Each year we get pressured into fantasy football. Join our league they say, it’ll be fun they say. Fine, we’ll join. We’ll sign up for nine months of commitment, a marathon of frustration, forgetfulness and f*****g transfer sagas. And do you know what? It’s the same every damn year.
You’ll bump into the same players, begrudge perfectly polite co-workers in the office and detest stingey, obsessed and always flukey mates. Fantasy Football has turned us into a judgemental, short-tempered, unsporting b*stard. Consider it a web article, consider it nonsense, consider it self-therapy from our part. This is what Fantasy Football has taught us.
Over-keen Kev - Kev makes impulse transfers on the Monday, straight off the back of a disastrous weekend. Kev’s had enough of Raheem Sterling getting subbed after an hour, he’s had enough of Crystal Palace’s rotation policy. He’s not even sure Palace are good enough to rest players. Just start Zaha ffs, he says. This built up anger has lead Kev to tear his team a new one, first thing Monday morning when he sits down at his desk with a bitter taste of disappointment still fresh in his mouth. He doesn't care for injury news, he says f**k midweek cup games, Kev thinks now is the time to let these overpaid prima donnas know who’s boss and starts ringing the changes. His star transfer typically gets injured midweek and Kev’s sat in Walkabout on Saturday afternoon clutching his five-game accumulator, telling the barman how Shane Long’s goal to game ratio is the best in the league and that he should be starting. Get yourself another beer Kev, it ain’t getting better anytime soon mate.
The ‘I haven’t looked at it in weeks’ guy - Of course you haven’t. This guy looks at his team daily, he googles ‘Fantasy Football Tips’ he tinkers with his formation on his lunch break every day. He monitors his players, he checks team news right up until the deadline, he prints off his team and puts it on his fridge. Yet, week after week he scores below average and claims he doesn’t pay any attention to it. Deep down he’s hurting, he can’t work out why his team won’t gel. Maybe it’s him, maybe he’s lost the changing room. Self doubt and embarrassment have taken over. The players are planning a revolt, probably lead by John f*****g Terry.
Subbed in the 63rd minute. Sterling collects his weekly FF point.
Loyal Larry - Larry believes Tottenham’s ‘wonderkid' who appears on the bench once a fortnight learned everything he knows during his three month loan spell at Larry’s beloved Port Vale. Larry is attached. He can’t drop his player now. He’ll come good, Larry says.
The Tinted Glasses Guy - A cousin of Loyal Larry. The guy that selects Sunderland’s entire back three in his starting XI every week. For Sunderland are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. He’s got his season ticket, he still thinks John O’Shea can ‘do a job’ and if Leicester can win the league, why can’t Sunderland. This guy is not a threat. He’s finishing in the bottom three. He’ll blame Hazard and Martial for not scoring enough, whilst praising Younes Kaboul’s solitary clean sheet against Watford.
It Ruins Watching Football - The only way we can eat our Sunday roast in peace is if our team have won, our captain has bagged the only goal of the game and we’ve overtaken Over-keen Kev in the office league. That happens maybe once a season. Yes, Super Sunday may have been a success, our team won, but if Coutinho had shot instead of unselfishly squaring it to James Milner than we’d be laughing. The joy of seeing your captain wheel off in celebration before removing his shirt and costing you two points. That’s true pain.
Who got the assist? - This is now an actual question. You’re trying to be helpful, you’re reading out the football scores in the changing room after your own game. City 5-0 Boro. “Who scored?” someone shouts out. A perfectly valid question. We’ll reply with informative accuracy. “Did Kolorov assist any?” is not a valid question. You think our data’s unlimited mate, get in the shower you imbecile.
The Stinge - You’ve had a few pints and suggest this season you all put £20 in the hat for Fantasy Football, winner takes all. A few of you chip in, the league organiser blows it all that very night. There’s always one guy who says he’ll pay at the end. He never does. When he’s mid table in December he’ll claim he never agreed to putting money in. I’ll get the next round, he says, before sneaking out the fire exit. This guy does not deserve to be your friend. If he wins the league, give him nothing.
Talking Tim - Fantasy football is fun, or it’s supposed to be, anyway. You take pride in picking your team, out-witting your chums. What you don’t want to hear is your mate Tim roll off his entire squad, stumbling and stuttering as he tries to remember if he’s got Papa Souare or Phil Bardsley on the bench this week. You don’t care, everyone can see he’s cornered you and that you don’t care. He thinks you’re gripped as he showers you in saliva trying to pronounce Stephane Sessegnon.
Minus three points for you, Tim.
The influenced - He’s bottom every year but doesn’t have the bottle to say no when he gets asked for his ten quid every July. You look at his team in April, red marks everywhere. His whole midfield has been loaned out, his back four are all injured, his captain has retired and his winger is in jail for grooming underage girls. He doesn’t care though as he probably has a social life. Whatever that is.
The Analyst - He takes great pride from telling you Nolito is a striker but is listed as a midfielder. Free points he says, winking. He’ll look at you in disbelief when you say you didn't know that James Morrison takes corners and Santi Cazorla takes penalties and is a snip at 7 mil. He selects Scott Dann as captain and texts you immediately when he heads home another consolation. Probably accompanied by a #freepoints hashtag… and a wink ;)
The Midweek Mystery - An extra gameweek out of nowhere. How did I miss this? Why have I still got Andre Gray as captain, Burnley are away at City? F*****g disaster.
The 'Told You So' - He walks into work on Monday morning and makes a bee-line for your desk. He’s got a smug look on his face, you know what he’s about to say. “Told you Troy Deeney always scores at Stoke” he says. F**k off, Gary. You say under your breath.
The Chancer - This is an April time tactic. You’re fifth in the table and need to overcome a large points deficit. You select Daniel Sturridge as captain. Risky given that he’s mainly held together by sellotape and crossed-fingers these days but no one else will pick him, that you’re sure of. You’re brave kid, it’s an all-or-nothing move. Catch him on form and you’re back in the mix. If he limps off before half time and Aguero notches again, despite you praying to the footballing gods that he’d fire a blank at home to Bournemouth, then your season is over.
The Critic - He thinks 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 are the only acceptable formations. He’s adamant that even the suggestion of three at the back is enough to destroy all credibility of your footballing knowledge. He’s raging that you can play 3-4-3 and he blames that for the reason he's languishing in mid-table. He plays a defensive midfielder, overlooking points so he can sleep at night knowing his team is 'balanced'.
The Joker - He came up with a truly outstanding, somewhat controversial team name, then auto-selected his team. It's job done for this guy. He doesn't give two sh*ts about how his team performs. In his eyes, he's already the winner. He won't join in with tactic talk, every now and then he'll just butt in and ask "Have you seen what my team is called?" Yes mate, 2 Girls 1 Schlupp, it was sort of funny the first time.
Fantasy Football, man. Stress. Put us on gardening leave.
Illustration by Luke McGarry for SoccerBible.