The footballing wizards who decide the fate of the FA Cup draw, have once again spun us a yarn that will have headline writers on the edge of their seats. Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey returns to Anfield with Bolton Wanderers almost 15 years since joining the Reds for a then club record £11m. Heskey nodding in the winner in front of the Kop would make for a perfect back story – but here at the Paddy Power Blog we’ve crunched the numbers, and the chances of that happening are even more unlikely than you might already think.
Heskey bagged 60 goals in his 223-game Liverpool career and formed a partnership with Michael Owen that had Gerard Houllier purring. The big striker was also a key part of the ‘treble’ winning Liverpool side in 2001, and despite facing criticism from some Reds fans, he remains in the top 10 of Liverpool’s all-time Premier League goalscorers. Plus who could forget his DJ celebration or the goal against Germany for England? What a man.
Unfortunately Big Emile has been back to Anfield six times since leaving Liverpool in 2004, and failed to find the net on each occasion. But this isn’t unusual, in fact history shows that a number of former Liverpool strikers, returning to play in front of the Kop have struggled to get on the scoresheet.
Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Ian Rush, Fernando Torres and Peter Crouch aren’t just a pretty useful five-a-side team, they are also a group of Liverpool players who have struggled on their return to Anfield.
- Combined the five strikers scored 562 goals for Liverpool in 1,138 games – almost bang on a goal every other match – however they managed to find the net just once between them in 19 games back at Liverpool, since leaving the Reds.
- That was courtesy of Peter Crouch for Stoke in a 2011 FA Cup tie that Liverpool eventually won 2-1.
- It could be a combination of factors – they are at later stages of their career, playing for a weaker side, the overwhelming occasion – but whatever you put it down too, Liverpool strikers are hardly prolific when returning with another club.
That doesn’t make the odds of 11/1 around Emile Heskey to score first sound too appealing – no matter how much of the FA Cup romance you buy into. But if you’re an optimistic Trotter, an Everton fan hoping for a smile, or you simply fancy Bolton to find the onion bag against a shaky Liverpool defence, there is a better value option.
Midfielder Darren Pratley’s record of nine league goals in 96 games for Bolton might not inspire a whole lot of confidence but he’s a man in a rich vein of form. In Bolton’s last five league games he has scored in four of them, 67 per cent of his shots have been on target and he has an astonishing 36 per cent conversion rate. At odds of 16/1 to score first and 5/1 to score at any time he might be the best bet if you’re looking for a Bolton-inspired punt.
We’re willing to bet it’s far more profitable to back form and statistics, than the romance of the cup.