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Fantasy Football

The Damned Fantasy Football Auction

It’s 3am. Your mouth is dry and you’re sleeping on a futon in a dark, unfamiliar room. You’re clammy and restless under this sleeping bag and you can feel the tell tale hints of a hangover creeping up your spine from your grumbling stomach.

Then you remember. Your annual fantasy football auction. You went for a balanced approach. None of this overbidding on star players for you. It was all about value. A good balanced squad. Solid scoring from all areas of the team. Let them other managers waste their money on this year’s flighty superstar strikers.

Somehow it feels the same again. Every year you make the same mistakes. Yet again, you’ve managed to buy two average goalkeepers, too many Tottenham defenders and a big bag of god-knows-what in midfield. Somehow, your chances of finishing in the top half are in the hands of Ashley Young and Hatem Ben Arfa.

You can’t sleep, so you get up and wander from the guest room of your mate’s house, turn left around the corner, down the stairs, along another corridor, past the kitchen and onto the scene of what should have been your greatest triumph. The living room carpet is strewn with bits of paper; scribbled bids, hasty calculations of remaining budgets, and hand-written warnings not to buy any more Arsenal players. The colour-coded dossier of players you were targetting was useless. Everything happened so fast. You didn’t have time to think straight. Your plans all went up in smoke. Burnt, burnt, burnt. Now you can hear the dogs barking in next door’s back garden.

The next morning you help to tidy up before your mate’s missus gets home with the kids. Empty bottles drained. Rubbish in big black bags outside the front door.

Everyone’s team is read out over bacon sandwiches and big mugs of tea and coffee. You raise an eyebrow in satisfaction after your full squad is read out. Don’t look over-confident. Looks good on paper. No obvious weaknesses. Murmurs of approval and sage nods of contemplation from your fellow hungover managers suggest you may have a chance this year.

But you know better.

It should be the happiest day of your fantasy football career, but you feel miserable. This happens every year. Balanced scoring actually just means more parts of the machine that can go wrong. It never works. You silently scoffed as your rivals fell over themselves to shell out 40% of their budget for the big name strikers in those tense early minutes of the auction. You winced and chuckled along later when they had to fill up their squads with the leftover defenders from the promoted teams.

But you realise now that you’ll need Aaron Ramsey, Tim Howard and Raheem Sterling to all score as many points as last year, or you’ll be doomed to finish in the bottom half again. They’ll all have to pull together. Work as a team.

Now you have months of sitting in front of Soccer Saturday ahead of you, hoping for Jeff Stelling’s raised voice to signal that Adam Johnson or Stewart Downing have suddenly popped up one cold winter afternoon and scored a brace, before they inevitably succumb to injury or loss of form and go six weeks without even getting an assist. It’s just like the old days, when it was Damien Duff and Aaron Lennon.

You go outside for a cigarette. Under a grey sky. There are crows on the street lights and the dogs are barking in next door’s back garden. A bottle of Italian lager to cheer you up before you jump in the back seat for the long trip home.

With the greatest of respect (and apologies) to David Peace and his novel ‘The Damned United’.


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