In a few months time, as you sit by the villa pool sipping your sundowner, wondering what you're not going to bother doing tomorrow, you'll thank me. You'll realise that you owe the house, the sun, fast women and loose cars to PCN and its review of two football pools forecasting programs - or will you?
On the other hand, as you crouch in the corner of the padded cell, numbers swimming in front of your eyes, jabbering "home draw, away win, upper quartile, lower quarties" you might think something different. If you can still think.
Spectadraw 2, from B S McAlley, and Football Pools Program, from Hartland Software, are two programs with the aim of forecasting the performance in the top four English divisions and the top three Scottish. They should theoretically help you to see when like is meeting like, and therefore should increase your chance of predicting draws.In the case of Spectadraw 2, we are told "the wins are likely to be fairly small - a scientific approach has no chance of producing a really big win - but should leave you in pocket at the end of the season." We can probably take it as read this goes for all such programs.
In the case of both programs, the scientific approach involves keeping a database of sorts up to date, and this is your first nightmare.
Both programs are broadly similar in results, if not in use. Spectadraw 2 will predict likely draws from the matches that are taking place that week, provided you've told it which matches are taking place. It will also print out a list of the 30 most likely draws based on its current database.
Football Pools Program gives you a little more information. It lists draws in order of preference, but will also pick out games with over-generous odds on fixed-odds coupons.
In both cases you are provided with a database. Spectadraw 2's database was up to date for the start of the current season, while the review copy of Football Pools Program's database didn't include results for the latter part of last season.
I took on board Spectadraw's point that it takes about a month for form to settle down at the beginning of the season, and began inputting feverishly.
This speedily became tiresome in both cases. Football Pools Program is not particularly stylish or user-friendly in appearance, but in the end I found it marginally easier to use. Its main drawback seemed to be that you have to type in the team's names one letter at a time when you update the league tables.
When you type in the week's fixtures it takes a considerable amount of time comparing form and making its prediction, with no sign on-screen that this is what it is doing.
Spectadraw 2, on the other hand, seems particularly user-friendly at first. Arranging your fixture list involves seeing a list of the teams in each division on screen, inputting the team numbers for each match, then moving on division by division. The teams already typed in are blacked out, so it's relatively easy to see where you are.
You're advised to deal with the match list towards the beginning of the week, and update your records when the results come in on Saturday. It's a staggering amount of typing, as indeed are all such prediction programs, and you'd need to be quite a football fiend to raise the energy to do this every week.
Of course, between arranging the fixtures and putting in the results, you'll want a prediction, won't you? This is where I ran into problems with Spectadraw. The first time I used it, it threw an error message, but I was unable to reproduce it, so couldn't nail it down.
After reloading, I managed to get a fair slice of results typed in, then tried a prediction. It threw up a different error message, and I spent quite some time puzzling before I worked out that it just doesn't work unless you've typed in results for *all* the teams covered.
In general, both programs tend to be difficult to use if you've been approaching them half-heartedly, and have failed to keep your database up to date.
Both Spectadraw and Football Pools Program are effective in assessing form, but considerably less so when it comes to predicting draws.
Spectadraw assesses its own effectiveness as about 20-30 per cent more successful than sticking a pin in the coupon, and this would seem about right to me in the cases of both programs. If you know your football, you could probably equal their succuess with your own guesstimates, but it you used them in an advisory capacity, rather than filling in their prediction religously, it could well improve your chances.
The major drawback with both programs is the amount of typing you have to.