So it’s 3pm on the first Saturday of the Premier League season and this year one thing is strikingly different – I don’t have a Fantasy Football team.
I’ve taken part in versions of Fantasy Football right back to when you had to write into the paper to submit your team (The Telegraph for me), calculate your spending manually and points were only awarded for Goals, Appearances, Assists and Clean Sheets. The year they brought in a form you could send off to make substitutions – only up to three changes per season mind you – seemed revolutionary.
Nowadays, there’s so many variations between formations, captains, red and yellow cards and bonus points that it’s hard to keep up. You also have several different companies providing ways of playing, whether it be free or paid, online or through an app and all slightly different from each other.
Naturally the Internet has made selecting a team much easier, dragging and dropping players until you are happy and doing all the maths for you (Fantasy Premier League being my site of choice recently). The introduction of mini-leagues to play against your friends also brings a new addictive dimension. Unfortunately, for me at least, it’s also had the converse effect – namely that it’s far too easy to continually check and tinker with your team, and get disappointed when it fails to meet expectations.
There’s a part of me that longs for the days where you submitted one team at the start of the season and that was it. Logging in at 11.28am on a Saturday to quickly swap out Rooney as he’s tweeted he’s not playing, or having to calculate which clubs have multiple games in future match-weeks is more like work than fun.
For me though, the biggest downside is the way it affects how you watch football. As a fan of a lower league club, my viewing of Premier League games had largely been taken-over by which of my fantasy team’s players were on the pitch. When Sergio Aguero scored that last minute goal to clinch the Premier League title in 2012, I couldn’t have cared less about Man City, only that – with that final kick – I had lost my friends’ fantasy league that year 1.
Despite most people’s claim that they have an inbuilt ‘skill’ to picking a team, the truth is with so many variables it simply comes down to luck. Even the plethora of websites and newspapers offering tips don’t have the answer. There is no ‘inside knowledge’, most just tell you the obvious – pick players that play, score and keep clean sheets. That’s the best you can do and fortune determines the rest.
So it’s some time on the subs bench for me as I give Fantasy Football a rest for the year, and give real football – the game played on the pitch, rather than screen – a try again.
- By ONE point, having lead for weeks. Damn you, Aguero! ↩