Bookies puzzle over the succession race

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The Independent Online

The puzzlement of the average England midfielder when asked to explain the Christmas tree formation is as nothing to the confusion which gripped bookmakers when they framed odds on Terry Venables' successor on Wednesday evening. The major firms' prices inevitably gravitated towards each other yesterday, but the clear message is that no one, not even the bookies, has the slightest idea who will lead England into the World Cup qualifying campaign.

An example of the uncertainty is Coral's offer of 6-1 about Roy Hodgson, while Hills will lay 20-1 about the Internazionale manager. Other startling early variations between best and worst prices included Kevin Keegan (from 4-5 up to 3-1), Bryan Robson (6-4 up to 6-1) and Gerry Francis (7-4 up to 10-1).

The market is now settling down, with Francis, Keegan and Robson the clear market leaders, despite what bookies descibe as the latter two's "diplomatic statements" yesterday, but backers should not necessarily ignore the outsiders, such as Joe Royle and Ray Wilkins, both available at 20-1 with William Hill.

NEXT ENGLAND MANAGER (Odds supplied by William Hill): 6-4 Gerry Francis; 2-1 Kevin Keegan, Bryan Robson; 12-1 Howard Wilkinson; 20-1 Jack Charlton, Roy Hodgson, Glenn Hoddle, Joe Royle, Ray Wilkins; 25-1 Ron Atkinson, Steve Coppell, Roy Evans; 33-1 Frank Clark, Johann Cruyff, Kenny Dalglish, Brian Little; 50-1 Trevor Francis, Bobby Robson; 100-1 George Graham.