‘Well done’ was the overriding sentiment as Lewis Cook’s England debut against Italy gave his doting grandfather a £17,000 windfall as a four-year-old £500 bet paid out in style.
Trevor Burlingham staked the sizeable wager on his grandson to win a senior England cap before his 26th birthday when then 18-year-old Cook was enjoying his debut season at Leeds United, under Neil Redfearn in 2014.
Mr Burlingham placed the cash bet in his local William Hill in Tadcaster, north Yorkshire and was offered odds of 33/1. And when the now Bournemouth midfielder was introduced after 71 minutes by Gareth Southgate in England’s 1-1 friendly draw with Italy at Wembley, in midweek, he had double cause for celebration.
The media-savvy bookmaker confirm that this is their biggest payout on a bet of this kind since a £125,000 win for Peter Edwards landed after his grandson Harry Wilson made his Wales debut in 2013. Edwards placed the bet when Wilson was just 18-months-old at odds of 2,500/1.
And of course, Chris Kirkland famously won his father £10,000 by winning full international honours against Greece in 2006, after Eddie Kirland had wagered £100 that his then 12-year-old son would be capped for England.
At club level, the dad of midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe, currently at Millwall, placed a £100 bet at 100/1 that his nine-year-old son, would make a first team appearance for Manchester United. After featuring with various junior England international sides, Tunnicliffe made his senior Manchester United debut on 26 September 2012, when he came on as a substitute in the 2–1 League Cup win over Newcastle United. Netting his father a cool £10,000.
William Hill have ensured that each of these, all too rare examples, has gained maximum and indeed repeated exposure – no doubt encouraging a slew of similar bets from bullish relatives of young players.
But the reality is this, bookmakers love these bets and will take them all day long because short, medium and long-term the odds are in their favour.
In the case of Lewis Cook, that price of 33/1 equates to a 2.9% chance Cook would play for England. The real chances of that occurring, albeit it did, are significantly worse, given the boy was 17 at the time and was in his debut season at Leeds in the Championship.
Well this is how the numbers stack up as per Michael Calvin’s superb book on youth development ‘No Hunger in Paradise’ The Players. The Journey. The Dream for a would-be Premier League player and they must be even worse for a full cap. 1000/1 wouldn’t represent value.
“Less than one half of one per cent of boys who enter the [English] academy structure at the age of nine will make a first-team appearance. More than three quarters are jettisoned between the ages of 13 and 16.
The odds are no less intimidating the further a boy progresses. Almost 98 per cent of boys given a scholarship at 16 are no longer in the top five tiers of the domestic game at the age of 18. A recent study revealed that only 8 out of 400 players given a professional Premier League contract at 18 remained at the highest level by the time of their twenty-second-birthday. Since only 180 of the 1.5m boys who play organised youth football at any one time become Premier League pros, the success rate is 0.012 per cent.”
Even if 5 out of the 400 18-year-old players that get a Premier League pro deal annually go on to play for England that equates to a percentage chance of 1.25% or odds of around 80/1. And of course, Cook was both a year younger and playing at a lower level with Leeds. I reckon even 200/1 wouldn’t represent a value price, in context.
Lewis Cook’s Grandad should enjoy his winnings but as a reader you should ask yourself why are William Hill marketing the hell out of this pay-out? As an exercise in PR it could be considered cheap at many times the payout given the breadth and depth of coverage.
If there’s a moral of this story it is this: sometimes bad bets win. But bad bets don’t win long term.
The only way to consistently make money gambling is to only back outcomes where your favoured result has been under-estimated by the implied probability of the prices. Do that successfully, again and again, over a long sequence of bets and you’ll demonstrate an edge as a winning punter.
Any other strategy will be at best a short-term flash in the pan. And at worst, a fast-track to the poor house.