Fantasy football pre-season update 29 July

What a week, ‘football’s coming home’ as the Lionesses face Germany in Sunday’s Euro final, and this week’s photo is of Tess Dolan, aged eight from Wakefield, who captured our hearts with her dancing at England’s Sheffield Tuesday 4-0 victory v Sweden. She was partying hard celebrating England’s win wearing a full England kit for the clash at Bramall Lane as she belted out the Neil Diamond anthem Sweet Caroline. If you didn’t tune in, you missed a great game, here’s the highlights: Lionesses . 

As we stand on the brink of the new season, Tess captures the simple pleasures of football, the teamwork, individual brilliance, where equality and love shine through. Ok, that’s just me through claret & blue lenses then. Enjoy Sarina Wiegman’s brilliant team, it’s incumbent upon us all to harness their inspiration and make this a better world for everyone. If you can’t, then you probably went to Eton and then studied PPE at Oxford.

The tumbleweed days of monotony during the off-season are over, oh how we have missed weekly club football since that day back in May. I’ve been kicking the dog’s ball wrapped in rolled-up old rugby socks around the living room in the hope it would compensate for the lack of action. It did not, and ironically ended with a window getting cracked. We really shouldn’t darn our socks so heavily.

A £100m transfer budget. The opportunity to combine the likes of Haaland, Kane, De Bruyne and Salah together in one line-up. The ability to make weekly changes to your squad. But it creates some rather difficult decisions as we plan our fantasy squads. Pre-season has been exciting and exhausting, I got my old Subbuteo set out of the attic and been playing my squad v Trialist XI in a fantasy fest.  Right up until the first deadline, before Palace v Arsenal in the season-opener on 5 August, I will be making last-minute tweaks in the hope of assembling a winning 15-man squad, but I’ve already given up making decisions based on statistics such as expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA), and gone for the ‘plan ahead, don’t panic and be patient’ approach for at least the first three games.

We have 19 people signed up to our league, if anyone else fancies their chances then pop over to the fantasy league web site and sign up with our league code: fantasy league League Code: 8nq3fh

Lots going on, Haaland got his first goal for City in the friendly win at Bayern, he’s got big shoes to fill as he’s replacing Jesus, although I would have though Haaland had bigger feet than Jesus to be honest who seems like a sprightly imp compared to Erling’s Viking physique. And what about Everton? Sold Richarlison for £50m+ to keep their tattered old accounts book neat and to comply with the Premier League’s seemingly arbitrary profit and sustainability rules, then they want to use Klarna to buy Dwight McNeil from Burnley. We made them go to cashpoint instead. 

Of course, my focus this season is on the Championship, and newly relegated teams usually bounce back immediately. Norwich, past masters of this increasingly irrelevant state of affairs begin their latest utterly futile title-winning campaign at Cardiff City, who were trying to sign up Gareth Bale. He’s now hopped over to the US and having done his bit for Wales in the Qatar Human Rights World Cup, will then, I’m sure turn his attention to securing a place on the LIV Tour. Burnley start at Huddersfield tonight in a good northern derby, we could have eight debuts as a result of Kompany’s revolution.

But I will keep an eye on the Moneybags league, so let’s take a look at the folks in our league and who could follow Nick as our mini-league champion? Next week I’ll review the obvious favourites from the top ten finishers last season, but this week, who could surprise us and rise like a prize salmon from lower-table obscurity to top five challengers?

Niall Wilde. Leicester City fan finished bottom five last season.He fell for the old classic ‘I am a goal machine’ when Daniel Sturridge appeared in his starting XI. Unfortunately, the only machine he actually resembled was a trouser press, standing around while everybody wondered whether they might be able to swap him for a foot spa at a car boot sale. I was consistent in patches last season. I have the confidence to be confident about this season. Odds: 30-1

Conor Wilde. Elder brother of Niall, also a Foxes fan, bottom five. Conor bears the mental scars of being a Leicester fan who now sees them as a Major European Team, despite just having one glory season in the last 500 years. Winner of the prestigious Golden Dummy Award to rival Diego Costa when ‘bad luck’ came his way, having delivered several crazed tirades spontaneously at 5pm on a Saturday evening, moaning about VAR. My squad have football in their blood, trouble is that it hasn’t reached some of their feet yet. Odds: 20-1

James Brookes. Burnley, relegated if we had fantasy relegation last season. Constantly bemoaning last season the existence of a secret conspiracy stalling the progress of his brave men, with too many games on a Sunday. My players could have enjoyed a nice lie-in and maybe read the papers and eaten crumpets. At least let us sleep a little bit on Sunday. 3pm Saturday, we’d be champions. A thought process which appears both profoundly contradictory with all previously identified forms of logic and not entirely without merit at the same time. Odds: 15-1

Me?Tense and nervous are not the words, although they are the words. Transfer strategy? I’ve adopted the Jacob Rees-Mogg approach to Brexit – get out early, fast and ignore the cost.

Anyone for a ‘smart scarf’? There’s a hi-tech upgrade experiment for Man C fans this season. A new smart scarf will measure supporters’ emotions, the latest in wearable technology, that sees a biometric sensor integrated into the fabric to monitor emotional, physiological and movement data. Using an EmotiBit bio sensor that sits discreetly on the neck, The Connected Scarf, as it has been dubbed, captures the body’s bio-signals throughout a match including heart rate, body temperature and emotional responses, offering information on how fans feel at different moments.

Personally, I don’t think you need tech to better understand and measure the ups and downs of football fandom emotionally and physically, just look, listen, and dodge pies/flares thrown and you can work it out. The scarf will not be available to all fans yet as only a select number will be distributed to supporters of City and those of their sister club New York City FC in a trial. Maybe if City fans are too silent or sat eating their chicken suiza nachos and the sensor tells the club they’re not even looking at the pitch they’ll get some low-voltage jolt via the scarf to make them. Maybe it won’t let you leave early by some deviant muscle pulse? The cynic in me says this is another Putinesque data capture malarkey.

Finally, to end the update with tales of the good and bad in footballers. Firstly, Saint Marcus Rashford has guest-edited a special edition of The Beano and inserted himself into storylines in which he creates mischief and mayhem alongside iconic characters such as Bananaman, Billy Whizz and The Bash Street Kids here: Marcus And then the opposite – Neymar cheating to win a penalty in a friendly Neymar

Enjoy the weekend and good luck to all Championship club fans starting this weekend apart from Huddersfield supporters. If Burnley make a good start we’ll have a good season, not bothered about promotion, just want to see how Kompany plays a 4-2-2-2 in the Championship and gels a young team with potential. We could have 8 debuts tonight but looking forward to a new season with more enthusiasm than for a long time. Prediction? PL 46 W 46 D 0 L 0 F 138 A2 PTS 138 1st. And the two pens were never pens, oh for VAR in the Championship… 

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