Strictly Come Dancing Betting 2017: Do not look past Merrygold for the victory

JLS singer Aston Merrygold looks the outstanding bet for Strictly 2017
JLS singer Aston Merrygold looks the outstanding bet for Strictly 2017
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With three successive profitable Strictly years of 5.27, 20.28 and 8.37 points, Alan Dudman is back with his take on the 2017 celebrities chasing the Glitterball - and he thinks there is only one winner for the show that starts this weekend...

"Aston has a ridiculous amount of talent for this and basically looks a professional. The trade from his Exchange price of [5.40] is the way to go here - he could realistically be around [2.0] come the end of October."

Back Aston Merrygold 2pts in winner market @ [5.40]

Aston Merrygold - 11/4

I can predict great things for Aston, although those words would have been woefully inaccurate for Merrygold before his solo release single "I Ain't Missing You" - which peaked at 126 in the UK charts a year ago. The hit parade's loss (do they still call it that?) is our gain, and the former JLS singer is the Sportsbook favourite here at 11/4. He is also priced up as 5/6 Top Male.

This can be viewed as a revenge mission for Merrygold, who was beaten in the 2008 X Factor final by Alexandra Burke. Mind you, JLS beat a band called Bad Lashes back then in the semi-finals - and they absolutely crucified a version of Wonderwall before disappearing off the face of the earth. They made Danny McNamara sound positively pitch perfect.

Watching him perform in Sky 1's Got To Dance - a show he has been a judge on, you wonder why he isn't shorter in price. Of course great dancers have been nailed on the line in this before (and I should know) - most famously Ricky Whittle, Natalie Gumede and Danny Mac. But he is good. In fact, he is great.

We'll be seeing a lot of contemporary stuff from Aston, and just watching a few clips on You Tube with his backflips and somersaults might put Ruth Langsford under a bit of pressure. Aston has a ridiculous amount of talent for this and basically looks a professional. The trade from his Exchange price of [5.40] is the way to go here - he could realistically be around [2.0] come the end of October.

Mollie King - 7/2

As ever the BBC selection committee have come up with an inspired pick by raiding The Saturdays' cupboard again and finding Mollie King. The rest of the group are pencilled in for 2019, 2021 and 2023.

She'll be looking to go one better than her bandmate Frankie Bridge - who finished second back in 2014 with Kevin Clifton. Frankie was good in that series, and was probably a bit unlucky in losing to Caroline Flack. Mollie is similar sort of price at 7/2 on the Sportsbook.

She was the first to be unveiled by the Beeb, and also was the headline picture out of the celebs in a tabloid preview. Indeed, she has a remarkable knack of getting photographed by the 'paps' by simply doing nothing in her day-to-day life.

"I can't wait to get into sequins," she said pre-show. I said the same in trying to get into Sequins nightclub in Blackpool a few years ago when it was bitterly cold. Great days.

King has played down her dancing abilities (whilst I have played down her singing ones), but she'll make the final, and is priced at 7/4 for Top Female on the Sportsbook.

Davood Ghadami - 9/1

The Radio Times article on the EastEnders' actor led with the headline: "Who Is Davood Ghadami?" and I admit, it's a question that often keeps me awake at night.

I haven't seen the soap since the Dr Legg days, but Davood is taking the well-trodden path from The Bill, Casualty and the joyless Walford set to the dance studios.

The big news this week has been the leaked story concerning the actor being paired with former Playboy model Nadiya Bychkova - one of three new professionals for the 2017 series. He'll have to cope with headlines concerning the "dreaded curse" again I am sure. But let's not forget, Nadiya is a dual world dancing champion - but that doesn't make a great story!

EastEnders has a mixed history in terms of successful contestants - with Kara Tointon (2010) and Jill Halfpenny (2004) both winning from the soap, but there's been plenty of losers. Davood has also appeared in Dr Who - and I once played cricket against an actors' team whose opening batsman appeared as a Dalek. Now that is showbusiness!

I have a doubt with his build, and we all remember how clunky Joe Calzaghe was in this. I would lay him in the Exchange Top Male market - but at [5.50] - he's out of my range.

Gemma Atkinson - 5/1

The actress has enlisted the help of a personal fitness trainer to get in peak condition for this, and at 5/1 on the Sportsbook she is one of the leading contenders.

Her appearances in Hollyoaks seem like they were 20 years ago (the soap's heyday), but celebs from that brilliant, heart-moving and emotional TV masterpiece fare pretty well in this competition. The likes of Ricky Whittle, Chelsee Healey and Ali Bastian all made it to the final in years gone by, whilst Ashlee Taylor-Dawson got to week 11 before slipping back into obscurity.

Both Whittle and Bastian could have won, so Atkinson has big shoes to fill, whilst her most recent work came in Emmerdale. However, that price is too short to go first up with, and I think she'll drift a bit.

She nearly turned Strictly down when saying "I was scared at performing on TV in front of 12 million people." I can confirm those quotes were aimed at Strictly and not Hollyoaks.

Alexandra Burke - 5/1

The former X Factor Champion has recently been on the stage with a year long residency in Sister Act The Musical, and previously landed a role with The Bodyguard - so she has the ingredients to go far in the competition. She is the second favourite in the Top Female market on the Sportsbook at 11/4, and has Mollie King to beat for that.

With nigh on 700,000 followers on Twitter, the 28-year-old hopefully will last longer than an appearance on Channel 4's First Dates. The singer has admitted to performing contemporary dance at school, but I think she'll struggle to beat Aston Merrygold - so it could be 1-1 in their TV series battle.

We'll find out who her partner will be on Saturday. It will be mighty bad luck if she draws the short straw with great wit and raconteur Anton Du Beke.

Charlotte Hawkins - 10//1

The veteran breakfast TV host has worked with some of the biggest names in morning daytime television - the likes of Eamonn Holmes, Piers Morgan and Rylan Clark-Neal. I predict by 2022, the BBC will have no breakfast presenter stars to use. The cupboard will be bare. No more.

'The Hawk' can go two ways here; her morning co-host Susanna Reid made it to the final in 2013, but Kate Garraway was a dancing disaster. Her forgettable Samba was one of the lowlights of terrible sequence of dances - but the public memorably saved her at the hands of Gabby Logan.

I felt Reid was a bit lucky in making the final a few years ago, as she was nowhere the standard of some of the others. But that's the beauty of the public vote.

However, watching Hawkins on Dancing With Sky's Stars, her footwork was poor and she spent half the time sitting on the floor - which I think was some sort of sit-down Argentine Tango.

One tabloid said she was "amongst the favourites". I disagree, her price of 10/1 seriously overrates her chance.

Jonnie Peacock - 9/1

The 24-year-old Paralympics star has picked up gold medals at two World Championships and two European Championships and is the first celebrity to appear on the show with a disability.

As a 9/1 chance to win on the Sportsbook, you can also find Jonnie as the second favourite at 10/3 as Top Male, just behind Aston Merrygold. However, the sprinter has played down his chances by saying: "I am normally really competitive with pretty much anything but this, my expectations are so low that I'm not coming into this with a competitive attitude whatsoever."

I reckon Peacock will come out fighting, and if he can bag a few scores of 7s and 8s early, he could breeze through the first few rounds. Expect quite a strong public backing for the athlete - and that counts for a lot in Strictly. Even if he doesn't get the scores, I doubt he'll be appearing in the bottom two early on.

Brian Conley - 20/1

The 58-year-old showbiz veteran has been in the game longer than most of this season's contestants have been alive. As an actor, singer, comedian and presenter, Conley was one of THE biggest names back in the 1990s with the wonderfully-named "The Brian Conley Show".

I watched all 6:48 of one You Tube clip of this, and managed not one laugh, not one single chuckle. And who says old school variety is dead?

If you are thinking Conley might be bringing a bit of "Dad Dancing" to the show, you would initially be right. However, his experience on stage in West End shows such as Al Jolson and Me And My Girl make him a possible 7 or 8 scorer in the ballroom - I imagine he'll be pulling off Waltzes with ease.

Maybe the fun-packed Charleston could be a winner too? I'll guarantee more laughs in that than that You Tube clip.

The performer said: "I know it's going to be a lot of hard work but I am up for the challenge, so bring on the spray tan." Hopefully better than my episode with a spray tan once, it backfired, as my arms resembled a tiger.

Debbie McGee - 20/1

Best known for being a magician's assistant to her husband - the late Paul Daniels, 2017 seems to be the year for Debbie McGee following an appearance in Celebrity Masterchef, and now this.

Her career of 40 years in the business is almost as long as Conley's, with a stint at the Royal Ballet School ranking as a greater achievement than her fifth-place finish in the much-maligned (and much missed by me) Channel 5's The Farm. Seeing Vanilla Ace attend to the veg was something I never expected to see in my lifetime. Shame the rapper finished second.

There are no real trading options on the ante-post market, but she might be one to evade and scrape through the early rounds by laying in the first and second round elimination markets.

Paul managed to get to week two back in 2010, I anticipate a week five exit for McGee, though. I'll be wiping my tears away at her departure with my hankerchief - one of those magician's ones that never ends.

Richard Coles - 33/1

This year's dark horse apparently. Also this year's Ann Widdecombe, Russell Grant, Ed Balls and John Sargeant rolled into one. Expect plenty of madcap japes and hilarious routines planned for the Radio 4 host.

Forget your Saturdays and JLS, Coles was the big ticket in the 1980s with The Communards - and a mighty fine keyboard player at that. But a primetime Saturday night TV star?

However, this will go the same way that Widdecombe and Sargeant went. It will be fun for a while, and by week eight we'll all be thinking "surely he can't win can he?"

No he won't, as the joke will die (Brian Conley's show springs to mind). But dare I say it will be fun to find out - for all 6 mins and 48 seconds. He may have performed "Never Can Say Goodbye", but I predict we'll be saying our farewells just after Blackpool. So long Rev.

Chizzy Akudolu - 50/1

This year we have not one, but two big names from Holby City. Chizzy played a surgeon in that for five years, but at 50/1 she'll need to be a miracle worker to win this.

They don't come much bigger in celebrity names than Akulolu and Joe McFadden. The BBC have played a blinder getting in these two mega stars.

Sadly I missed all of her half-decade's work in the hospital drama, but a celeb from Holby sure beats anyone from TOWIE or Gogglebox appearing (give it time).

Chizzy has also appeared in EastEnders and Hollyoaks. She needs The Bill for the complete set.

Patrick Robinson got to week 12, whilst Sunetra Sarker got to week 10. It's a Holby-fest.

Joe McFadden - 16/1

Now, there has been money for our Joe, who I admit, I have never heard of. Nothing. Not a sausage. However, he is down the Betfair Sportsbook page near the outsiders but as 16/1 around the 50 shots - so are people predicting a Tom Chambers? He won in 2008 - and I had never heard of him either.

As cast member of the hit soap, I am half expecting a runner from the set to appear as a wild card entry. Joe said he is "thrilled and terrfied" at appearing on this. Me too. Thrilled to pieces.

The BBC tweeted a hilarious link by saying "check your pulses, Joe is in."

I nearly typed his name Steve before correcting - now that would be good!

Ruth Langsford - 50/1

The queen of daytime TV was heavily linked with last season's series, but finally Langsford has made it. However, her chances appear slim at 50/1, but I do like Ruth. I think there will be a fair bit of support for her too from the public - and that's all important. I hope she gets to Blackpool.

The Loose Women presenter said: "It'll be a welcome change worrying about my next hot move instead of my next hot flush." With lines like that she could have been on The Brian Conley Show.

Langsford also presented Langsford Late on Westcountry Television in 1999. With a line like that, I should be in The Brian Conley Show.

Susan Calman - 50/1

The BBC stalwart has presented many things and appeared on many panel shows - like Sara Pascoe. I was having a chat with a friend about old quizzes they other day - and we both agreed they should bring back Celebrity Squares with Lenny Bennett - now that was good.

The Scottish comic said recently: "I am the last person on the dancefloor." I'm not sure if this was a joke or a statement.

I suspect the above will not be true. As a complete outsider I would be surprised if she makes it past the fifth week.

Simon Rimmer - 66/1

Simon was the seventh celebrity asked to do Strictly - worrying for the eight others he beat to the punch as a stronger booking. He hosts a food programme, and it must be tough in these times with TV schedules so lacking in that department. What we need is another chef.

Yet another great tweet from the BBC Strictly account saying that he was "Ready to cook up a treat." With lines like that, oh no, I've done that one.

Rimmer is the host of Sunday Brunch, a twee little programme that occasionally unleashes cool music bands that have sold their soul to appear on the show. Then they all munch on a cottage pie together.

If it's him against Merrygold, think caviar versus porridge - home-made obviously.

Recommended Ante Post Bets for Strictly 2017

Back Aston Merrygold 2pts in winner market @ [5.40]
Back Aston Merrygold 3pts @ 5/6 Top Male on Sportsbook
Back Joe McFadden 1pt in winner market @ [21.0]

*Strictly airs at 19:00 to 20:40 on Saturday evening on BBC One

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