SPORTS BETTING: Look to managers for happy surprises

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With the new football season less than a fortnight away, most fans are content to accentuate the positive and ponder not whether their team will win a trophy in the next nine months, but how many. But there will be other, more disappointing outcomes for some before May 1998, which should be of interest if only because they have been a money-spinner in recent seasons.

Like the Charity Shield, the arrival of Hill's betting on which Premiership managers will be out of a job by the end of the season is a sure sign that the close season is almost over. The precise phrase they use, you will note, is "no longer the manager", not "sacked".

The days are long since gone when several names were quoted at 25-1 or 33-1, thanks to the extraordinary season when George Graham's messy parting from Arsenal (33-1) was just one of a series of changes which left punters who had staked a level pounds 10 on every manager looking at a huge profit. Though only one manager was a casualty two seasons ago (Roy McFarland, who hardly started as an outsider), last year there was another good return for a bet on every runner, mainly because of Kevin Keegan's departure from St James' Park.

The two form horses must surely be Howard Kendall (3-1) and George Graham (7-1), both of whom have made rapid and unexpected departures in recent years.

There is an interesting disparity between this list and Hill's offering on the relegation battle (or rather, to cover all eventualities, which teams will finish in the bottom three). The two lists are not entirely related, of course, but with Gerry Francis joint-favourite to leave his post, it seems strange that Tottenham are 20-1 to slip through the trap- door.

Unlikely, perhaps, but the injury to Alan Shearer could yet stall Les Ferdinand's move to White Hart Lane, and Spurs have turned into a desperately ordinary outfit; it is not just Arsenal fans who will fancy a little of that 20-1.

MANAGERS TO LEAVE THEIR JOB DURING THE SEASON: 5-4 Gerry Francis, Gordon Strachan, Steve Coppell, 7-4 Danny Wilson, 2-1 Harry Redknapp, 9-4 David Jones, Jim Smith, 5-2 David Pleat, 3-1 Howard Kendall, Martin O'Neill, 7-2 Colin Todd, 9-2 Joe Kinnear, Roy Evans, 5-1 Roy Hodgson, 7-1 Brian Little, George Graham, 8-1 Ruud Gullit, 10-1 Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish, 16-1 Arsene Wenger.

TO FINISH IN BOTTOM THREE: 4-11 Barnsley, 5-4 Southampton, 11-8 Leicester, 7-4 Coventry, 15-8 Crystal Pal, Derby, 5-2 West Ham, 4-1 Bolton, 6-1 Sheff Wed, Wimbledon, 10-1 Blackburn, Everton, 12-1 Leeds, 20-1 Tottenham, 33- 1 Aston Villa, 40-1 Chelsea, 125-1 Arsenal, 150-1 Liverpool, Newcastle, 250-1 Man Utd.