A recent report suggested that around ten percent of people with bank accounts have the same four digit PIN. Can you guess what that number is? Yes, of course you can. Because you are either not one of the ten percent, and therefore sensible enough to know and steer clear of the most predictable four-digit combination you or in fact anyone with a brain stem can imagine, or you are one of the ten percent, and—let’s be honest—if you are, you’ve probably already scratched it onto your card with a razor blade. As we all know, the four digit combo is 1234. Obviously. So, if you were to steal ten people’s debit cards, one of them is statistically certain to have 1234 as their PIN, and you will have their money.
With those kinds of odds it would almost be a crime not to try stealing ten debit cards! Almost. But for the sake of avoiding legal trouble aside, there’s a lesson here: people behave in predictable ways. And not just in vague, barely exploitable ways, either. People are predictable enough that despite having 10,000 options to choose from when deciding the four numbers that will protect all of their money, quite a lot of them will choose the same, obvious 4-digit combination. Ten percent will, in fact.
How does this relate to football? Well, football is made up of individual units—people, of whom we’ve already established that 1 in 10 all have the same PINs—and so it’s only sensible to assume that football is similarly predictable. As in: it’s theoretically possible to predict exactly what will happen in football and also when and where it will happen.
At the moment this is just a theory and it might be wrong: for one, football’s people-sized units might universally avoid the 1234 PIN, people like Harry Redknapp, Wayne Rooney and Paul Merson, even if you’d stake their bank balances they don’t. Even so, I’m going to attempt to prove football’s predictability with some detailed predictions about the weekend ahead. If I’m wrong, we’ll all move on, happy and content that the PIN numbers of the entertainers we pay by the million aren’t as painfully easy to work out as the population at large. If I’m right, we’ll all buy the yachts we deserve with the money we make from this.
To begin with, let’s predict the games which will take place this weekend. I’m going to say that it feels like the kind of weekend where Arsenal will play Chelsea, Sunderland will play Wigan, Fulham will play Manchester City and Everton will play Southampton. More? Reading-Newcastle, Norwich-Liverpool, Stoke-Swansea and Manchester United-Tottenham. I’d be genuinely surprised if none of these games or “fixtures” took place at weekend. Back all of these to happen.
But that does feel a little too easy, because there are only a few hundred different possible combinations available there and, most of all, because the list is released in advance, which for someone of my already considerable skill does offer something of an advantage. Thus, realistically, we’ll need to guess score lines in order to prove that football is as predictable as the PIN numbers of 10% of those with bank accounts. Here you go: Arsenal 4-2 Chelsea, Sunderland 2-1 Wigan, Fulham 1-1 Manchester City, Everton 2-1 Southampton, Reading 0-2 Newcastle.
All of the other games will be 0-0.
Moving away from numbers, the following people will make arses of themselves this weekend: Roberto Mancini, Bobby Emm, Robbie Manc and Doctor Robert Mince. The following players will look slightly overweight: Wayne Rooney, Wayne Rooney and Wayne Rooney. And the following fans will come out of their team’s game with more optimism than is in any way justified: Liverpool fans.
If all of these predictions come true, and my money and yours (co-conspirators, in the eyes of the law) says they will, we can say resolutely that football is predictable. In fact, even if some of the scores, for instance, don’t come off, then the accuracy of everything else should also all-but prove the theory. Let’s just pre-order the yachts and I’ll meet you all on the other side of the sunset.
And never forget: 1 in 10 people you meet have the PIN 1234.
Alan Pardew’s 8 year contract
Everyone’s favourite quirky story this week involved Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and his coaching staff signing eight year deals to stay on at the club. Everyone was right to think of this as slightly odd. Because long-term contracts are a good way of showing that you’re a football club that’s planning ahead, but having this long a term contract actually subverts that message.
Asking your manager to stay on for the next eight years isn’t so much planning ahead as saying “We can’t really be bothered to plan ahead, actually, is it alright if we just stick with what we have now forever? It seems to be working reasonably well and I really hate change if I’m honest.” So Newcastle United: where even planning ahead comes out looking a bit like not planning ahead.