Creative Soccer Culture

The Fantasy Premier League Addict | A Fantasy Football Note From Ben Tallon

Fantasy football isn’t talked of like other addictions, but I’ve been living a double life long enough to know the truth. My name is Ben Tallon. My childhood hobby drawing footballers lead me to a career illustrating for The Premier League, Leeds United, UEFA and Arsenal and that side of it makes the parents proud. With the new season just days away, it’s time to come clean about the ugly reality of life as a functioning FPL Addict. I take comfort in the knowledge I am far from alone.

It used to be that fantasy football served as a condiment to sprinkle on the banquet of a new season’s opening weekend of fixtures. Not the career and marriage threat it represents to too many.

That it could one day spiral and see a father publicly shamed because he failed to predict the hurricane arrival of a certain Egyptian in Liverpool never crossed my mind in 96, when I tried it. The idea that my father could have failed to select Shearer in 95 or Henry in 02 and pay any such price was pure fiction. But like the crazy world we live in, in this digital age, with this vice in our pockets at all times, things have changed.

On the stalled 08.17 train into Manchester Oxford Road, I stare at the city skyline and think of Chris Wood and Bangkok ladyboys.

I watch the commuters moan, then lower my head back to the screen.

Burnley’s opening fixtures look comfortable but the demands of Europa League are a threat and Wood has a tight hip.

A fellow member of the league who is better at fantasy football than me messages as I’m tinkering, saying he’s glad I’m on the Hudson Odoi express and even in the message the worrying lack of sarcasm is palpable, cult style conditioning. Chelsea’s bright new thing in our squads. Secret bearers. Stockings-under-the-suit tackle.

Several people stood in the aisle crane necks trying to catch a glimpse of the red signal holding up the train, then shrink back into their slouch.

Oh I get it.

If you can watch it, there’s more chance it goes your way.


For a few seasons now, I’ve convinced myself that viewing the players in my Fantasy Premier League team on TV makes it far more likely that I get whatever green light I need from them; an assist, a late goal, heroically holding onto a clean sheet. Another sign I was losing control.

In 2010 a friend rushed the family back from Sunday’s big shop so he could watch Brian Jensen, his fantasy goalkeeper concede twice in a 2-1 loss to Wolves, promising to pick up a few bits on the way home from work later in the week. He had no other interest in that game.

Eventually the tired Northern Rail engine farts and hauls us onto the platform. Sighs of relief break out all around me. I stay put as they clamber towards the exit. It’s too early for maths and I’m left 0.5 million short of ejecting Wood for Arnautović, who’s scored four in pre season. Cancelling the transfers before they process, what should be a simple act of waiting to make them again at lunch mutates into a morning full of distraction and frustration.

That’s where the ladyboy comes in. Last weekend, we really went off the cliff.

It wasn’t pre-stipulated, but for the amusement of the others in the fantasy league, four years ago our loser dropped his suit trousers and took a few good ones from the palm of his victorious rival in the car park at York racecourse. That night we got drunk and to honour his sportsmanship, made it official. From now on, the king agrees a forfeit with the court jester come season’s end. Then it was a tattoo on the arse of the Villa fan, the fake soiled white trousers that the Liverpool travel rep had to wear out for a day and on Saturday, with the help of a sound team, legal guy and make up department, the loser, who lives in Bangkok, was frog marched down Manchester’s Market Street to perform a ten minute Boyzone set dressed as a ladyboy.

Departing a stop earlier than usual so I can read the pre season scout reports, I learn that Jiminéz, the new Wolves forward and until now a possible sideways captain has never scored more than 7 in a season at Benfica.

It’s happening again.

After the forfeit we all set time aside to log in and tinker because nobody wants the shame next summer. It should’ve been time put aside for wedding planning. One of the league members hasn’t gone in to work today and I fear it’s to do with fantasy football.

Aubemeyang’s scoring. Sánchez will be fresh. Harry Kane is tired. But Mourinho’s imploding again, they say. Liverpool’s attack! City’s ludicrous range of midfielders. It all hurts my head. New signings, returning injured, exciting youngsters and kinky surprises make me forget, every new season, amidst the confusion and smoke in my eyes that I have little control over any of this.


Season in, season out, when they reopen the doors, I come charging in like a child on Christmas morning, a teary mess and in trouble with my family by the time the bonus points are added.

I’m a hopeless fantasy football addict, unable to resist the lure of a game damaging the lives of millions, just like me, worldwide.

Arriving at work, I’m no closer to answers. A takeaway carton hits my shin and blows away and I kick at it but it’s gone.

A car horn sounds as I wade recklessly into the road, mouth open, detached from real life. Then anger. I break a cold sweat and raise my middle finger without enough conviction to commit before punching in the code on the door.

For the sake of all of us who logged into Fantasy Premier League too early, for those of us with too much at stake to get it wrong, the mercy of the opening whistle cannot come soon enough.

You can see more work from Ben Tallon here

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