My fellow Fantasians
Aleksa nailed top spot in the week with a tidy haul of 129 points, with his Harry Potter Football Algorithm now back in full working order, holding off Dan (116 points, with Tudor (115) third in a high scoring week .
Nick won the accolade of Manager of the Month for February (334 points), ahead of Aleksa (326) and Dan (323). Scott nipped past Michael to head the league overall on 1,620 points, Michael (1,619) and Aleksa (1,596) making up the top three. With just 60 points separating the top seven as we enter March, it’s all to play for in our extravaganza as we all continue to get that heart beat rush, like that vein in Roy Keane’s temple throbbing in time to the bass line on Blondie’s Heart of Glass as we pick our teams.
This week’s photo is of Just Fontaine, who died this week aged 89. He holds the record for the most goals scored at a single World Cup, scoring 13 goals in just six matches for France at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as they finished third. He is joint-fourth on the all-time World Cup goal scorers list alongside Messi. Only three players have scored more goals at World Cups than Fontaine, a statistic made more remarkable by the fact he only played in the 1958 tournament.
He scored in every game in Sweden, including four goals in a 6-3 win over West Germany in the third-place play-off. In total, Fontaine scored 30 goals in just 31 appearances for France between 1953 and 1960. He retired in 1962 aged 28 after suffering a double leg fracture. It’s really sad that two months after the passing of Pelé, the 1958 World Cup has lost its other star performer in quick succession. Adieu, Justo. That record of yours won’t be beaten any time soon.
We enter March with that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer classic, Should I Stay or Should I Go? getting a good airing with several managers – Graham Potter particularly, but also Conor Wilde and Lee Murphy – looking at the possibility of being at home over Easter and not in the dugout after collecting their P45s and being told to do one shortly. So, imagine if the Premier League managers got fired and had to find ‘proper’ jobs, what would they be, and what would their lives be like?
Jurgen Klopp Head of HR at a German green energy company, cycling to work and a healthy work life balance and vegan based diet. Often seen smashed on a Thursday at the local Hofbräuhaus with the interns but gets in on Fridays looking fresh. Coaches an U-13 Sunday team but parents a bit confused by the mix of hugging, fierce glaring and ranting he gives the lads on the touchline.
Brendan Rodgers A sales trainer and motivational speaker. Uses PowerPoint graphs and charts and his own quotes to make you go the extra yard. Improves performance by 150%. No one likes him, but still has 5,000 followers on a Twitter account that almost reads like a parody. No one takes @deludedbrendan seriously, apart from Brendan.
Pep Guardiola Senior lecturer in Pure Mathematics at Manchester University. Absolute genius but is intolerant of average students. Hates laughter in the classroom. Struggles with normal humans with IQs less than 140. Sleeping on his mates’ sofa because his wife kicked him out after he trolled Carole Voderman on Instagram.
Frank Lampard Currently unemployed after a string of high-level jobs in big firms that he was unqualified for, and those he left behind bemused as to how he got the job in the first place. Is great in interviews but hasn’t actually a clue what he is doing on a day-to-day basis, currently on the after dinner speaking circuit as his wife refuses to cook dinner and wants him out of the house.
Patrick Viera Skiing instructor in a top resort in the French Alps. Looks cool and groovy as he’s swishing down the slopes. Moves well for a big bloke, but don’t get in his way as he’ll plough you down. Rumoured to be cavorting with the Operating Manager of the company supplying Russian chalet maids to his own portfolio of seven ski chalets in the resort.
Eddie Howe PE Teacher at a private school in Sussex, all the girls fancy him he tells his wife. He’s a nice guy but fully expect detention if you forget your kit. Busy out of school, provides career coaching session to executives in the Oil & Gas sector, owns two Brew Dog franchises and fronts an Oasis tribute band in his spare time, although keeps his gilet on and never wears a parka like Liam.
Mikel Arteta Hotel manager of a top hotel in Madrid. Presentation is perfect but can be abrupt and moody. Customer service is shocking. Changes the menu every week. All his staff want to leave. Started a side line as a male model for the older generation, sees himself as a fashion and style icon. Writes poetry in his spare time and a campaigner for Greenpeace.
This week saw the anniversary of a cold, wet and windy Wednesday night in March 1978. Through torrential rain and horrendous M62 traffic I was on the Burnley FC Supporters bus to watch Oldham v Burnley in the Anglo Scottish Cup Final, first leg. The Clarets took the lead through our talisman, Steve Kindon, in the first minute, and just a minute later our star striker, Paul Fletcher, rose majestically to plant a powerful header into the corner of the net. Unfortunately, it was our net, but a great finish, nonetheless. We dug in and won 4-1.
I always remember this game as it was my first away game on a supporter’s bus. But not because we won 4-1. There was mayhem in the carpark at the end of the game as some Oldham galoots decided to hoick bricks through the bus windows, so we went home up the motorway with wind and rain pouring into the bus, I got drenched, nearly got hypothermia. I got the following day off school though.
Great to see Magpies in Trafalgar Square and the fountain packed on the weekend, the once trendy London hangout for what seemed like every pigeon on the planet until some spoilsport introduced a breadcrumb ban. Travelling to London for their first cup final since 1999, thousands of Newcastle fans congregated around and – depending on how much Newkie Broon they necked and out numbering the police presence – in the famous fountain.
I could make a cheap comment about fans of their opponents Man United having a leisurely start and a late Sunday breakfast being based in the surrounding London suburbs, but we’re all grown up these days and much better than that, so I won’t. Trafalgar Square is the equivalent of Deera Square in Riyad, where Newcastle’s benevolent Saudi Arabian owners used to stage their public beheadings. Trafalgar Square was a far more convivial place to be, but there are rumblings now of an enquiry into their deal to buy Newcastle
I’m doing things I don’t get the chance to normally do for Fantasy League therapy, sat fourth in the table but more likely to finish an existential tenth than first. Yesterday I tidied up the garage and found the jet washing kit under a large bag of conkers, so I did some jet washing. Needless to say, I was spraying just about everything I could find – the car, the drive, next door’s windows (they’re on holiday), the dog. If it stayed somewhere for too long, it was jet washed. I found jet washing quite therapeutic, better than reading the back of cereal packets anyway as I toil with Martinelli or Saka in my squad.
But I am getting tense as we approach the run it. I woke up late this morning sweating from a nightmare that Rishi Sunak won our Fantasy League, with a team full of Chelsea, Everton and Bournemouth players because he somehow changed the rules of the game and had Jacob Rees Mogg in nets. I thought about necking the rest of the Cider and Benedictine cocktail I’d fixed last night but didn’t quite finish for breakfast, but instead I decided to meditate and think nice thoughts about football.
I fell back asleep and I found myself back in March 1978 at the Oldham v Burnley game, only this time I was playing. With my blistering pace, combined with the concomitant vapour trail of despair, I must have somehow burned a hole in the space-time continuum and I scored in the 4-1 victory. This meant I was able to travel back home on the Official Team Bus which had no broken windows and I didn’t get wet.
Onto the weekend, and time to refuel on Newcastle players I feel. I like Saint-Maximin but his feet look constantly five seconds ahead of his brain. What about Liverpool players? Jürgen Klopp doesn’t have the luxury of squad rotation we have, so not even the smallest sip of glühwein for Jürgs (I’ve worked out how to get the umlaut on Word again so why not use it?). Man United have not won at Anfield since 2016 but could Erik ten Hag’s side continue their recent revival by beating one of their biggest rivals in their own backyard and give Klopp more grief in what is a bang average season for Liverpool?
The life of a fantasy league manager is full of highs and lows. One moment you’re dining on lobster and Moët as you celebrate the fact you’ve got the Brazilian wonderkid from Leeds and no one else has, the next you’re fumbling around with a bench full of super stars from City that Pep won’t pick, feeling like Willy Wonka of Umbria. Foden this week anyone?
The FA Cup results this week have shaken things up a bit with Brentford v Leicester, Southampton v Tottenham and Wolves v Leeds now added to the fixture list in gameweek 28. Do you play your wildcard either this week or next week and build a squad to navigate gameweek 28 without the need for a Free Hit chip and then attacking double gameweek 29 with the Bench Boost chip when 12 teams have a double gameweek, or do you feel your current squad doesn’t need a wildcard to set it up for gameweek 29 and that you’ll be able to get close to your ideal line-up by just making a couple of extra transfers over the next couple of weeks, in which case it might be better to save the wildcard for further down the line. I haven’t a clue, transfer deadline is Saturday 11am and I’m going all in on Chelsea, Everton and Bournemouth players as I had a dream.