I have no idea how I want to write this, but what I do know is that the overriding thing I want to talk about is how much time I spend on this game, and how much anguish it causes me/elation it gives me. I just had an urge to get some stuff down and so, with an old playlist (the legend that is Usher – U Remind Me came on first) blaring out of my headphones, I’m doing it.
I’ve been playing this game since I don’t know when. The website says my first season was 2006/07 but I was playing it years before then, in whatever format it was back in the day. One of my best friends at the time, Nashy, got me into it. We had Freeserve dial up broadband, and I remember logging in sat at the computer to do my team. This puts me at about 14 years old, so must have been 1999/2000 ish when I started. While @fpl_tactician was becoming the first person in the world to eat a banana this millennium, I was playing this game.
I love FPL, like we all do. Back before xG and loads of stats, I got on just fine by picking players that were good. Way less players playing back then, but I finished 2020th in 07/08. If that happened nowadays, Podcasts\websites all over the FPL landscape would be lining up to ask me to come on and talk about my strategy and all that jazz (massive exaggeration of course; maybe 1 or 2. Ok one. Ok none, fine). Anyway I digress, I love FPL.
This is the first full season I’ve gone all in on trying to get a decent overall rank as opposed to just beat the lads in the mini league. I read loads of stuff, I monitor price rises and falls into the early hours, I’ve got Scout membership. I’ve discovered the likes of Tom and Nick on WGTA, James and Suj on Planet FPL. THERE’S AN FPL GENERAL for crying out loud (he’s a legend if you don’t know him). You name it, I’ve read it/watched it/listened to it. Anything I can do to digest more info and help me in my decision making, I’m all for it. Hell, I’ve created a whole new metric for this game that 7.5million of us play and I write articles on it (thanks for asking, I’ll DM you a link to my work) just to try and “beat the game”. That’s what all this is about. I want to beat this game. I’m obsessed with it. I’m absolutely convinced that if I read/listen to/watch everything I can predict every single thing that will happen by researching the ass off of it. How crazy does that sound?! In half a season I’ve fully immersed myself into this crazy world and I’m not sure if it’s good for my health. Anyway, let’s journey back to a couple of the bad beats of the season so far…
Saturday 21st September 2019 – GW6
First mention goes to the absolute travesty that this GW was…
No changes. Transfer rolled. I was feeling good. Man City at home to Watford? Yes please! To quote Gareth Keenan – “Um, bloodbath!”. I’d made what I felt was a straight forward decision by sticking the armband on Raz. Some potential worry about being rested for the midweek game, but not too worried as surely City just roll the reserves out for that.
I’m at a cousins birthday party and the team news is coming through. Raz is rested. My Captain is rested so that he’s fresh for City’s incredibly difficult cup tie against *checks notes* Preston North End (He scored and got an assist in that game). I’m texting my mate like a man possessed, fuming. Fed up of what a letdown he’s been. The fume gets worse as the game is a complete rout. I also had Kyle Walker, who got taken off before 60 minutes. Ridiculous. Ashley Barnes blanks at home to Norwich despite a blistering start to the season. Nightmares all over the shop. But the worst part: I had my VC on Salah not KDB, and so I got a whopping total of 10 points instead of Kev’s Super Haul of 34!
At the time I feel like it was a calculated decision, as either/both Raz and Kev could’ve been rested for that Watford game, so sticking the VC on Mo was a call with some rationale to it (Current song is Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis, which is some sort of Divine Intervention surely! Literally can’t get over that 😂).
Played my wildcard on the drive home. Livid. For context, here is my GW6 team and an extract of my fume to show you how ridiculous it was (apologies for the language 😬):
Dropped 200k that week. Felt good. But this needs to be a learning; I need to laugh off bad beats rather than let them get me down. Difficult to do, but I want to learn how to do so. Anyway, turns out this pales in comparison with what was going to happen 11 game weeks later.
Saturday 14th December – GW17 – 11.21am
I’m in the gym. Liverpool play Watford at 12.30. A well known and well loved FPL Twitter celebrity is about to cause chaos, and we love him for doing so as frequently as he can. But for me, this caused a whole lot more anguish (of my own making) than I imagined it could.
NB: these leaks have helped me out enormously as well, it is up to us what we do with that info.
I’m doing ok in my first full time FPL Season. Sat at about 280k, I know I’ve got plenty of time to climb up the ranks.
At the start of this season, I said, rather bullishly to a mate, my target this season was top 10k. I’d recently won our NFL league and figured if I put as much effort into FPL as I do NFL Fantasy, top 10k would be pretty straightforward (for those of you wondering what song I’m on now, it’s Africa by Toto).
“KDB out” had been trending in my head for a good week or so up to this point. He’d been kind of out of form of late (I look back at this now and laugh – he’d gone 10, 7, 3, 1 in GW13-16) and my plan was to ship him out in time for GW18 if he blanked against Arsenal this weekend. I had those GW18 moves lined up: KDB out for Son, Robertson out for Aurier (Liverpool blank was creeping up on us) and Jiménez out for Rashford. The plan was set, it would only be a -4.
The leak is announced – Robbo on the bench. Panic. Panic at the Shoulder Press. I start sweating, not from the weight I’ve been pushing, but the news. What do I do? I’ve got 9 minutes to decide. I could just bench him? Yeah, that’s the sensible move, bench him. But Rashford has gone 5, 13, 9 in his last 3! Son has got 37 points over his last 4 games! Aurier is in good form too! All thoughts have gone from working out my shoulders to working out my transfers.
It’s 11.26. I’m in the stretching area, not stretching. Do I make the moves now? These guys could rise in price again between now and next week! All sorts running though my head.
11.29: I’ve done it.
It’s a -8, but it’s all part of the plan. Sure, it’s an extra -4, but the form these boys are in, I’ll make that back. Off to shower and head home. I get home and watch The Mighty Reds win 2-0.
What happens next is nothing short of catastrophic in my little FPL obsessed head.
Sunday 15 December 2019
I’m at a birthday party for one of my best mates little boy (there’s a theme emerging here: note to self – don’t go to birthday parties during Football season). All going well. No signal but no worries. The drive home though, my phone starts going. Kev is doing a madness at Arsenal. OF COURSE HE BLOODY IS. My mood takes a turn for the worse. He finishes on 19 points with 2 goals, an assist and max bonus, Properly dark mood now. Everyone else keeps him of course, it’s KDB FFS.
But I’m stubborn. I’ve gone against the grain to try and gain an advantage and climb the ranks. These new boys will outscore Kev and I’ll climb.
It gets worse. Like, comically worse. Below are the 4 weeks I don’t own Kev for:
It is no exaggeration when I say I lost sleep over this. Genuinely. This affected my mood way more than it should have done. I was so angry with myself for making such a dick move. It would of course been better had my replacements done well….let’s go and see how they got on:
• Heung-Min Son got me a 2 pointer in GW17 and then, as my captain, got sent off against Chelsea. Knobhead.
• Marcus Rashford did alright to be fair. Plus what he’s done during lockdown to get kids free school meals is enough for him to cement himself legendary status.
• Serge Aurier claimed an assist one week and then an own goal the week after, which perfectly sums up what you get when you own this guy. Something to do with Forrest Gump and chocolates springs to mind?
Including the transfer points, getting rid for a -8 and then getting back back 4 weeks later for, you guessed it, a -8, I lost around 60 points. Which is easily 75,000 places in rank. Season defining. Like I said previously, this properly affected me, and why?! It’s just a game, but it’s something I want to be good at, to do well at. Looking back now, I think that was just a poor decision on my part, something I need to cut out if I want to improve next year. Ideally I need to get to a place where I don’t make these decisions, and if I do, not beat myself up about it. But this decision now looks that stupid, that I’ll likely always beat myself up about something like this.
(Also: the week I got KDB back for another -8 – he blanked. HAHAHAHAHA etc.)
At the end of a Storm, is a Golden Sky
I feel like I need to balance this out with some of the good things to happen in my FPL season. Let’s go through the archives and see what we can find (current song: Lifted by Lighthouse Family. No joke)
(In the time between typing the above to grab the below screenshots, the current song is now Over My Shoulder by Mike and the Mechanics – can’t make this up 😂)
First off – it speaks absolute volumes that I remember a lot less about these “good” gameweeks than the bad ones. Another learning needed here.
GW11 – Saturday 2nd November 2019
We’d been out today, not really sure where, but I remember coming home and having Soccer Saturday on. Liverpool are losing to Villa, I’m getting stick for it in the group chat. Then the comeback. What a comeback. “That’s what we do” booms Virgil as they walk back to the dressing room. What a team.
For FPL though, I’d put Benji Mendy in. What a player, excited to see what he could do. Pep does Pep. Benches him. No one knows why. Never do. At the same time, Sheffield United are playing Burnley. Sir John of Lundstram is my first sub. He gets 2 goals, a clean sheet and max bonus! I’m constantly refreshing all sorts of social media to make sure Ben Mendy stays stuck to the pine. He does. Party in the lounge! For me anyway…
GW12 – Friday 8th November 2019
What I do remember about this gameweek is that the previous gameweek I’d created my fixture ticker using the Metric I use to pick players. I’d identified that Gerard Deulofeu was a good pick based on his opponents, so I put him in my draft team to test it out. He scored against Chelsea and then Norwich. This gave me the impetus to make it a thing.
I also remember Liverpool hammering City and really laying a marker down in the title race. Aside from that, I don’t remember much about my FPL process, but it looks like I had a decent week:
A gameweek rank of 20k is not to be sniffed at! This meant I’d halved my rank, so I’m pretty sure I must have been ecstatic and slept well. Can’t remember it though.
GW24 – Tuesday 21st January 2020
GW24 was the first big gameweek this year. Liverpool were off becoming World Champions when they were meant to be beating West Ham, and as is always the way, where there is a blank, a double isn’t far away. The Triple Captain chip gets rolled out. But for who? The big decision was Salah or Mané? Mané or Salah? It was like splitting hairs. In the end I went with my gut, despite fearing the worst.
32 minutes into the game v Wolves and Mané has to come off injured. Absolute despair for Mané owners. Was basically a 50/50 that didn’t work out, but didn’t work out in circumstances no one could’ve imagined. I remember being on Xbox as I couldn’t watch the West Ham game for some reason, and just seeing the Salah notifications coming through, a call I’d made had actually worked!
We’re going to fast forward now to present day (or thereabouts)…
GW30+ – The Return
During lockdown, I’ve been involved in ChampManFPL (what a godsend this was during a terrible time) and it’s through my content for that game that I get noticed by a little known FPL boyband called The Wolfpack! I’m grateful to the boys for inviting me in and it’s not internal bias when I say they really are a top notch bunch of lads. I look forward to being able to meet up for a Wolfpack session when all of this is over.
From here, and with having FPL reintroduced, I’ve been able to pick the article writing back up, and try and look at FPL in a different light. People like @LowFPLTSB and @FplMode have helped with the psychological side of it for me. It’s so much easier being part of a group sounding ideas out rather than going through it all in my head on my own.
Ahead of GW30+ I made my debut on the Wolfpack Podcast, and part of that was discussing our strategy for the next few weeks. I’d decided I would use unlimited transfers, Bench Boost GW30+ and then Wildcard straight out of it. It went well:
The main downside to this was going Sterling over Mahrez. But I made a rational decision after plenty of research, and so something I’ve learnt is that just because it was the wrong decision, doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.
Leno being injured was terrible and I hope he makes a swift recovery. The bench boost could have been better, as Norwich reminded us they’re terrible. I’d have been better off going for Maupay in that price range, but who thought he’d get 9 points against Arsenal?!
Overall, pleased with a successful Bench Boost. With the Free Hit still in my pocket, hopefully I can make it 3 successful chip uses this season!
As I write this, I’ve scored 204 points in the 2 gameweeks since FPL returned. I’m 16 points into GW32+ and despite a Captain Fail with Jiménez, I’m feeling pretty positive about FPL right now. I’ve risen from 339k to 134k and have hopes of finishing inside the top 100k. The Jiménez fail above is a perfect example of making a good decision, but just having bad luck with it. And currently, I’m pleased to say it’s not keeping me awake at night!
I think that’s it. I think it’s all on paper now. Essentially – it’s become a sort of a season review of my first serious FPL season! The point of me writing it was probably some self therapy, getting it physically written down that for next season, I want the psychological side of it nailed down. Bad beats are common, but you can’t let them eat you up and go on tilt. The decisions you make – make a good, informed decision, and then if that goes wrong, it’s just bad luck. (Current song is We Are The Champions – went manual with this one, as it’s the first time in 30 years that we are!)