Brightoning Things Up......
I was minding my own business, trying to find a winner at Brighton – something which had always eluded me on previous visits to the quirky track, when the BBC called and demanded that I head for their studio in Brighton to talk about Pete Edwards.
Fortunately, I’d already completed the main business of the day – talking to someone who had known William Hill – and had got my bet on the horse I was hoping would break the Brighton duck.
The Beeb wanted me for their Radio 4 PM show – which is presented by an old pal, Eddie Mair. We go back a long way – way back to the time that he presented a Friday lunchtime show on what was then known, I think, just as ‘Five’. There was a regular Friday lunchtime slot in which Eddie, me and Paul Austin, then Ladbrokes’ PR man (I was delighted when he left them, as he was really very good at his job!) would discuss some of the quirkier bets which had been placed or were on offer.
Which was pretty much the reason they were now telling me they’d ordered a cab to take me from racecourse to radio studio.
The omens were good, as my horse duly obliged at 9/4. I just had time to pocket the readies before I found the cab and we set off.
‘Er, where are we going?’ asked the cabbie.
‘Oh, didn’t they tell you? The BBC’
‘Yes they did – but do you know where that is?
‘Neither do I, I’ve only been doing this for two weeks’.
And not only that – he charged me £8.20.
‘I thought the BBC booked this cab, presumably they have an account?’
‘I don’t know anything about that…..’
I gave up and paid him – and I must have been overwhelmed by backing a winner as I even handed over a tip!
Fortunately I still had the phone number of the person who’d booked me for the show, so was able to get directions to the Radio Sussex studios and was soon ensconced with a nice cup of tea, ready to chat to Eddie about Pete Edwards.
He it was who wrote to me some thirteen years ago after detecting what he thought were signs of footballing ability in his grandson, Harry. Pete asked for a bet on the lad growing up to win a senior cap for Wales.
Obviously feeling a little generous that day, I offered him 2500/1 about that ever happening. Well, the boy was barely two years old.
Pete sent me a cheque for fifty quid and I duly forgot all about the bet.
Until Pete rang me thirteen or more years later to point out that his grandson Harry Wilson had been called up into the Wales squad for a World Cup qualifying match.
Given that he was still barely 16 years old and therefore manager Chris Coleman had presumably just brought him into the squad to give him a taste of the atmosphere, I wasn’t over concerned – after all, although the youngster was on Liverpool’s books, he hadn’t so much as kicked a ball in anger for the first team.
And indeed, for the first of their two qualifiers, Coleman had left Wilson on the bench.
But then, with just three minutes of the game against Belgium left, Coleman brought the boy on – making him the youngest person ever to win a cap for Wales (108 days younger than Gareth Bale, who’d previously held the record) – and also costing us £125,000 in the process – which I imagine was the last thing he had considered when deciding to bring on another sub.
Electrical contractor Pete Edwards, 62, who lives just outside Wrexham, was so happy at that moment that he immediately resigned from his job. I thought about doing likewise.
But not for long, as the story went viral, whatever that might mean, and we recouped the payout several times over in publicity value – and began to take scores more similar bets as a result. At least I won’t have to worry about any of them paying out – I’ll be long gone by then, even though I probably won’t have backed another winner at Brighton.
But while I was there in the buzzing seaside city, which, commendably, still boasts several establishments selling vinyl records, I heard unexpected news of another punter of mine who stands to win even more than Pete Edwards, but with whom I had lost all trace.
However, whilst chatting with friends in a local hostelry after earlier surviving the terrors of a trip on the Brighton Eye, followed by a ghost walk, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention when I heard the name ‘John Richardson’ mentioned.
‘This John Richardson’s middle name wouldn’t begin with a ‘W’, by any chance?’
It did. It might stand for ‘Weird’, I think.
‘Where does he live?’ America. ‘Did he previously live in London?’ Yes.
‘Is he the sort of chap you can imagine placing a bet that he lives to be one hundred years old?’ Yes, and he hasn’t got that long to go before he reaches that age.
‘Could you believe that he might add a caveat to the bet that once he becomes a centenarian he will proceed to father a child?’ Certainly.
Indeed they were referring to the very J W Richardson who, some twenty years, if not longer ago, placed a £50 bet with me at odds of 10,000/1 that he will become a dad at the age of 100, thus pocketing the small matter of half a million big ‘uns. It would be the daddy of all novelty bets. Sorry.
And when that happens I really will retire………I don’t think I’ll be given much choice!