tsf.tech fantasy league update: gameweek 34


You had to be collecting 80+ points in last week’s jamboree to get into contention for top dog, and it was Katie, just back from her honeymoon, who clobbered 111 points into her bag, just seeing off Sasha (103) and Rhys (95). Palmer gathered 52 armband points was her ace card. Still leading the pack in Michael (2,043) ahead of Nick (2,025) and Mr. Wright (1,972), whilst the huffing and puffing for April sees Sasha (241), Katie (234) and Cornel (234) leading the way for girl power, except not Cornel, he’s a bloke. Michael remains comfortable, waiting for his Champions medal, some 18 points ahead such that rumours are rife he’s taking the next two weeks off from his spreadsheets and going fishing.

For the rest of us mortals and minions now looking forward to the cricket season, he’s a clip of  A slight mix-up in defence for Barry Town United against Haverfordwest to make your own team’s defending not look quite as bad as you thought. With the top four separated by just 72 points as we enter Gameweek 34, I grabbed the Gary Neville Sky TV microphone and interviewed the managers as they stand on the verge of the best day of their life since they learned to ride a bike.

Michael: How will you finish? Old rivals have some experience, new entrants less than me so I will smash them, top dog for me. I have already baked three crusty, meaty ‘pies in the sky’ – for Nick, Mr. Wright and Aleksa to show them that really, you never did stand a chance. What will it mean to win the tsf.tech Fantasy League? It’s more important than the Eurovision Song contest. It will be the greatest day in my life since I learned to ride a bike and stopped getting scabby knees.

Nick: How will you finish? I’m worried that my squad has the mental fortitude of a soggy paper bag filled with a cold kebab at 2am on a Friday night and will fail just at the final hurdle. What will it mean to win the tsf.tech Fantasy League? I hope to use victory to become a pre-eminent sports psychologist; I’ve already written the first chapter of ‘The good psychopath’s guide to fantasy league success’.

Mr. Wright” How will you finish? Another spin of the morbid carousel but looking up the table rather than down. What will it mean to win the tsf.tech Fantasy League? It will mean that you come first in the list of players because you have accumulated more points than other players.

Aleksa: How will you finish? Me in first. History suggests a tragicomic lurching surfing skid to flirting with glory with a hope that ability, spirit and intelligence and good looks can beat the advantages of money, although in reality my expectations will tumble from the dog’s arse of expectation and thud upon the pavement of underachievement. I’m good at creating disturbing mental images. What will it mean to win the tsf.tech Fantasy League? Aim for the stars, and even if you miss, at least you tried. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees and all that.

No matter how mature and averse to hyperbole you are, it can be difficult not to get carried away on this Fantasy League stuff. After all, if you can’t despair for the future of mankind when five defenders can’t keep a clean sheet between them, then when can you? The wackiness, the banter, the realisation that your heart really did just skip a beat because your team has got 35 points with four players left to play this weekend, well, none of it is exactly conducive to the smooth flow of serotonin. I’ll stop there as I’m starting to rival Jamie Carragher’s penetrating Sky punditry and analysis – a man who claimed Ballotelli’s free transfer to Nice was overpriced, and I’ll revert back to the quiet banality of Thierry Henry, the pundit most admired by taxidermists.

City’s to lose Going into last weekend’s fixtures, the talk was about who would blink first as three teams contested the title, and on Sunday we got our answer. As Palace and Villa did the business against Liverpool and Arsenal, most of us were left staring in slack-jawed amazement as whilst they peppered their opponents’ goal with the number of shots more common at happy hour in a Magaluf nightspot, they somehow drew blanks.

It is only after it has been examined by some cravat-wearing posh bloke with a jeweller’s eyepiece on Antiques Roadshow, that we’ll learn the precise value City’s 5-1 thumping of Luton, but for now it is the two they left behind that will be preoccupying this coming weekend’s chat. Jürgen’s post-match wrath was on his strikers, but perhaps mindful of the negative publicity generated by his belittling a reporter who had the temerity to ask him a question in an interview, he was clearly seething but cut a surprisingly and almost comically restrained figure during his post-match debrief. You suspect he is unlikely to have extended the same courtesy to his profligate players.

He insisted there’s still plenty to play for. We are fine with our situation. I wish we had more points but I’m absolutely fine and over the moon that these boys brought us into that situation. The same boys who missed a few chances today are the boys who brought us 71 points. And with ‘over the moon’ being where several of the footballs kicked towards the Palace goal by Salah, Díaz and Núñez were subsequently spotted by astronomers, you have to applaud the German’s dedication to English cliche. Liverpool lost their first home league game in 18 months, the players looked more haunted than an entire series worth of amusement parks on Scooby-Doo. With City now two points clear at the top, there’s still plenty of football to play and a sporting chance City could still slip up but one gets the feeling it’s theirs to lose.

England’s Football League was formed 136 years ago this week, 17 April 1888 at the Royal Hotel, Manchester (at the corner of Market Street and Mosley Street). All twelve founder members came from the North and Midlands. The club badges are this week’s photo. Burnley’s Turf Moor hosted games in the inaugural 1888-89 season and is one of only three original grounds remaining – Preston and Sheffield United being the other two – reflecting the roots of the game in working class Northern towns.

The roots of The Football League can be traced back to William McGregor, then secretary of Aston Villa, who created the league itself, and Charles Sutcliffe, a Burnley supporting solicitor from Rawtenstall, Lancashire, who devised the mathematical process for compiling the fixtures. McGregor sent a letter to clubs including the line: I tender the suggestion… that 10 or 12 of the most prominent clubs combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season. The meeting at the Royal Hotel coined the name The Football League on a suggestion from the representative from Preston, Major William Sudell. It remains a pivotal point in football’s development because it is the moment when the idea of league football was given a public expression. Before that clubs played mainly in cup competitions, supplemented by ad-hoc friendlies.

This was the start of Saturday at 3pm as we know it today, professional football gets organised and regular. The inaugural season kicked off on 8 September and was won by Preston North End, who went through the 22-game season unbeaten. They also won the FA Cup and became known as the Invincibles. On the opening weekend, Preston beat Burnley 5-2, but we won’t linger on that. Charles Sutcliffe was a remarkable man. He developed the system of working out the full fixture list, which was an arduous task to say the least, especially when one considers that by 1923 there were 88 league clubs. It was a task he performed until his death in 1938 after which his son Harold took over until he died in October 1967.

Football’s version of toddlers at a party fighting over the last piece of cake was what we saw at Chelsea v Everton.  Having watched his team record their best result of the season with a 6-0 victory, Poch must have been thrilled the post-match press conference was dominated by talk of an unseemly squabble between several of his players over who should take a pen. Finally, we have seen with incontrovertible evidence of what the Argentinian has to put up with: an elite manager cast into a role more kindergarten cop than Jürgen Klopp.

Poch has had foisted upon him a squad seriously lacking in humility. On Monday night, Jackson and Madueke proved the point when both tried to snatch a spot-kick from each other and their team’s designated penalty-taker. Ultimately neither petulant tantrum-thrower got their way and demonstrating effortless cool of the jazz musician his name suggests he should really be, Cole Palmer got to riff, be-bop and scat on an already perfect hat-trick.

Put your passports away In Wednesday’s Big Cup second legs we saw Etihad Oil & Gas City exit to the plucky Spanish underdogs of Real Madrid, the kind of fixture following the first leg 3-3 to prompt even the most disillusioned viewer to tune in. But it was on TNT, so I didn’t. The second leg of a European knockout tie sounds like it should be an exercise in tactical intellectualism, a highbrow affair for which the word ‘cagey’ was invented. Instead both games had their childlike moments. Arteta, the I’m-not-angry-just-disappointed headmaster, wasn’t enthralled by his side’s defending: We gave them the goal today, he announced before dishing out detention after exiting to Bayern.

Yes, City are out, Madrid are through, water is wet. Stick your xG, bookies’ odds, possession stats, and moral victories. Liam and Noel, Ricky Hatton, your boys took one hell of a beating. Madrid continued their inevitable march towards another Big Cup semi-final, their twelfth in the last fourteen years. Sometimes over the years they have bullied and swaggered their way to victory, on Wednesday they grafted, rode their luck, watched as their opponents inexplicably squandered their chances. Madrid always find a way. Carlo Ancelotti always finds a way. How do they do it?

Jude Bellingham trumpeted after the game. Carlo just fills you with calmness and confidence. Before the game, I caught him yawning and asked him: Boss, are you tired? He said you need to go and excite me out there. That’s the calmness and confidence he brings. It’s the sort of quote that would make Pep spontaneously combust. How did Don Carlo, all eyebrows and cigars, ‘vibe’ his way past the City supercomputer? It seems nobody really has an answer. I will sleep very well tonight, with a beer explained Ancelotti, almost apologetically.

For Bayern, in a season of turmoil in which they lost the title with five games to spare and went out of the German Cup to third-tier opposition, this Big Cup run represents something of redemption. Harry Kane may yet win a trophy. No surprise Barcelona went out, their own fans pelted their own team coach by mistake on Tuesday. With Mbappé leaving PSG this summer to bring an end to the mega-galactico era in Paris, this is a last shot at continental glory for this iteration of the club. What a heart-swelling tale it’ll be if they do it, that of the plucky state-backed side, having splurged their billions and monopolised success at home, finally lifting the Big Cup. Someone pass the tissues.

F A Cup replays have been dropped. There were 729 teams competing in this season’s F A Cup, yet the format is being dictated by the Premier League which represents 0.3% of them. Why were EFL and non-league clubs not consulted? Why is the Premier League even dictating whether replays are allowed in rounds they don’t participate in? Protest is needed! RIP Replays. Another part of the game’s great heritage sacrificed for the elite. A famous chapter of the football scrapbook consigned to the scrapyard. Sad but inevitable. The Champions League is expanding and the show-me-the-money top clubs don’t value the Cup as much, though many of their fans do.

Everton’s financial meltdown continues Everton paid £30m interest on their £225m debt with Rights & Media Funding, with new filings at Companies House suggesting a trail leading to Michael Tabor, an unsavoury tax exile character. That’s £438k a week, a figure more than three times the reported wages of the goalie Jordan Pickford. Everton was deducted points for the second time in the season for breaches of profitability and sustainability rules recently and the accounts had a qualification, with a ‘material uncertainty over future financing that may cast significant doubt about the group’s ability to continue as a going concern’. Meanwhile, 777 Partners, a prospective buyer of Everton, has spent six months attempting to raise the funds to complete its planned takeover.

Everton face a pivotal three games in seven days which could leave lasting repercussions on their long-term ambitions. After Monday’s 6-0 thrashing at Chelsea, the Toffees play consecutive home games starting with fellow strugglers Forest on Sunday, before hosting Merseyside rivals Liverpool, followed by Brentford. Another turbulent campaign on the pitch is running parallel to Everton’s highly uncertain future off it.

Everton has £580m of loans from Rights & Media Funding (£231m), 777 Partners (£180m), MSP Sports Capital, two local businessmen (£158m), and Metro Bank (£11m). The MSP loan was due to be repaid on Monday, but they agreed an extension until the end of the season. Seven months on talks continue to rumble on as 777 aims to satisfy the Premier League it can provide evidence of where the money is coming from and give proof of adequate funds for three years of the business plan. Everton’s proud top-flight status is unbroken since 1954. Simon Goodley analyses and untangles the ever-bewildering state of Everton’s finances. It’s not pretty. Simon Goodley analyses and untangles the ever-bewildering state of Everton’s finances. It’s not pretty.

Something for the weekend I’m retiring from this Fantasy League malarkey at the end of the season, as Burnley return to our roots and natural habitat of the EFL where we get 3pm Saturday kick offs, I realise I’m bored by both the reality of the Premier League and the fantasy of Fantasy League. Give me Sheffield U v Burnley in the Premier League one last time this Saturday and then in the Championship next. For those who wish to adopt the latest tech in their team selections, here’s what others are doing Deepmind.

We’re ready to talk...

Wherever you are on your startup journey, get in touch and let’s unpack your thinking together and see where we can help turn your idea into a reality.