GAMBLING is a mug’s game.
The only winners are the bookmakers. That’s a fact.
But if I was advising you where to place your bets for this week’s North One East championship “decider” between West Hartlepool and Percy Park I could sum it up in two words: Go West.
Not that I’ll be having a flutter. Not likely. Not after the last time.
The last painful occasion I bet on West, it cost me the small matter of 100 quid.
Well, that’s not strictly true, it cost my daughter a ton.
When West were losing every week – and I mean every week – our local bookie, John Joyce, offered 7-1 for a West victory. Any win.
Given it was only the start of January, these odds were very generous. Surely with a dozen games left they would win at least one and I would be counting crisp tenner after crisp tenner at John Joyce’s Oxy Road shop following a £700 windfall.
Alas, “borrowing” the money out of my little girl’s piggy bank ended in failure.
Only once did West look like delivering me the lolly. They led Camberley 17-14 at Brinkburn and the BBC Radio Tees commentary team of Bob Deans and Jack Goodfellow had shopped me to the nation (OK, the hundreds of listeners) that I was putting my strict impartiality to one side and willing a home win.
Predictably there was to be a kick to a private area of mine when Camberley broke from halfway in stoppage time to snatch a 21-17 victory.
Only the day I said “I will” when I was at the altar at St Oswald’s comes close to matching the abject misery I felt. Just kidding Mrs K.
But why would Kelly advocate splashing out on West against Percy Park? Simply because when it comes to the big promotion games, West have the knack of pulling off the victory. Time and again.
The last occasion West won North One East, in 2008, they visited Hollow Drift to face rivals Durham City, the only side capable of denying them the title and automatic promotion slot.
West ran in two tries in the same clubhouse corner in the opening minutes to set up a 10-6 win.
Going back a decade to the club’s previous promotion, they faced a four-pointer against London Scottish in the penultimate match at Brierton Lane.
The outcome of the match would effectively decide who would finish runners up to Bedford.
A classic it was not, but a try by Ivan Morgan following a pack drive over from a line-out brought them victory and a place in the top flight in front of thousands of fans.
Talking of thousands of fans, Brierton Lane was also packed to the rafters for a Division Two showdown between West and Newcastle Gosforth in March 1992.
With London Scottish leading the league, West and Gosforth were battling it out to be runners-up.
West wearing a red jersey with what appeared to be a firework explosion on the front, were hanging on at 13-7 up when Newcastle “scored” in front of the posts at the clubhouse end near the death.
But the try which looked like changing the game and the outcome of the promotion race ended up being disallowed after the touch judge had spotted foul play by Gosforth prop John Curry in the build-up to the touchdown.
West, inspired on the day by stand-off and talisman John Stabler, won the day and the club were en-route to the top flight for the first time in their history.
A crowd of around 3,000 were at Brierton Lane that day.
Saturday’s attendance at Brinkburn won’t match that, but how nice it would be to see the fans turn out in force to support Jonny Boatman and his team.
Of course, the three games mentioned above were ones of many in those particular promotion seasons.
But they highlight the fact that West have the ability to win the “big ones”.
Saturday is one such day.
Granted there are still 10 games to go and much can happen.
But you can bet that once West, who have a game in hand on Percy Park (who lead the table by two points), get their noses in front that they won’t be caught.
Don’t miss it.