Captain Sturridge? Fantasy Football Interview with CHAMPION Tom Fenley

When the season came to a close for 2013/14 one man stood proudly at the top of the table. Mr Tom Fenley’s #FPL team Captain Suarez saw off more than 3.2 MILLION people to finish in 1st place overall. (And almost as equally important – won the FantasyYIRMA mini-league in the process also)


With the clock ticking down to the start of a new campaign we caught up with the reigning #FPL Champion to hear how he was feeling after his victory and his plans for the future.


Drop Tom a follow on Twitter at @TomFenley A great addition to your timeline

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1. I guess the first thing to say is WELL DONE Tom!! How does it feel to be #FPL Number 1 and just how tense was the final few GWs??

It’s quite odd really, I still don’t think it’s sunk in properly. It was very tense the last few weeks, Luke Weston was number one for so long, I couldn’t catch him and he looked like he was going to run away with it. Fortuitously for me, Luke kept taking hits that didn’t always pay off and I edged closer before finally taking him over. I was so happy to be up at the top, I had just wanted to be up there once but then the pressure was on and it was mine to lose. I thought I might have peaked too soon, Borna Gamulin really scared me, coming from nowhere with that Dzeko captaincy that shot him to second. It was so close at the end and on the last day I really didn’t know if I had won or not.


2. For most folk, winning their mini-league is a key goal but to beat out over 3.2m people is one hell of an achievement. Now you’ve had a chance to reflect what do you attribute your success to?

It is quite an achievement to win a game with 3.2 million people involved. I just kept going, stayed focussed on my team and watching games. At the beginning of the season I had decided just to make obvious moves, keep it simple then played more expansively towards the end. I trusted my instinct as it had been going so well and the luck continued.


3. As the winner of the #FY mini-league you took home £100 in addition to the fantastic Prizes from the Premier League including a  holiday and VIP passes to a few Premier League matches – What games are you planning to attend?

It’s all a little up in the air at the moment but potentially I will be watching Liverpool v Arsenal and Man Utd v Liverpool. They should both be great matches so I’m very much looking forward to it, the Anfield trip especially.

4. Looking back –  At which point of the season did you start to think… “I actually have a chance of winning this!” ?

I knew I had a good chance after around GW10 but I still never expected to win it. I got in to the top 200 in GW11, and the gap was around 40 points which I thought was a manageable amount to overtake. It was a steady rise from there, with a few setbacks along the way, but I even had my wildcard until GW30 so knew I was in with a shout.

5. Everyone has ups and downs during the course of a season – but what was your standout #ScoreYIRMA (Best) and #SoreYIRMA (Worst) moments from the 2013/14 season?

I didn’t have any specifically standout points as it was such an extraordinary season throughout, I did so well most weeks that if anything, it was just the thrill of being so high up the overall league table, every FPL player wants to be there so I enjoyed that. The worst moment was when I had moved the captaincy from Hazard to Suarez at the last minute, then Hazard scored a hat trick, it was a huge blow at the time as I hadn’t made a bad decision for ages, fortunately it all turned out okay in the end.

6. Both new and veteran #FPL players I am sure will be fascinated by your victory. Can you give us an insight into how you planned out your team and your Transfer strategy across the season?

I looked at getting as much out of the squad as possible. The Rate My Team tool on Fantasy Football Scout helped a lot with this, alongside watching players as much as possible before bringing them in. I planned ahead, stuck to my convictions on who would do well and made straightforward transfers.

7. Form, Fixtures or Gut Instinct – which of the 3 did you find yourself leaning towards most last season?

It’s a mixture of all of them, you have to take each in to account depending on the player and the situation. If a forward from a top team is on good form, or a mid-table defender has a potentially profitable run then it’s quite evident that you should consider getting them in. Gut instinct is a little more intangible, but watching matches and looking at statistics is a good way to double check those feelings and act on them. The Fantasy Football Scout member’s area helped a lot in this respect. The ticker is great for fixtures, allowing you to see who has a favourable period and also which players will rotate well. The projection and comparison tools are good for checking if form is likely to continue and if your hunches are backed up with numbers. It’s about thorough research in general, check people’s opinions of players on twitter and sites like this and keep up to date with news.


8. One thing that always causes discussion is the free Wildcard and specifically when and how to play it.
So – When and How did you use your free Wildcard for 2013/14?

I used my Wildcard in GW30. I held on to it for a long time, hoping to use it right before a double game week, I had some injuries so had to play it a little earlier than I’d have liked but it worked out well. Not as explosive as it could have been but it steadied the ship and got me back on track. I think it’s best to keep it for as long as possible, unless you have a really bad start, then the international break is a good time to use it.

9. As #FPL Champion there are a lot of envious eyes on you this season. Have you picked a draft team yet, and have you set a target for this season?

I’m in the process of picking, it’s getting there. It won’t be finalised until Friday with maybe a final tweak Saturday morning. There’s a lot of pressure on to pick a great team but Matt Martyniak (last season’s winner) had some great advice and said not to take the pressure to pick the best team possible too seriously, it’s almost impossible to replicate such a feat so just choose a team you think will do well (thinking too much is always a destructive trait in fantasy managers). I think it’s going to be a great season, I’m not too worried about a target and I want to enjoy the football itself a bit more without having so much riding on the results.

10. At the time of writing Tim Howard (26.3%) Luke Shaw (27.3%) Ross Barkley (29%) and Rooney (32.7%) are the most picked players by their respective positions. If you could pick 1 player per position, who would it be and why?

This is difficult as although I might deem a player a good option, I may not include them in my GW1 team as they don’t fit in the squad. I’m going to pick players who may or may not be in my team GW1 but that I am certainly considering, will probably have in my team at some point and should do well long-term, essentially, solid picks but not necessarily essential picks.


GK – De Gea

Man Utd have very strong opening fixtures as many people will have caught on to. Although I have my doubts on the Man Utd defence for the start of the season, especially with all the injury doubts, I think Van Gaal will have them defending well after a while and De Gea should get quite a few clean sheets. De Gea’s also an excellent shot stopper so a few save points should be on the way and is certain to start, unlike the defenders in front of him so is the safest route into the Utd defence. Other cheaper options in goal, that should be rewarding picks, are Asimir Begovic at Stoke and Fraser Forster at Southampton, both have good fixtures and are reliable ‘fire and forget’ options.


DEF – Cahill

The Chelsea defence with Jose Mourinho in charge is clearly the hardest to break down in the Premier League. Cahill also offers a goal threat from set pieces and until the first choice full-backs become clearer he is my pick of their defenders. For those unwilling to spend that amount and who prefer defenders with more attacking potential from open play I would be considering Joel Ward at Crystal Palace and Nathaniel Clyne at Southampton.


MID – Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey last season was on incredible form and if he continues to hit those levels you will want him in your team. I think Alexis Sanchez will definitely challenge him for that midfield Arsenal slot in our teams but its wait and see for me from the beginning as Ramsey offers better value. Hazard and Fabregas are also dependable picks, though picking between them is a bit more of a challenge, especially with Diego Costa looking like he might pick up a sizable share of Chelsea attacking points. A slightly less expensive alternative is Raheem Sterling who could really push on this season and improve on his previous season total of ten goals.


FWD – Rooney

Wayne Rooney was the first pick in my draft. Better value than RVP and less injury prone, also now chosen as club captain by LVG, which could make him put a little more effort in. With Man Utd’s fixtures Rooney is unavoidable. Not too many clear cut options up front this pre-season but I think at least one of Costa or Sturridge to join Rooney is sensible. There are a few 8.5 million players who could do well so it’s a shrewd amount to spend on a third striker as you can then easily swap between Giroud, Dzeko and Bony.


11. Question from @FPLWalt : Which fixtures do you try to avoid that look easier than they appear to the casual fan?
This is a great question, thanks Walt. Any team playing Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace could be in for a tough match; they beat Chelsea last season and drew with Liverpool. With Palace having even more time training under Pulis’ influence they could be even harder to score against this season. I also don’t like mid-table clashes, teams like Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Brom are good examples, they are too unpredictable and score lines can be all over the place so I tend to avoid owning their players.


12. Many managers are superstitious – I’ve heard everything from Arsenal fans not picking RVP to people not selecting Left Backs with bad hair cuts. I personally dislike picking multiple players per club/position, but do you have any superstitions or self imposed fantasy rules?

Not really. I had Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at the same time for periods last season and I could imagine having Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey for Arsenal this season, if they have some good fixtures and are both playing well, same with Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard. I’ve mentioned before that you have to be adaptable and superstitions are usually quite fixed, any player has to be under consideration, no matter what your preconceptions are. I’ve never picked John Terry though…


13. With Suarez no longer in the Premier League – have you decided on a Captain for GW1 and have you had to rename your team? (Tom’s team was called Captain Suarez last season)

The GW1 captain is a bit of a nightmare isn’t it? Everyone wants to get off to a good start, but really, it should be treated as 1 of 38 gameweeks, it is of no more importance, so don’t over think and try to be clever, just go with whoever you think will score the most points. I have renamed my team, it might change but at the moment it’s the incredibly inventive: Captain Sturridge!


14. Finally Tom, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Mrs YIRMA hates Fantasy Football and would quite happily go to IKEA on a Saturday morning at 11am (which as #FPL fans know – clashes with our schedule) I’m guessing your significant other has softened to the game following your win?

I’m very lucky as my girlfriend actually shows a vague interest in football and has even accompanied me to a couple of games. She did think I was a bit crazy staring at football matches and stats, but it allowed her time to watch those baffling tv programmes girls seem to like so she didn’t mind too much! She was happy that I won; I think it vindicated the time spent at the weekends watching football.


Massive thanks to Tom for taking the time and agreeing to this interview, absolute gent! Some great insight into both last season and the new one just round the corner.

Don’t forget to follow Tom on twitter at @TomFenley where he has been answering questions and getting involved in helping people get their teams ready for the new season. Excellent Follow





Posted on 15 Aug 2014, in Player Selection and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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