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In praise of Neil Woodford, master tactician – did Gareth Southgate pick up a tip?

By Nigel Somerville | Friday 6 July 2018

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from ShareProphets). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

I had a quiet chortle to myself as I read Cynical Bear’s reading of his crystal ball with regard to the Stobart (STOB) vote, where he thinks Tinkler and Woodford have lost. Probably. But I wonder if the real winner will in fact be Neil Woodford the loser – and I wonder if he has been giving Gareth Southgate tips on managing his way through the World Cup. Gosh, this is devilishly clever…..

We all know that Neil Woodford is a bit short of cash right now. But as the Big Cheese he can’t be seen to be selling his prize assets. After all, if they’re that good, why would he sell them – unless he was so short of cash that he had to, but that would cause a few problems in the reputation department.

And then we have the boardroom bust-up at Stobart (STOB), where Woodford has backed Tinkler but his old muckers at Invesco have backed the board. I wonder about that: why would he want to go against Invesco – especially as they have a few of the dogs which he owns and which need funding.

And then it hit me: what if Neil is actually playing to lose this one with a wider tactical view of things? After all, if he loses the vote at Stobart then surely he would have to sell up. No questions about selling a sure-fire winner, no question of selling to get the cash, this would be a straightforward issue of principle. Who would argue with that?

And Woodford gets a nice load of (other peoples’) cash to play with. Maybe he can pay down debt, or provide lifelines to some more of his cash-guzzling dogs.

Surely, this is the action of a brilliant mind at work: back the loser so as to gain a longer-term advantage.

And that brings me to Gareth Southgate’s heavily changed squad which faced – and lost to – Belgium. Now obviously you would surely want to go on winning….unless you don’t want to face Brazil. And if England get past Sweden tomorrow then they will have avoided Brazil, and gone further through the tournament than they otherwise would. Indeed, someone else could knock out Brazil, and England get to the final.

So did Woodford share his tactical brilliance with Gareth? Losing to win?

I think we should be told.

Of course, the whole thing could back-fire and Tinkler win. In which case surely Invesco would sell up, crash the share price and leave Woodford nursing more losses. And England could lose to Sweden, where I gather former England boss Eriksson has said they would have been better off playing Brazil.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

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