2
Chelsea 10/11

Get on: Blackburn

Match Special:
Santa Cruz to score in a 2-0 Blackburn win 45/1



 Premiership Betting - Matchday 18 Preview


This weekendís Premiership fixtures signal the start of the hectic Christmas period cramming five games into a three week period. With fifteen points up for grabs the table could change dramatically in that time, and of course in January the transfer window opens, giving clubs the opportunity to reinforce and replace. For Premiership bettors this period is also a critical time, with such an overwhelming number of potential bets it is easy to get carried away, so remember the golden rule, always get the best price available, usually found at PinnacleSports.com, offering bettors up to 60% better Premiership betting odds.


Ramos Preparing for First North London Derby

Juande Ramos will have experienced some tense and fiery games during his time as manager of Sevilla, but nothing will have prepared him for the tension of a North London Derby. Tuesday nightís Carling Cup win at Manchester City puts Spurs in the last four of that competition, and gives the Spanish coach a chance of silverware in his first season, but he may have to negotiate the Gunners en route. He will be well aware that Tottenham havenít beaten their dreaded rivals in 27 meetings, and you have to go even further back for an away win against Arsenal. The win at Eastlands was a further sign that Spurs are finding form; they have lost just once in eleven fixtures and could race up the table over the Christmas period.

The problem is that Arsenal are virtually unbeatable at home. Chelsea tried and failed last weekend, and in nine home games this season Arsene Wengerís side have dropped just two points. Cesc Fabregas returned for the win against the Blues, which is a huge boost for Wenger, as he is now the sideís most influential player, while William Gallas is justifying his position of team captain, scoring the crucial goal in the 1-0 win over the Blues. Arsenal were also involved in midweek Carling Cup action, winning away at Blackburn in extra time, but Wenger had the luxury of fielding a second string side, leaving his first team fresh, unlike his opponents. PinnacleSports.com make Arsenal favourites 1.980 (-1) for the lunchtime game, with Spurs 1.943 (+1).


Evertonís Progress to be Tested at Old Trafford

Of all the teams trying to displace one the Premiershipís big four sides from the Champions League places, Evertonís credentials seem to be the strongest. The Toffees are unbeaten in a dozen games, including a trip to Stamford Bridge and three tricky UEFA Cup ties. The return from injury of Tim Cahill has been critical to their form, as has been the gradual adjustment of record signing, Yakubu, to their style of play. David Moyes will be keen to get the best out of the Nigerian before he heads off for the African Cup of Nations in January. The true progress of Everton will be measured at Old Trafford on Sunday, arguably the toughest fixture in their calendar.

Everton won at the Theatre of Dreams in the first ever Premiership season, but have failed to repeat that since. They have drawn on two of the last three visits but come up against a Manchester United side on red hot form. The Red Devils have won eight successive home league games, and have conceded just twice at home this term. They will be buoyed by last weekendís crucial win at Anfield, that keeps them one point behind league leaders, Arsenal. Alex Ferguson will know that a continuation of their form over the Christmas period could take them to the top in the New Year. PinnacleSports.com make Manchester United 1.943 (-1 & -1.5) with Everton 1.980 (+1 & +1.5). Punters should note that Evertonís handicap would have been enough to cover on three of the last four visits.


Best Premiership Odds at PinnacleSports.com






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