The Battle of Brothers came to a conclusion, with a new name etched into the Gentlemen's Trophy. Meanwhile, there was a stunning twist in the title tale.
The last thing you need when you're top of the table, striving to achieve something you never thought possible and which is within touching distance, is a double gameweek where you have barely any players doubling and the only man who can crush your dreams has a Free Hit. It's a situation where so much is out of your control, where your rival can hand-pick the best eleven players with two fixtures and really make a dint in your lead, knowing that there is little you can do because every transfer you make after your one free transfer costs you points. It's a circumstance which pushes your risk-reward threshold to the limit, where you have to factor in the possibility of rotation, where every move you make to give yourself a chance of points brings your rival closer to you, where every mistake risks leaving your dreams shattered and where every choice could lead to a consequence you have no time to recover from. When the man you were going to captain gets injured before the deadline, freeing up so much of your transfer budget, the risk of overthinking and throwing it away is maximised, and you're left paralysed by indecision. Except, you have to pick your poison, because the deadline is upon you.
You opt for the safe free transfer, switching from Salah to de Bruyne to negate the risk of another huge haul. Except, it doesn't give you any extra games, because de Bruyne only plays once. You know you need to get another player in, and Maddison is screaming out to you. He plays Watford, then has a second game, you think. Bring him in and captain him. Take a chance. No, you tell yourself. He's been managing an injury, and he could end up rotated against Watford and you'll be left with a captain having one match against Chelsea in a double gameweek. But what if it pays off, you think, and you end up in the top-5k. But what if it doesn't, you reason, and you throw it all away.
You opt for the safe option, bringing in Zaha, with six goals in his last seven away matches and two favourable fixtures. At least he'll play them both. Then you watch in abject horror as Maddison scores 25 points and Zaha scores only six, breaking even on the hit but a massive opportunity gone. You watch as de Bruyne does nothing, while the two Manchester City defenders you own concede twice and score one point each. You cringe as your goalkeeper is benched against Watford, knowing that he'll only play once, against a Chelsea team you own three players from. You stare, helpless, as Alexander-Arnold is benched, knowing that your substitute, Dewsbury-Hall, will only get four points at most. You wince as Son, your brightest hope, gets only 3 points from his only fixture of the gameweek. You exhale a huge sigh of relief when your captain, Richarlison, gets a goal and an assist, but you know that it was the perfect week for the Free Hit, with several double gameweek players hitting huge scores in their first fixture, and you have little chance of keeping up with them.
You stare at your rival's team, flabbergasted that he chose not to play his Free Hit, and knowing you've got away with it.
Why Jockin' Jeeves played the Bench Boost is beyond me. Why he captained Salah and made no transfers, I can only speculate. Did his internet go down, leaving him unaware of Salah's injury? Did he take the gamble that Salah would play, and would run riot against Southampton? Did he think a Bench Boost of Guaita, Broja, Mateta and Davies and a Gameweek 38 Free Hit would bring in more points, even with the Salah injury doubts? Could he really not see a transfer to improve his squad, knowing that it would be wasted? Was he unaware the deadline was 10.30am, the earliest of the season, and did he miss it? Only he knows the answer, and his door has been closed to Jez Messing for months now, so we will never know for sure.
All we do know is that Matip and Mateta brought him in 21 points, that Davies kept a clean sheet and that Richarlison fired home nineteen points. Those points of the Everton talisman were poison points, however, with each one counting double for the Lords. He was making up ground, not as much as he would've done on a Free Hit, but enough to cause concern with a Free Hit still to play. The gap was closing. The pressure was building. The dream was fading, and then James floated a ball to the back post, Alonso struck it on the volley, the net rippled, my cats fled the room at the sound of my roar and the Lords moved ninety-nine points clear with a gameweek to go.
For the second gameweek running, my boys came through in the clutch moments. When my head was in my hands, they lifted it high. When my anxiety was through the roof, they calmed my nerves. The Chelsea defenders that have felt like a curse justified the faith placed in them. The Everton attacker nobody else in the division thought worthy of the armband gave them thirty-eight reasons for regret. Those three players were, except for Zaha's assist, the only ones in my squad to get any returns. They were the only ones I needed.
I'm not naïve enough to think it's over. Gameweek 38 is notoriously high-scoring, while some managers may take the opportunity to field some of their squad players. In an extreme circumstance, I could end up only fielding a handful of players, while Jeeves could use his Free Hit to select eleven differentials that all go wild, giving him the highest gameweek score in the world. All my players could score own goals before getting sent off, while Jeeves captains a random midfielder who gets the first-ever double-hat-trick in Premier League history. You just never know. The season isn't over until it's over, and the title isn't won until the final whistle is blown and the bonus points have been tallied up. A hundred-point swing is a gargantuan task, but Jeeves is a force of nature unlike no other. If anyone can do it, he can. But, for the first time this season, I don't think he will.
The King's Quest has been an odyssey unlike any other I've embarked upon before. The King's Road has led me to the depths of despair, through the darkest of nights and the blackest of moods. Six years of misery led to King Ding laying down the challenge. Two years of chronicling my failures in painstaking detail led me to the declaration this year would be my final attempt. Now, after eight years and thirty-seven gameweeks, the King's Road has brought me to the City of Champions. On the Final Day, we'll all find out whether the gates of glory will welcome me through, or whether I'll be locked outside forever, trapped in an FPL Nightmare from which I can never be awoken.
The Cup Chronicles
Before the winner of the League of Gentlemen is confirmed, there was one other competition to be completed: the Gentlemen's Trophy. The Battle of Brothers was taken into a deciding gameweek by Hitman Hodgson's Gameweek 36 victory, and he entered the rubber match with all the momentum. Again, both brothers named the same captain, with Son getting the nod. The big call was what to do with Salah, and while the Hitman made the safe switch to de Bruyne, the Dragon chose to name the Liverpool man in his first team, opting instead to strengthen the bench. Eyebrows were raised when he took a hit to replace Dennis with Welbeck and then named him as a substitute, but the Brighton man's goal gave the Dragon seven points when he replaced Salah in the team.
Indeed, it was the apparently-shrewd signing of Cash which proved to be the blunder. He only scored four points, a total that the man he replaced, Alonso, more than doubled. The Hitman signed the right Villa full-back, with Digne doubling the total of the Dragon's choice, while Gelhardt came in for the rested Robertson and added another five points, outscoring the Dragon's Gordon. However, the Dragon took the advantage through Watkins firing home ten points, while Schmeichel only secured four points for the Hitman. With the rest of their teams almost identical - including both men capturing Maddison's 25-point haul - it came down to the head-to-head battle of Dubravka and Nketiah. If Nketiah could repeat his brace in Gameweek 36, the Hitman would take the trophy; if not, the Dragon would be flying off with the prize. With a dominant performance from his team, only one man was ever going to win that battle, and Dubravka emerged with a clean sheet to ensure it was the Dragon who won the Battle of Brothers, adding his name to those of King Ding and Jockin' Jeeves as winners of the Gentlemen's Trophy.
Gentlemen's Trophy Grand Final, Match Three result:
Dan the Dragon 66 - 53 Hitman Hodgson
Grinchy Vogt took no hits this gameweek, and with another return from captain Rodri he managed to outscore the two teams above him. However, it is too late to throw a spanner in the works of his bizarre race to last place, with Lethal Lee 118 points away. Little else of note took place in the bottom ten, with the exception of Daredevil Daisy's inspired call to Triple Captain Bruno Guimarães securing 33 points, a score which saw her climb above Iceman Newton into 31st. Seven chips were played by the teams between 29th and twentieth, with varying degrees of success. Slick Rick got a solid sixteen points from his Bench Boost, with his score of 73 points considerably beating the five teams above him, despite Kane scoring 21 points for Big-Time Birkett on the Triple Captain. It was an FPL Nightmare for Mack Daddy McMahon, who saved his Free Hit for the perfect time then chose all the wrong players, somehow securing no returns and scoring just thirty points. That resulted in a three-place drop to 25th, with the Masterchef climbing two places to 23rd despite a poor Triple Captaincy of three-point Coutinho, a situation made worse by owning 25-point Maddison and nineteen-point Barnes. Also climbing two places was the Rough Rider, whose Free Hit scored 74 points, closing the gap on the Bench Boosting Ox, who gained only thirteen extra points from the chip. Also Bench Boosting was Flash Funk, and it proved an inspired decision, given he had left 25-point Maddison among his substitutes. That success meant he retained his top-half place and made up 28 points on nineteenth-place Private Parvesh, who is now just two points clear. Echoing the Masterchef's Triple Captain blunder was Terminator Tris, who gave it to three-point Son rather than Maddison, a decision which knocked him down to fourteenth behind Gladiator Glen. The highest-ranked Irrelevant chip was Red Hot Rob's Free Hit, but he too chose to captain Son rather than fifteen-point Vardy or nineteen-point Richarlison, both of whom had two fixtures. It was a blunder which saw him finally lose his ninth-place spot, with Stone Cold Stephen Levins moving a point ahead after Matip's eleven points came off his bench. Both men still have a chance of ending the season in the Elite, but they'll need to make up a half-century of points on the man in eighth on the Final Day.
It's a task that seems daunting, but it may be easier than they suspect, with eighth place now held by the freefalling Ginger Ben. It seems a cruel fate for the Mackem Messiah, having been a part of the title race for so long, but his transfer profligacy finally caught up with him in Gameweek 37. Having spent a reckless 92 points on additional signings in the last twelve gameweeks - one of which he used his Free Hit on - Ginger Ben decided to take a sixteen-point hit this gameweek, in an attempt to recreate the magic of last season's 149 points after a minus-twenty in a double gameweek. Lightning did not strike twice, with only a Kane goal and James assist to boost his score and four players scoring one or fewer points, his final gameweek tally came to just twenty points. You have to respect the courage to risk it all to try and capture a medal, and it's a shame his season will be remembered as a cautionary tale of the dangers of rolling the dice.
His four-place fall meant rises for three Gentlemen, but not for Hitman Hodgson, whose cup final heartbreak also saw him fall to seventh. That came courtesy of a gameweek-high score from King Ding, who replaced the injured Salah and Dennis with Jota and Vardy, gave Vardy the captaincy, and plundered 35 points from his new signings. Further returns from Pukki, James and Watkins resulted in an eighty-point score and a two-place rise in the table, just one point behind Mighty Mouse, who was another who owned Maddison yet named a three-point player as his Triple Captain. That meant only a point was gained on Dan the Dragon, who now lies in fourth place but faces a huge challenge to claim the bronze medal, with Go Cartin eighty points ahead in third. For Cartin to steal the silver, he will need to outscore Jockin' Jeeves by 57 points, a tall order at the best of times and one made even trickier by the Rap Rob Roy having a Free Hit to play. He needs Jockin' Jeeves to risk it all in the chase for the championship and for it to go horribly wrong, but with the Townhead Gunner now ranked 74,305 in the world and needing a hundred-point swing to win the title, his appetite for risk may be diminished, and he may well focus on securing his first-ever top-100k finish. Cartin can only hope Jeeves goes for it all; given the character of the man, it's a safe assumption that he will, and he will back himself to find the points needed. However, he has already blown his Bench Boost, with just two points gained, so Cartin has to have hope that the blunder is repeated on the Final Day.
The Man Who Would Be King
At the start of this concluding chapter of the trilogy, I said I just hoped to go into the Final Day with a chance of success. I will never have a greater chance than the one I have now. Countless hours invested in research and planning, so many sleepless nights, so much frustration, stress and agony punctuated by moments of joy have brought me to this point. It has resulted in a record-breaking season, with me now holding the League of Gentlemen's points record and also being the only Gentleman to ever break the 2,500 point glass ceiling. I think Jockin' Jeeves will get the 44 points he needs to join me there, but that we will be the only two Gentlemen ever to do so, in nine years of the division's existence, shows the standards the World's Greatest Mini-League has raised us to. Indeed, even Go Cartin in third has passed King Ding's title-winning score from two seasons ago, which really showcases the quality that has been on display during such a turbulent season.
Whatever happens on the Final Day, whether my dreams are dashed or they come true, it is the collective effort of the Gentlemen that have brought me here. I hoped to enter the Final Day with a fighting chance of completing the King's Quest. I enter it with an outside chance of taking his highest-ever Overall Ranking record. I end Gameweek 37 in 9,959th place; to surpass the King, I need to get to 7,043rd. It barely seems real that I am in this position, but now I am, I'm not going to spend time stressing. I've worked so hard to get into this position; once that deadline passes, it's out of my hands. Three more decisions to make: who to sign, who to start and who to captain. I have names in mind, but I will leave it as late as I dare in case of last-minute news. Ninety-nine points clear. Eight years and thirty-seven gameweeks to get to this point. One gameweek to go.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek 37 of the League of Gentlemen, which saw Ginger Ben's chickens come home to roost, which saw the Dragon emerge victorious in the Battle of Brothers, and which saw my boys take me to the verge of ending my FPL Nightmare. Ahead of the Final Day, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
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