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Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 18:54 GMT
Sir Cliff tipped for millennium No 1
Sir Cliff is approaching his sixth decade of hit-making

Sir Cliff Richard has become the bookmakers' favourite to land the coveted millennium number one after his latest single topped the charts for the second week running.

Despite controversy over The Millennium Prayer - snubbed by radio station playlists and panned by the critics - Sir Cliff's ultra-loyal fans have helped him confound the music industry.

The single, which sets the Lord's Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, held off a challenge from Artful Dodger's track Re-wind The Crowd Say Bo Selecta which entered the charts at number two.

Last week Sir Cliff was 8/1 third favourite with William Hill to score this year's Christmas number one.

But the bookmakers now rank Sir Cliff at 10/11 favourite to have the Christmas and New Year number one, with Irish boy band Westlife second at 6/4 and John Lennon third at 5/2 with a re-release of Imagine.

Sir Cliff's No 1 hits
Living Doll 1959
Travellin' Light 1959
Please Don't Tease 1960
I Love You 1960
The Young Ones 1962
Bachelor Boy 1963
Summer Holiday 1963
The Minute You're Gone/Just Another Day 1965
Congratulations 1968
We Don't Talk Anymore 1979
Mistletoe and Wine 1988
Living Doll 1986
Saviour's Day 1990
The Millennium Prayer 1999
Graeme Sharp, of William Hill, said the firm had originally rated Cliff at 100/1 to have the Christmas number one before The Millennium Prayer was released, and had taken a fair few bets.

He said: "It won't make for a very Merry Christmas for us if he manages to stay at number one.

"That will teach us never to underestimate Cliff or his fans."

Millennium Prayer is Sir Cliff's 14th number one single in a career about to touch on its sixth decade.

His most recent successes, including Mistletoe and Wine, have been religious songs released at Christmas.

Among the many snubs the latest release received was exclusion from the regular playlist of BBC Radio 2, in the past one of the 59-year-old's strongest supporters.

The singer has spoken of his hurt at the snub, and said it was partly due to "ageism".

He told BBC last week that he had been "astounded at the knives that have come out on a personal level".

"I'm the one who's been dubbed the nice boy of pop, and suddenly I find myself hated, with people in television telling the public 'Don't buy it'," he said.

"And I'm thinking 'Gosh, this is for charity' - I'm just a pop singer and this is just a charity record."

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Talking Point
Sir Cliff - hero or zero?
29 Nov 99 |  UK
Cliff Richard: Peter Pan or lost boy?
28 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff tops the charts
27 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff 'hurt' at music snub
08 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Christians call for Sir Cliff boycott
10 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Imagine Lennon as festive number one

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