Football: Bookies double profits from the England race: Greg Wood warns that betting prices can deceive in the Taylor succession

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GRAHAM TAYLOR has prompted many emotions in recent months: disgust, hatred, bewilderment, despair. His resignation has added one more to the list: greed.

But it is the bookmakers, not the punters, who stand accused. Their prices seem enticing, but these obscure an average profit margin of over 40 per cent, when 20 per cent is more than sufficient for most horse races. Do not be deceived by joke candidates such as Roy Race, Screaming Lord Sutch, or even Brian Clough. This is a serious money-making exercise.

The punters do have a chance, though. If the Derby favourite sneezes, the bookmakers know swiftly enough to offer him a tissue. Away from their home turf, however, it is a simple case of their opinion against yours, and the latest management betting lists contain some interesting disparities. Kevin Keegan, for instance, is 4-1 with Ladbrokes, but 10-1 with Coral. The latter firm also offers 10-1 about Glenn Hoddle, but at Ladbrokes the struggling Chelsea manager is out with the washing at 33s.

At least Hoddle has yet to declare himself a non-runner, unlike several contenders at shorter prices, Keegan included. The likelihood that a caretaker manager will be appointed (the odds are offered about the next permanent manager) is a further complication. Might he do well enough to get the job full time? Or stay long enough to allow Jack Charlton (an interesting 50-1 with Ladbrokes) to enter the reckoning? Another twist is the expectation (quoted at 4-9) that a two-man team will take over - only bets on the senior partner will be winners.

Though several four-figure wagers have already been placed, this is not a contest worth betting on seriously unless one of your close relatives is a member of the FA Council (some bookies refuse to offer odds for fear of smart money).

But if the urge to chance a sporting fiver proves irresistible, remember above all that this is not a horse race, with all its inherent uncertainties. Instead, the outcome will be decided by a clique of notoriously conservative men, so expect an obvious, and therefore well-fancied, winner. Gerry Francis, at 6-1, may be the man.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Table: Next England Manager - Latest Odds ----------------------------------------------------------------- Coral Hills L'broke Howard Wilkinson (fav) 7-2 3-1 11-4 Steve Coppell 6-1 6-1 10-1 Gerry Francis 4-1 5-1 6-1 Kevin Keegan 10-1 8-1 4-1 Ron Atkinson 6-1 10-1 6-1 Terry Venables 12-1 14-1 10-1 Don Howe 16-1 10-1 25-1 John Lyall 33-1 14-1 20-1 Mike Walker 8-1 10-1 10-1 George Graham 14-1 14-1 16-1 Glenn Hoddle 10-1 14-1 33-1 Trevor Francis 12-1 12-1 25-1 Joe Royle 20-1 16-1 25-1 Ray Wilkins 10-1 16-1 20-1 Bryan Robson 10-1 25-1 33-1 Alex Ferguson 50-1 25-1 50-1 Gary Lineker 50-1 33-1 100-1 Dave Bassett 33-1 33-1 100-1 Howard Kendall 50-1 33-1 25-1 Graeme Souness 50-1 66-1 100-1 Roy Hodgson 33-1 50-1 20-1 Jack Charlton 33-1 33-1 50-1 Bobby Robson 33-1 50-1 16-1 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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