All football fans rue the day the football season finishes, and wonder what they will fill their time with over the summer months. The transfer window is occasionally exciting, especially when your team is involved, but nothing ever comes close to matching the excitement that comes with weekly fixtures. As the new season approaches, and the anticipation grows and grows, I always count the days until the new season begins with 3 major events: the premier league fixture release, pre-season tours, and fantasy football.
I sit on fixture release day and check the opening few games. The first results can set an entire campaign back a few notches, or propel the team into the new season with confidence; the run-in can be the difference between champions league and Europa league football, or between relegation and premier league survival. Meanwhile pre-season tours allow the club and the fans to assess the new players, the existing squad, and the management, giving everyone a first glimpse at a regenerated team that will dictate the happiness and heartache of the following 10 months.
Fantasy football, however, is completely controlled by the fan. Constructing my fantasy football team is one of the most agonisingly enjoyable experiences of my summer (it is surprising how often I use the term agonisingly enjoyable when referring to football!) It’s a difficult task to pick a squad of players from across the premier league to combine and score as many points as possible. I always feel self-doubt and worry that my team isn’t going to do well enough; I end up checking the players my friends have chosen to put in their team, and invariably think theirs look better, resulting in a complicated player jenga situation that causes more stress than it was worth.
Every season I follow the same pattern. I choose my goalkeepers (I always choose first XI keepers who play for mid-reaching teams, who I can interchange depending on weekly opponent). Then I choose my Liverpool players – this year Sturridge (my captain), Sterling, and Gerrard. Then I start to panic that I am running out of money, and start to hunt for deals and potential surprises. There is always a team which produces high-scorers that surprise you. Last year it was Southampton and the likes of Lallana, Lambert, Lovren, and Fonte (3 of whom I took a punt on at the beginning of the season) – has Ian Ayre been using his fantasy football team to complete the summer signings? I’ve gambled on Leicester this year for a couple of players, and filled in the rest.
Even now, one game weekend in, I think I have chosen a poor team. I want to make transfers and switch players in and out. It’s such a bizarre game. It means absolutely nothing, you don’t have as much control as you want, and you put a lot more time and effort into it than you say you will and know you should put in – a lot like following proper football. It adds stress to my life that I probably don’t need, until something more serious/time-consuming comes along, such as a dissertation (which scuppered my chances last year), when your team lays forgotten for weeks on end.
Despite this, I still look forward to seeing how I do week in week out. If Leicester beat Aston Villa, I will look to see who scored and who got an assist, and who was yellow or red-carded. When West Ham missed a penalty this weekend, I was more concerned about the player who took it than about the actual scoreline. It’s all part of the modern game.
I don’t just play fantasy football during the premier league season, I also play it at international competitions. I enjoyed having a team during the world cup, although it soon was forgotten when I had more ineligible players than transfers available. The whole concept of having a team during any competition just adds an extra dimension to my overall enjoyment, not that I needed that this summer.
I don’t just do it for personal satisfaction either. I am a member of many different leagues: a family league, a friend’s league, and a live4liverpool.com league. In addition, fantasy football will be a great way to keep in contact with the football world whilst I travel. If you haven’t ever made a team, you should check out the Barclays page and have a cheeky go, though I am in no way taking the blame for any addiction, but hereby lay claim to a cut of any prizes. And once you have, join some leagues, it’s much more fun when you can compare your squad against a myriad of friends and strangers alike.
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