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Relegation Betting: Tough guys target survival

Premier League RSS / / 16 March 2009 /

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They won't win any prizes for artistic impression but as the stakes get higher at the bottom, some of the Premier League's toughest target man could have a big say in who stays up and who goes down, says Nik Wardle.

The careers of strikers James Beattie and Kevin Davies have gone in an almost parallel direction. Both made their mark in the Premier League at Southampton, both had big-money moves which didn't work out, and both are now at smaller Premier League clubs and central in the battle for their sides to avoid relegation.

Davies has a lot to thank Sam Allardyce for. Following promising spells at Chesterfield and Southampton, Davies moved to Blackburn for £7 million in 1998, with Beattie going the other way for £1 million in the same year. Davies flopped at Blackburn then never really got going upon his return to Southampton, partly because Beattie kept him out of the team. He was released at the end of his four year contract then 'Big Sam' took a punt on him and signed him for Bolton. He re-shaped Davies' style of play to excellent effect and changed him from being a mobile centre forward to the target man he is today.

His combative style doesn't please opponents or opposition managers and he's often been the player who has committed the most fouls in a season in the top division. Not that the Bolton faithful care, though. He's a firm favourite at The Reebok and following the sale of Kevin Nolan, Davies has become Bolton's captain.

He recently scored his 50th goal for the club and has bagged four goals in six games since he became captain. His goal against Fulham last weekend saw him become the current top English scorer in the Premier League with eleven goals. You can get odds of [11.0] for him to be in this position at the end of the season.

Bolton are currently four points above the drop zone but can pretty much haul themselves out of the relegation picture once and for all if they win their next two games against West Brom (A) and Middlesbrough (H). Bolton are currently [10.5] to be relegated.

James Beattie has already had the honour of being the top English scorer in the top division. He bagged 23 league goals in season 2002-03 and helped Saints to the FA Cup final that year. This form led Everton to make him their record signing in 2005 but things didn't really work out for him at Goodison Park.

When he was sold from Everton to Sheffield United it looked like he wouldn't play top-level football again but his goalscoring record of around one-in-two for The Blades saw Stoke move in for him. He's started well at Stoke and has scored five goals in eight games. Stoke's defeat to Everton at the weekend saw them slip into the bottom three and they're the current third favourites for relegation at [2.14].

Stoke's home form has kept them in the hunt for safety and given that Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Blackburn have to visit the Britannia Stadium, they shouldn't be written off.

As his hunt for the camera during a recent goalscoring celebration shows, Beattie is enjoying being back in the limelight. He will know that each goal he scores will increase his chances of staying the top flight as even if Stoke do go down, another smaller Premier League club may well come in for him.

Both Davies and Beattie epitomise their clubs' chances of survival. At Bolton, Davies has become Mr Consistent, doing a steady job for the team and you need players like this in a relegation battle. Beattie has always been a confidence striker - his career has been littered with barren spells and hot streaks - and Stoke will only survive if his current hot streak continues until 24 May.

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