Reading are the in form team in the Championship right now, riding high with 7 wins from 7 at a time where our two biggest rivals for automatic promotion both slipped up at home. As the gap has got shorter and shorter so have our odds with the bookies. In this column at the start of December we were 14/1 to get promoted today it's just 6/5 a reflection of just how far we've come in the past three months.
So lets look a little closer at those odds and see what the bookmakers think of our prospects.
All odds are the best price available via oddschecker on March 8, 2012.
To Be Promoted
MAR 8 FEB 6 JAN 9 DEC 7 NOV 5 SEPT 27
West Ham 2/7 1/4 2/5 2/5 8/11 8/13
Southampton 2/5 13/10 4/5 1/2 8/13 6/4
Reading 6/5 9/2 11/2 14/1 14/1 12/1
Birmingham 13/5 5/2 7/1 6/1 9/2 11/1
Middlesbrough 7/2 9/2 7/4 7/2 10/3 13/5
Blackpool 9/2 5/1 10/1 7/1 9/1 13/2
Cardiff 5/1 6/4 13/8 11/4 11/2 6/1
Hull 8/1 13/2 7/1 10/1 6/1 8/1
Leicester 11/1 10/1 13/2 7/2 3/1 2/1
Odds Shortening Odds Lengthening
Source: Oddschecker 8/3/12
It shows what a great run we've been on to make our odds tumble to get to a point where our promotion odds are shorter than any team, not named West Ham or Southampton, have been all season long. Those two sides have been pretty much odds on to go up for the last six months but with odds of 6/5, Reading are far and away the third favourites to go up.
The fact that Reading have come in from 14/1 to 6/5 in three months doesn't surprise me given our form but what is slightly baffling is how the bookies still have a BEST PRICE of 2/7 for West Ham to go up, despite the fact they could be third by the end of the weekend.
While you'd still fancy the Hammers to make it back up into the Premier League, consider the below
Betting £70 on West Ham for promotion at 2/7 = £20 profit
Betting £70 on Southampton for promotion at 2/5 = £28 profit
Betting £70 on Reading for promotion at 6/5 = £84 profit
It's fair to say that West Ham have a stronger squad and a slightly easier run in than either Reading or Southampton but to tell me they are more than 4 times more likely to get promoted doesn't seem like a sensible bet to make. Likewise having to pump in more than £50 just to make £20 on Southampton seems unwise given the fact they have wobbled a bit lately. I don't think 6/5 offers amazing value on the Royals but considering our winning run and the fact that our next few games are very winnable, you're unlikely to get much better odds than this for at least the next few weeks.
Looking further down the odds list and Birmingham might offer good value at 13/5 especially now they are finally free of any cup concerns. Speaking of cup success, given how Cardiff have played so well in cup competitions this year you'd do a lot worse than sticking a tenner on them at 5/1 to make it up via the play-offs. If Reading's odds have been on a down trajectory than Saturday's opponents Leicester have been the opposite, with team most bookies fancied pre-season, now sitting at a distant 11/1 to be playing top division football next season.
If you're after a flutter on Reading to WIN the Championship then you'll be quite sick at missing out back in December when you could have gotten odds of 150/1 on Reading to finish top of the pile with Stan James. Today the best you can get is 7/2 with the same bookmaker... a slight drop. West Ham are 11/8 to finish on top with Southampton a best price of 9/5.
If you're hoping to back Reading for the top 6 then no bookies are currently offering a book on it, but on the punter exchanges Reading are trading at just 7/50 to be at least a play-off side come the end of April.
If you're holding out hope for a Reading player to win the Golden Boot then full credit to you for your optimism but I think the 40/1 you can get on Noel Hunt is ridiculously short and the bookies would let you bet as much money as you wanted too on that one. Rickie Lambert remains the overwhelming favourite to take the away with odds of 1/4 with Burnley's Jay Rodriguez out at 12/1 and Ross McCormack at 15/1.
So as far as the bookies are concerned we're more than 10 times more likely to be promoted than we were on this day 4 months ago but we're still far less fancied then Southampton or West Ham. Will their scepticism be rewarded or will they be out of pocket? Lets hope the latter.