Returning with a sumptuous love note to the humble beginnings of the 2018/19 Fantasy Premier League season, Ben Tallon offers another dose of illustrated and scribed delight. His words charting his season to date, dive in and see if you recognise any similar symptoms.

The angry sports journalist from my league, who has enjoyed a reasonable start to the season, starts to self-destruct, just like along the thousands of FPL players who share the obscurity between hyper-geeks and the never do wells. Having been teased with success, he’s more vulnerable than ever before. Laura asks who’s sending me all those messages as my phone lights up on the coffee table near the sofa. I look and it’s him, lambasting the ‘pathetic virgins’ who run the game because they’ve granted no bonus points to Mo Salah, who’s solitary goal is enough to win the game for Liverpool, 1-0 over Brighton.

The messages continue into the night, coiled tight and full of venom, adding light relief to my own miserable Saturday points return, the details of which are too boring to include here. Then there’s the chest thumper, prepared to die on his sword. A friend of my brother’s, a die-hard Manchester United fan refuses to select any Manchester City or Liverpool players, quite possibly this season’s champions and runners up elect. Self-sabotage at its logic-bending best.


The thing is, we play in a league where the loser suffers a drastic forfeit, far more pain than the simple act of forgoing club allegiance in a fictional game. I suppose you have to admire his commitment. Already I make little notes on my phone and send them as messages to other league members, planting seeds. One idea is to parade him around Old Trafford dressed as a Premier League trophy with sky blue and white ribbons hanging off it. Or maybe we recreate the Sergio Agüero title-winning classic that snatched the league title in 2012. Given the threat of physical violence this might bring, he’d have grounds to contest it, but there’s no harm in jotting down a few thoughts.

Looking at the league table on Saturday night, I’m already 40 points adrift of the leader, a man who takes the game incredibly seriously and does quite well on a consistent basis. I worry about those people. I’m aware of my ineptitude and I’d like to say I’m comfortable with it, but I’m not. I go to bed with hard-boiled anger rattling around my stomach on too many Saturday nights these days.

6 points for captain Sadio Mane is a bitter disappointment and a lovely meal cooked by Laura might as well be a plate of farts. Pudding is simply out of the question. I don’t deserve a slice of bread with my main, let alone anything sweet. But I won’t be alone in this self-loathing behaviour. As illustrated by the angry sports journalist’s procession of bile, by now, we’ve been well and truly reminded of the ragged frustration this game brings, the cruel things it does to otherwise pleasant experiences in our lives. Every August, I tell myself I can hang in there with the nerds until game week 10, see what happens after that. But already, the only glee has to be extracted from the ashes of the happiness of friends. I might as well start reading those trashy celebrity magazines that sell because some A-lister has a spotty chin or a back end a bit bigger than last week. So what if Sandra three doors down is back with Darren and plastering it all over Instagram again, at least him off the telly is up to 16-stones again!


The stage is set for my gradual self-destruction and I’m powerless to stop it. With September on the horizon, reality returns most of us to our place. The thought of treading water in mid-table is so terrible that it almost brings me out in hives and I make these dark promises to myself that if I can’t compete, I’d sooner be in a shit fight down the bottom end of the league to keep it exciting. Anything rather than coasting by on Salah and Kane points, invisible and unloved. The truth is, I don’t know what I want or why I keep playing.

It’s the same repossession of hope that leaves the angry sports journalist on the brink, forced to confront a familiar truth. The squabbles break out amongst our league members, attacking each other on social media for all kinds of reasons. He messages to remind me how little Mane has done and I try to laugh it off, but he knows that this will eat away at me as I try to settle down for bed, thighs juddering as I kick hard at the duvet, huffing and grunting, unable to get comfy.

On Sunday, there’s just enough optimism to ensure I start the same miserable cycle all over again, Eden Hazard, Wilfried Zaha and Roberto Pereyra do their job properly to return the status quo. Chelsea conceding late provides a touch of relief for the angry sports journalist and by Tuesday, we’ll have forgotten why we were upset. I’m due to be married in November and I have to start considering a way to prevent me dunking a distant relative’s head in the punch bowl come 5pm. I wonder if the local Texaco garage sells incense. Too lazy to venture out, I set about investigating the local meditation scene.

You can see more work from Ben Tallon here

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