The Leicester City fans gambling on a winning finish

By Ben Truslove
BBC News

image copyrightAP
image captionLeicester City are the bookies' favourites to win the title - despite being 5,000-1 at the start of the season

At the start of the season, you could get odds of 5,000-1 for Leicester City to win the Premier League - the same as Elvis being found alive or Christmas Day being the warmest of the year. But with nine games to go, the Foxes are on course to do what many thought impossible - and dozens of punters could claim the biggest-priced single winner in sporting history.

What can 60p buy you? A chocolate bar? Not in this BBC office. A pint of milk or a second-class stamp perhaps.

image copyrightDave McHugh
image captionNathaniel Whessell could pocket £3,000 after putting 60p on Leicester to win the title at the start of the season

But for self-employed DJ Nathaniel Whessell a 60p "investment" could net him £3,000.

The 20-year-old had pennies left over in his William Hill account and thought, "why not Leicester?"

"I've never followed Leicester - I'm a Brighton fan. I considered putting some money on them but with odds of 16-1 it didn't really seem worth it.

"I wasn't planning on putting 60p on anything, I just thought let's back an outsider for a laugh."

media captionLeicester City 5,000-1? So are all these things...

Bookmakers are now offering gamblers a chance to cash out their bet early for a reduced sum - like a game of Deal or No Deal but with the added passion of football.

Nathaniel is currently holding out for the end of the season - although the last three games, against Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea, make him a little nervous.

"If the odds get really good I might take the money. But I'm only losing 60p if I don't win anything. What can you get for 60p?"

Keval Nakeshree, meanwhile, has already made a healthy £5,000 after putting £5 on Leicester being top of the table at Christmas.

image copyrightLadbrokes
image captionKeval Nakeshree has already scooped £5,000 after betting the Foxes would be top of the table at Christmas

And if the father of two from Gloucester holds his nerve he stands to trouser another £33,000.

"This time last year Leicester were bottom of the league. Lots of people said they were going down so that inspired me to place the bet.

"The last seven or eight games of last season really showed they were on form and I genuinely believed they could win."

Unlike Nathaniel, Keval is a Leicester fan, having grown up in the city and watched the likes of Emile Heskey and Muzzy Izzet at the club's old Filbert Street ground.

He had no plans to cash out early, but after a recent flurry of gamblers panicked and picked up their winnings he is now considering it.

And what to do with the money? "I think my wife might have spent it already!"

image copyrightLadbrokes
image captionJohn Pryke decided against waiting for a possible £100,000

For lifelong fan John Pryke the money at stake was all getting a bit too much and the thought of a £100,000 windfall should the Foxes be crowned champions was dominating his thoughts at every match.

He cashed out his £20 bet, taking home a useful £29,000, although it means he has had to give up on his dream of buying an Aston Martin.

"It was ruining the game, to be honest," he said. "I just want to enjoy the time when Leicester actually win the Premiership.

"I knew that anything could happen [when the bet was placed] and it has."

He had hoped to buy a bungalow but has settled for redecorating the family home after getting nervous about recent results.

"It's been a crazy season, I'd be silly not to take my money and run. I've also backed Leicester to finish in the top 4 at 400-1, so I can enjoy the rest of season knowing I've got my winnings early."

That extra bet could net him the tidy sum of £4,000.

media captionFoxes desire is so high - Claudio Ranieri

Another Leicester fan - who did not want to be named - cashed out his ticket on Monday, pocketing £29,788, after pressure from his wife.

Staff at the William Hill shop in Leicester said he had been in and out of the shop regularly asking about his bet's cash-out value.

And last week a punter in Warwickshire said there was "no point being greedy" when he took home £72,000 - he stood to win a cool £250,000 if the Foxes finished first.

At Ladbrokes, there are still 23 gamblers resisting the temptation to cash out early, with one punter in line for a potential £100,000 win.

Spokesman Alex Donohue said: "Around half of the 5000-1 backers have cashed in their chips, while the rest hold their nerve.

"Record sums have already been paid out on a bet yet to be a winner and for many fans the lure of a life-changing sum of money is too much with several difficult games still to go."

One of those sticking to his guns, though, is 38-year-old Leigh Herbert, from Leicester, who is hoping for a windfall of £25,000.

image copyrightTwitter
image captionLeigh Herbert, who has received support from dozens of fans, poked fun at William Hill

He put £5 on the Foxes while on holiday in Cornwall after news of Claudio Ranieri's appointment.

"I watched them last season and they didn't play that badly. When he was appointed I thought he might bring something," he told BBC Sport.

"The first thing I thought the next day was that I'd lost that fiver. I'm not a betting man, apart from a pound or two on the Grand National."

The carpenter added he was trying not to think about the money - instead focusing on his beloved team's success.

Leicester City's support is now so huge the earth shakes when they score a goal and even Nottingham Forest fans are rooting for them. Not so the bookmakers.

Joe Crilly, from William Hill, said: "Leicester are the neutrals' pick to win the Premier League this season, yet for the bookies, it is anyone but.

"At the start of the season, 25 people backed them with William Hill at 5000-1 and those bets, totalling just £68.55, cost over £300,000. A Premier League title would cost us alone £2.5m."

But if Leicester do cling on to the top spot, we're all winners really...

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