Saturday 24 September 2011

The miserable life of the fantasy football manager

Winning feels good. So do predictions that turn out to be correct and risky gambles that ultimately pay off. This explains the lure of fantasy football and why so many poor souls have become addicted to a competition that rewards footballers who happen to set up a goal with their arse. We all want to display our superior footballing knowledge and what better platform to do that than fantasy football?

Like deluded Liverpool fans convinced that signing Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam guarantees fourth place, we tell ourselves each year that we will crack the top 1000 managers and see off all competitors in our private leagues. After all, they're not going to realise that Aaron Hughes is a cheaper, better alternative to Brede Hangeland. Victory must surely be in the bag, right?

Wrong. Fantasy football is a miserable game more crushingly depressing and grindingly frustrating than the national lottery. Each gameweek you tell yourself that the eleven players you've chosen are destined for an 80-point haul but the same factors invariably conspire against you. Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of the cruel truths and grim inevitabilities of the world's most tortuous game:

* Your captain will not be your highest scorer. Pundits are fond of saying form goes out the window on occasion. When you select a player who's scored twenty goals in his last four games as your captain, form really does collect its things and dive headfirst through a glass pane. If you're lucky, your captain might pick up a respectable two points for playing ninety minutes and you can rest with some dignity intact. Far more likely, however, is your captain to withdraw through injury five minutes before the match or else get sent off and plunge into negative figures, which will be doubled for good measure.

* The international break will ravage your team. You like to think you're a clever manager. You avoid injury-prone players and instead pick a team you know will stay fit. Unfortunately, Gary Cahill's 100 consecutive starts count for nothing when he's away on international duty. Like the PlayStation 1 game you loaned to your cousin, he'll return scratched and broken and in no fit state to play, along with at least two of your other "reliables". If you're particularly unlucky, you'll be plagued by a myriad of 'Doubtful's, leaving you unsure as to whether you should risk replacing the Doubtfuls or not. For your diaries: the next international break follows gameweek 7.

* A home banker? Your players will be rested. Man United at home to Swansea? Start filling your team with United players two gameweeks in advance. You can't miss out on these points. Make Wayne Rooney your captain; he'll score at least three goals. But hang on a minute, what about that midweek Champions League match? Yep, it's time for rotation. The players who you entrust to score the big points will be rested and there's nothing you can do about it. What's more, the four points for your goalkeeper's clean sheet that you took for granted will be spoiled by a last-minute consolation goal. It won't make the slightest bit of difference to the result but it will strike a devastating blow to your points total.

* Bonus points. Ah, bonus points. One last chance for vindication; three unexpected points really can do wonders for a beleaguered team, especially if they go to your captain. After Chelsea's opening game against Stoke, Sky awarded Fernando Torres man of the match even though the game finished 0-0; it came as welcome relief to fantasy football managers who took a gamble on Fernando. At least a bonus point or two would ease the pain of (yet) a(nother) miserable opening week. But Torres got nothing; zilch, nada, nul points. You can't count on anything in this game. It'll fill you with optimism just to shoot you down.

What a miserable pursuit fantasy football is. Why do we bother? Maybe one gameweek in five we'll be satisfied with our weekend's work; the rest of the time we spend worrying over decisions, obsessively checking stats and cursing bad fortune. And no matter how long we spend refining our team, meticulously weighing up the merits or otherwise of potential transfers, the lad who never checks his team and has only made one transfer all year will beat you.

We'll crack 100 points next gameweek, though.

1 comment:

  1. as an avid reader of two sweaty balls, i demand to know why you have ceased to update? my week isnt the same without you