Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

Villa and Lions can make it an FA Cup of cheer
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The mass culling of football managers is an unwelcome prelude to the usual jollity of the occasion known as the "third round proper", when the remaining clubs in the FA Cup competition find a welcome escape from their League duties, especially those in trouble.

Back in 1990 Alex Ferguson, after four trophy-free years, saved himself with a Cup win. But the sour taste is intensified by Ian Holloway's decision to send a "shadow" squad down to Southampton, resting his first team for next Wednesday's relegation contest with Liverpool.

The turmoil complicates the betting – punters must ask if a team is more interested in safety than Cup glory. And which managers might conjure up a result that saves them from the scaffold.

After much sifting, the following bets appeal – £10 (at 6-5 with bet365) on Aston Villa to win at Sheffield United; £10 win Millwall (at 6-4 Ladbrokes) against Birmingham City; and £10 each-way on Bolton Wanderers for the Cup, at 40-1 with Totesport.

In the NFL, the annual sacking of failed coaches is well under way as the play-offs begin with "wild-card weekend". Reigning champions New Orleans (1-5 at 32Red) should whip Seattle; the Jets (6-5 at Sky Bet) might ambush the Colts; the Ravens (4-7 at Betfred) should be too strong for Kansas City; while the Packers (5-4 at Coral) will need their best to win at Philadelphia – £10 to win on each selection. Stakes come courtesy of our boys Down Under, who returned a £195 profit with their 3-1 Ashes triumph.