Project Restart: Fantasy Football
Written by @NiallHawthorne
Is this thing on? Anybody out there?
Ah sure, if it isn’t yourself! Howya! It’s been, erm, a while.
So, what you been up to? Anything interesting? No, me neither. I live with a cocooner y’see, so my lockdown has been very locked down. Whereas some creatures emerge from a cocoon as a beautiful butterfly, I’m more likely to emerge as a hideous butterball. However, it has given me time to think, and as regular readers of this column will confirm, that is a very dangerous thing.
This column is designed to be a preparation for the preparation, if you will. On June 17th a double game week will begin, and then we’ll (global pandemic allowing) be headlong into a crazy schedule featuring games almost every day between then and the end of the season, whatever year that happens to be.
Everybody knows when you are faced with potential panic and an onslaught of action, you prepare. Here I am on a sunny afternoon arranging my thoughts on FPL and chip strategies into order, typing them up for you all to enjoy, and submitting them to FantasyYIRMA towers for legal clearance and editing. Pity the leaders of Britain and ‘Murica couldn’t be arsed to do even that amount of work as COVID19 barrelled across the planet towards them.
Onto my official FPL advice however, and it’s quite simple really: I haven’t a f****** clue.
Seriously, there is no frame of reference to work off here. Never in modern times have professional footballers not trained for this long, as a group. From GW1 – GW29 there was a clear pattern that most of us could follow. Liverpool Good – Aston Villa Bad, for example. Captain Salah, Mane or KDB, don’t captain anybody else, is another. But as we finally head towards GW30 do those rules still stand?
The old maxim that form is temporary, class is permanent is ringing in my head, but in the context of FPL that’s not much bloody help! In FPL, form is everything. Yet nobody has any form. So, the temptation is to go back to the class players who have been rock solid in the past. However, there’s a good chance as you log back in to your team for the first time in 3 months that you see your team stuffed to the gills with ‘form’ players last February and early March. You may also see a lack of a Wildcard which you used before Valentine’s Day. If that’s you, you’re not the only one stuck between that rock and that hard place.
Alternatively, you may have been flying high and held your chips in hand for the end of season push, with spreadsheets and flipcharts and more calculations than NASA had to get Bob and Doug on their summer holidays aboard Musk-Air. Now all those mind-bending permutations are as useless as British Government lockdown guidelines in Barnard Castle during Mrs. Cummings birthday. Again, you’re not an isolated figure. You’re in as much company as those self-isolation denying, Trump-supporting hydroxychloroquine-munching members of humanity. Unfortunately.
Finally, you could be one of those who have had a stinker of a season thus far. A real Trumpian campaign where every single idea played out as well as a Boris Johnson press conference. So bad that even Michael Spicer took pity and wouldn’t lampoon you. Every gamble backfired, be it a punt on Christian Benteke to lead the scoring charts or Triple Captaining Grant Hanley in GW1 because you had a ‘hunch’ as Norwich travelled to Anfield on opening night. To be fair, this is by far the largest group, containing millions of players.
Will Liverpool pick up where they left off? It’s almost impossible, isn’t it? They ‘left off’ as possibly the greatest Premier League / English club team of all time. They had dropped 5 points from a possible 87, and were on course to shatter the all-time points total of 100. After a three month break to that form, and returning to an empty Anfield, not even the most ardent Liverpool fan will be expecting more of the same. Ask any of them and the whole concept of ‘records’ is gone but for just one. Number 19. Six points away, and that’s all that matters to them.
Spurs were in the proverbial sh*t before the break, with Kane crocked since GW21 and Son out since GW26. However, both are now fit and fresh and ready to go, with Son even picking up an award for being South Korea’s best new solider during his COVID-break. I couldn’t even bake sourdough.
Leicester City were flying high in third (!), with Vardy leading the scoring charts and young Harvey Barnes notching 5 goals and 2 assists in his final 7 starts. So, do you stick or twist on either/both?
That’s not to mention the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United who were getting pushed and pummelled by Wolves and Sheffield United. Will the big names assume control once more as the momentum of the so-called smaller clubs has been stopped in its tracks?
For all, this is a new start, in an old competition. It’s like being one day from being dumped by your other half before he/she bangs their head and gets amnesia, and can’t remember why they hate your guts anymore. It’s another chance. You might make complete balls of it again, but you can’t say you didn’t have the opportunity.
In many ways it’s like life for us all as we try to emerge from COVID. We’ve seen who has been there for us, and who hasn’t. We’ve seen who has exploited and manipulated, and we’ve seen who has shown compassion and leadership. You’ve adjusted and accepted your new existence, and you know those who have not. You remember all that’s gone before, but you can change the future for the better. It’s scary, and it’s unsure, and there’s no real map to show you the way, but we must all step into this frightening new reality together. This is our ‘new normal’. Embrace it. Face it.
Just don’t bloody captain Grant Hanley again.
Fantasy Football – Written by @NiallHawthorne