This weekend saw the return of the Premier League, marking the beginning of the end of the British summer for some of us and the start of 10 months of heaven (and hell) for millions of football fans worldwide.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve gradually grown less and less excited by the prospect of the football season starting. This may actually have more to do with the fact I’m a Newcastle United fan, rather than anything to do with my advancing age. A rollercoaster of emotions and inevitable disappointment lie in wait for me – again.
Though as well as supporting their own teams, many football fans choose to take part in a seasonal ritual which can add an extra dimension of ups, downs and anger to the football season – Fantasy Football.
Last season I decided to stop playing this game. I was going to be on holiday in New Zealand for five whole weeks, so the last thing I wanted was to have to find an internet connection every Friday evening so I could make my transfers. It was also making me angrier than is healthy when I wasn’t doing particularly well and I found myself having to check every game for scores, assists and cards as they were being played:
‘Who scored for Villa? Who got the assist for Everton? Is Rooney starting? Has Joey Barton been sent off yet?’
I was also getting a bit sick of cheering on players and teams I otherwise dislike, in the misguided hope that by doing so they’d get me some extra points that week. I had to take several cold showers after cheering whenever Darren Bent scored for Sunderland.
This season I’ve once again taken the plunge. I really wasn’t going to put myself (and my wife…) through all this again, but I couldn’t help myself. The possibility of winning substantial cash prizes in my work league may or may not have also influenced my decision. The team is now in, the silly name has been chosen (‘Inter Pies’, as seeing as you’ve asked so nicely) and I’ve started off with an unremarkable yet solid 34 points.
In principal, the game is simple. You pick a team of eleven players (and four subs) from the Premier League. As and when they each score a goal, provide an assist or keep a clean sheet, specific points are awarded and totalled up to give you a weekly points score for your whole team. Your fantasy league position is then calculated accordingly each week. You get a free transfer each week, with further transfers costing you four points each (plus one ‘wildcard’ per season where you get unlimited transfers for one week – I used mine after the first week last time. Don’t ask.). You also assign a player as captain, whose weekly points then will then be doubled.
The more you get into this, the more complicated and scientific it gets:
‘Which players are playing more than once in a week? Which player is on a run of form? Are certain teams playing weaker opposition? Who is a dedicated penalty or free kick taker for a team? Is Joey Barton likely to get sent off?’
However I firmly believe that however much time you spend poring over statistics, fixtures and form guides, this game is purely down to luck. You can easily take an hour to pick your team for the week, only to see the player you’ve transferred into your side get sent off in a moment of madness and the player you replaced him with score a hat-trick.
Therefore this season I’ll be approaching it in a different manner than I have before. Yes, I’ll do the research and make sure I make some well-informed transfers, though once I’ve picked my team, there’s nothing I can do about it, so why bust a gut to find out scores as they happen? I can’t change anything. I don’t immediately need to know who’s been booked, who’s missed a penalty and who’s been slagging off their own employers on Twitter, because as the old football song goes:
“Que Sera, Sera. Whatever Will Be, Will Be. We’re off to Wembley”.
Well, maybe not that last part for my non-fantasy team, but you get the idea anyway.