Betfred Super League is back on Sunday... and it’s brilliant this great sport is resuming albeit in a slightly difference guise.
Unfortunately though, RL’s fantastic fans will have to wait a while longer to be allowed into the stadiums to take in the live action.
Still we’re on TV which is a start.
The important thing is the game has survived, certainly not unscathed but by everyone sticking together through lockdown.
I was mightily relieved that with the results of the first bout of testing within the clubs, with no positive results recorded. All players and staff have had to endure two tests so far under the protocols, with 924 tests carried out in total.
First up its Leeds v Huddersfield and then current champions Saints taking on the Catalan Dragons in a double-header at Headingley.
With over four months since the last fixtures played, it’s like the start of a new season with players fresh and some fully recovered from injury. We’ll soon find out who has kept in trim and it will be interesting to see how the new rules, including no scrums and the ‘six again’ penalty, affect the game. One expert double Man of Steel winner Paul Sculthorpe reckons the changes will ensure more ball in play and therefore faster games so suiting the more athletic teams... and he should know.
Betfred have Saints 5/2 favourites to repeat last season’s success as Grand Final winners, with great rivals Wigan and Warrington both 3/1, followed by Yorkshire’s two biggest clubs Leeds and Castleford at 8/1.
As for my home town club Salford Red Devils - our season starts also at Headingley against Hull FC on August 9 - well they are 150/1 shots with us to go one better than last season and win the Grand Final.
l Ahead of the Betfred Super League resumption it is the small matter of the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday - and I still can’t get my head around the fact City and United both flopped in their semi-finals to set up an all London showdown between Chelsea and Arsenal.
Chelsea, who came so close to pipping my team United to third place in the Premier League, are not surprisingly 8/13 favourites at Betfred to lift the cup, with the Gunners 5/4 shots.
Arsenal’s top gun Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 100/30 to open the scoring in the final, while we have Olivier Giroud at 4/1 to do likewise for Chelsea.
Aubameyang’s double against now relegated Watford in the dramatic last day of the Premier League season on Sunday almost ruined it for two Betfred customers who picked my pockets big time by correctly predicting the top scorers in all four divisions.
A customer from south Yorkshire and another from Newcastle both smashed odds of 80/1 to wager that Jamie Vardy would score most in the Premier League and that Alexsandar Mitrovic should do so for Fulham in the Championship. Regarding League One and Two we paid out on Ivan Toney of Peterborough and Eoin Doyle – formerly of Swindon now at Bolton Wanderers – as the EFL curtailed their seasons when they were well ahead in the scoring charts.
The customer in Newcastle enjoyed a £27,819 return from his once in lifetime bet of £650. The Betfred regular in Yorkshire, who also had Raith Rovers to win the Scottish League One and Dundee United to top the Scottish Championship, won a whopping £100,000 from a £240 stake.
l Meanwhile if it came to a choice I’d opt for Jadon Sancho ahead of Jack Grealish when United splash the cash this summer.
We have got some excellent forward players in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, but as far as I’m concerned if a player of Sancho’s game changing ability is available he should be signed.
Remember that during arguably our greatest ever season - the 1999 treble - we had FOUR top notch strikers namely Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke together with current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vying for a starting place.
It was interesting to see how Sancho and his former teammate Phil Foden opted for different routes to the top when they were the stars of City’s academy.
Sancho went to learn his trade at Dortmund who are set to cash in to the tune of possibly £100m with United leading the chase.
The Reds are 1/4 favourites at Betfred to sign the tricky front man, with Liverpool and Chelsea both 12/1, while three of Europe’s biggest clubs Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid are all 16/1 shots.
Foden of course decided to stay here in Manchester and all indications are he’s considered a shoo-in, in place of the now departed David Silva.
The outcome for both Foden and Sancho is highly likely to be the same: regulars for two of the greatest clubs in the world and teammates for years to come for England.
Regarding Aston Villa’s talisman Grealish, Betfred have United 5/4 favourites to sign him in the current window with Arsenal 7/2, Spurs 6/1 and City 10/1.
We have plenty of midfield options, particularly if record signing Paul Pogba stays… and the bottom line is it’s match-winning strikers with goals in their veins who are going to get United back up there challenging Liverpool and City for the Premier League title next season.
United might have finished third, but you only need to look at the benches of both Liverpool and City to realise how our squad lacks depth.
When Pep Guardiola makes his substitutions for instance the City team often improves but you can rarely say that about United.
It may need a mini clear-out at Old Trafford, but the fact is Solskjaer has proved his doubters wrong making the job his own and it is right that the board back his judgement for his record in the transfer market is simply superb.
l Finally I was delighted to take part in the draw for the Betfred World Snooker Championships that get underway at Sheffield’s iconic Crucible on Friday morning.
The competition has been chosen by the Government experts to test the crowd protocols for an indoor event as we do our utmost to return to normality following lockdown.
I know everything is in place to ensure the players and spectators are safe at the sporting ‘pilot’ which a few months ago many of us thought was odds on to be cancelled.
Reigning champ Judd Trump is favourite at a pre-tournament offer of 7/2 with Betfred to beat the Crucible Curse and achieve back-to-back triumphs in snooker’s biggest and most prestigious competition.