history in the making?

Up until a couple of weeks ago this had been the quietest of starts to a SPOTY year. England’s run to the Euros final and Mark Cavendish’s renaissance in the Tour de France have changed that.

Harry Kane (7/2) and Raheem Sterling (5/1) have replaced long term favourite Dina Asher-Smith (6/1) at the head of the market. Cavendish is in the slip stream at 8/1.

Since the start of the century British sportsmen and women have conquered many events that had previously seemed out of reach for many years. There has been: a two-time Wimbledon champion, multiple Tour de France titles, England cricket and rugby world cup wins, multiple Ashes victories, as well as Olympic gold rushes.

One prize for many though is valued above them all – a major international football championship. England are now marginal favourites (4/5) to beat Italy on Sunday night to win the Euros.

It would be the sporting highlight of the year leading to a likely domination of the awards on SPOTY night. When England won the rugby and cricket world cups it led to clear cut wins in the main award for Jonny Wilkinson and Ben Stokes.

The tricky part is pinpointing who such an individual would be if England were to win. Kane and Sterling have stolen the headlines throughout the tournament and are the most likely to impress on the night.

Kane is on 4 goals, one behind Ronaldo and Schick, so could finish as top scorer. Due to the tie-break rules he would need a goal and two assists to beat Ronaldo to the golden boot. Sterling is on 3 goals.

Sterling is 7/4 favourite to be voted by a panel as best player of the tournament . Kane is 7/2. It is this difference, plus a sense that there is more of story with Sterling – with him growing up in the shadows of Wembley etc – that makes him the more appealing option at the odds.

A European Championship winner who was player of the tournament would be a big vote winner on SPOTY night. Sterling also won the league with Man City which is a small bonus for him too in any end of year write-up.

It’s hard to be too confident – all sorts of drama could yet unfold – but overall he’s probably the most sensible pick as it stands, with Kane also worth a saver in case he denies Sterling player of the tournament.

But there remains a fair chance that England could fall at the final hurdle. Could Kane or Sterling then still win SPOTY? It would seem much more difficult.

Cavendish would then become a very interesting contender if he can level or beat the Tour de France all time stage win record of 34 held by Belgium legend Eddy Merckx. He’s currently on 33 and should have three more sprinting opportunities during the last 10 days of the Tour (assuming he can get through the tough Pyrenees mountain stages in good form). This is a record that has stood since 1975 and has long been considered near unbeatable.

Stage 13 is currently in progress (Friday afternoon) where it’s looking like a sprint finish sometime between 4 and 5pm – so there could be a real chance to level the record today. If he was to do so, his current SPOTY price would disappear.

There is also the last stage on 18 July, finishing on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, that looks suitable for a win. Cavendish has already won there 4 times and has the services of his Quick Step team’s lead out train who would be looking to deliver him to the line in similar style to his 3rd win in this year’s edition:

The Manx missile is a previous SPOTY winner in 2011 when he won the green jersey in the Tour and the world championship. Cyclists have an exceptional SPOTY record in recent times taking the main award 4 times in the last 13 years.

He remains a very popular character, his late call up and comeback this year adding to the appeal after battling Epstein-Barr virus and depression. He had long been written off by most as never to add to his last Tour stage win in 2016.

The complicating factor to all of this is the Olympics coming up in Tokyo – the opening ceremony is on 23 July. A classic SPOTY stat is that in any Olympic year from 2000 the SPOTY winner has won at least one Olympic gold (Redgrave, Holmes, Hoy, Wiggins, Murray).

Other factors have to be taken into account though in the assessment, including the strength of the opposition. There is also some doubt as to whether these Games will capture the public imagination as much as normal with them being played out without fans.

Asher-Smith would be a worthy contender if she could win gold in one or both of the 100m or 200m. She received a boost with the withdrawal of Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100m but still has tough competition in the form of Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah. In the 200m American Gabby Thomas has been setting very quick times. DAS is 4/1 joint second favourite in it with Sky Bet.

Laura Kenny (20/1) is another obvious candidate. She has a chance of three golds in the velodrome. Such a haul would take her to 7 in her career and top all-time above Hoy on 6 and also her husband Jason (depending on if he can add to his 6 golds). This could be appealing to voters. The question would be who might win in a head-to-head with Cavendish.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (20/1) in the heptathlon is another to keep an eye on although is coming back from injury.

The Olympics, and potentially Paralympics that follow, can also throw up more left-field contenders. As ever they will be worth carefully monitoring.

Overall, at this stage though, I think it’s worth some small bets on the non-Olympians given the history that could be made over the coming days.

* 0.75 pt win Raheem Sterling 5/1 Bet 365, William Hill (6/1 Betfred)

* 0.75 pt win Harry Kane 7/2 William Hill (4/1 Sky Bet, 888 Sport)

* 1 pt win Mark Cavendish 8/1 Coral / Ladbrokes 7/1 William Hill, Bet 365

4 thoughts on “history in the making?”

  1. Great analysis as always and interesting to read, thanks!
    What do you make of Cav’s chance now that he didn’t win yesterday? I still make him a fairly strong favourite for the award and think the market has over reacted by laying him so heavily (matched at 10s and 15s on betfair). In my opinion, Dina won’t win a Gold Medal and even if she did I don’t think she beats Cav in the vote. Laura Kenny has a chance but I would still fancy Cav (although two cyclists would dilute the vote).
    Frustrating from a betting perspective to see Lewis pick up 25 points yesterday, he is always a danger so would rather not see him in the running!

    1. Good to hear from you Fred. Shame that Cav couldn’t win yesterday – he went pretty short in-running – I saw around 1.5 towards the end. It would have been very good for his chances. Like you though I still think he’s in the running. Once the dust settles it’s been an amazing comeback and levelling the record is an incredible achievement. Hamilton ‘only’ equalled Schumacher’s record last year and that didn’t hamper him too much. Cav has the form in the book – unlike others at the top of the market – and has proven popularity.

      I see Unibet have a range of Olympics markets up now as well as Skybet and William Hill. From the odds quoted it looks like the Kennys are second favourites in their team events (not spotted odds for the individual events yet). 3 golds would be quite compelling but may not be easy. I also remember in 2016 both Laura and Jason went quite short for SPOTY (6.0 and 7.0) but then I was a bit surprised with how much they drifted (ended up 8th and 10th).

      There’s a nagging doubt with these Games as to how they will come across but they are still likely to provide some good stories that people will latch on to. Upsets will happen so could be worth keeping an eye out for some big priced steamers, especially if Dina and Laura fall short.

  2. Agree with your thoughts, and you make a good point regarding Laura and Jason’s vote strength. Even if you combined their votes in 2016 they would not have made the Top 3, so it is certainly questionable whether either could win, especially with Cav most likely splitting the cycling voter base.

    Aside from the ones you have already mentioned in the Olympics, I am looking out for a few names:

    Adam Peaty is the most obvious, who I backed at 33/1 EW earlier in the year. Clearly a very obvious gold medal candidate but I think perhaps might struggle to secure enough votes to win the award, and is more likely to be placed.

    Charlottle Dujardin, who was 4th in SPOTY in 2014 with an impressive 75k votes. The equestrian / horse racing vote is strong with McCoy, Zara, Nick Skelton etc all polling well in previous years. Sadly no bookmakers have her available in the betting at this stage.

    Tom Daley, who if could secure gold would surely have a lot of public support, and will be interesting to watch.

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