Last season, every manager in the top nine of the League of Gentlemen secured a personal best Overall Ranking. Nine managers who had the season of their lives, nine managers who responded to the pandemic and Project Restart by turning it to their advantage, driving their teams to previously-unseen heights and ensuring that last season went down in history for each of them. Those managers, the best nine managers in the League of Gentlemen, the most-fancied managers to navigate through this year’s uncertainty and emerge stronger for it, all of them end Gameweek Five stranded in the Irrelevants.
The worst gameweek of the Fallen Nine was suffered by King Ding, whose struggle for motivation manifested in a woeful 41 points, nineteen below the gameweek average and fifty points off the division’s highest gameweek score. It has been the King’s worst start to a season on record, and while he is expected to recover, he is already 57 points and ten places off the top of the table. While Jockin’ Jeeves and Hitman Hodgson each shifted the momentum of their season with scores in the eighties, their shocking opening month has left them even further off the pace, while All-Star Vogt, the Masterchef, Lord Geord and Big-Time Birkett continue to barely cling to relevance, all of them needing some big scores in the coming weeks to avoid their dreams of success burning out before Bonfire night.
Of the Fallen Nine, only two men will be moderately happy. For Deadly Daz, this was the week he’d been looking forward to. Going head-to-head with his brother in the cup, he saw the combination of captain Kane and Lord Geord’s transfer hits put him in an unassailable position, while also closing the gap on Big Steve and King Ding ahead of him. For Big Steve, this gameweek was the fulfilment of his ambitions this season. Having enlisted the forces of Red Hot Rob and Sirloin Sean in his Appleby Assassins Guild, his aim for the season was clear: if he couldn’t win the title, he was going to make sure King Ding did not. Big Steve declared revolution in pre-season, and so far the King has been unable to fend off the insurgents, dropping behind Big Steve to eleventh and struggling mentally for motivation. Heavy lies the crown, and after four titles in seven years, perhaps the King has passed his prime, perhaps he just doesn’t have the energy and desire to keep coming back to conquer new frontiers, to defend himself from the hungry vultures circling overhead.
Of course, it is still early days. It remains to be seen whether the likes of Slick Rick, Dan the Dragon, Iceman Newton and Ginger Ben can sustain their challenges; it could be that, come Gameweek Ten, the League of Gentlemen more closely resembles the one predicted by the pundits in pre-season. Yet, it must be remembered that Big Steve came from nowhere to dominate right up until last season’s Final Day. Maybe this year will see three or four Big Steve’s emerge. Maybe a change of the guard is coming, and the question we should be asking isn’t can anyone beat King Ding, but how can he possibly fend off so many new challengers. That’s a question only time can answer, one that pervades every narrative of the season unfolding.
Group C featured the first instalment of the Wars of the Lawes, a titanic clash which saw Deadly Daz overcome an early deficit to stun Lord Geord 66-52, with captain Kane proving the big hero. With Jez Messing reporting the older Lawes has secured the signature of the Spurs saviour ahead of Matchday Four, that advantage has disappeared, though the Deadly One now begins Matchday Four with an eight-point advantage by virtue of the hits taken to capture Kane. That result could prove pivotal in the group after Slick Rick’s 83-49 destruction of Private Parvesh; if he repeats the result next week, the Lawes brothers will be going head-to-head for the second qualifying spot. Should Deadly Daz win in Matchday Four, his passage into Round Two will be confirmed.
Group D is another one proving to be a close contest, with Who Horner and Jockin’ Jeeves gaining the advantage by virtue of their victories over The Ox and The Masterchef respectively. With the Matchweek Three fixtures repeated next time out, however, it could well end up a situation where all four teams have four points from four games. The Masterchef is the man with the most worries; while all three of his group rivals scored 80+ points, his team struggled to reach a half-century; his transfer dealings this week could determine the trajectory of the rest of his season.
Gentlemen’s Classic, Matchday Three results:
Big Steve 64 – 62 All Star Vogt
Flash Funk 65 – 85 Sirloin Sean
King Ding 41 – 80 Hitman Hodgson
Big-Time Birkett 57 – 71 Ginger Ben
Deadly Daz 66 – 52 Lord Geord
Private Parvesh 49 – 83 Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves 82 – 50 The Masterchef
Who Horner 85 – 80 The Ox
Gentlemen’s Classic Group Tables:
A twenty-four point gap then emerges to fourteenth, presently occupied by Jockin’ Jeeves on 265 points. It’s been a poor start to the campaign for the two-time champ, who will be hoping his highest total of the season is the launchpad for a rise in the league. His first targets are Hitman Hodgson, five points ahead, and Deadly Daz, who finishes the gameweek with a seven-point advantage. All three of those managers will have their targets locked on King Ding, whose apathetic start to the season has seen him drop to eleventh, with only 279 points secured. The King won’t be panicking too much, however, with his 116-point comeback to win last season’s competition still fresh in the memory. Three points ahead is last season’s runner-up, Big Steve, while Who Horner rounds off the Irrelevants, seventeen points off the Chasing Pack.
Both men are hot on the heels of Wooden Spoon Helling, just four points ahead in sixth and dropping like a stone. Indeed, it is only the set-and-forget captaincy of Kane that is keeping him in the hunt, with the England striker single-handedly dragging a poor squad to respectability. Helling’s refusal to manage his team most gameweeks will punish him going forward, with van Dijk’s injury ruling him out for the season and Azpilicueta his last sub. Helling does retain some dangerous players in his squad, but the mounting injury crisis will leave it impossible for him to compete in the upper reaches long-term. Moving ahead of him into fifth is Sirloin Sean, who ends a torrid run of form with a huge score of 85 points, gained on the back of his Wildcard. It could’ve been even better, had Martinez and Saiss started ahead of Patricio and Castagne, but the Appleby Assassins Guild member will be pleased to have stopped the rot. His squad looks strong for the weeks ahead, packed with in-form players and great options on his bench. With some tasty fixtures for his players this weekend, Sirloin will expect to finish Gameweek Six back in the Title Contenders.
Directly ahead of him in the bronze medal position is Iceman Newton, who was furious not to end this gameweek in first place. Speaking exclusively to Jez Messing, he said Jimenez was ‘lucky not to be off’ and his ‘spawny deflection shouldn’t count as a goal.’ He went on to decry the FPL Gods, insisting they were out to get him and that Jimenez himself was a ‘lucky wanker.’ The depth of his unhappiness was twofold; not only did Jimenez’s goal consign his beloved Leeds to defeat, it also gave the two teams ahead of him an extra six points, while denying him an extra four points. That ten-point swing would’ve seen the Iceman top of the table, but this week he has to settle for third. Fuelled by his outrage, the Iceman is coming out swinging, revealing to Messing that his Wildcard has already been played, and that Bamford and Werner are out, while Watkins and Kane are in. Interestingly, he has also replaced Zaha with Grealish, meaning that he is backing Leeds to concede several goals on Friday. How ironic it would prove if they deliver, and his joy at climbing to the top of the league was at the expense of his team’s destruction by a club he despises. Ironic, yet the sort of twist of fate the FPL Gods love to deliver.
Rising into second place is Slick Rick, following an 87-point week that leaves him just two points off the top spot. Often criticised for his triple-Spurs approach, the form of Kane and Son – the highest scoring striker and midfielder – have fired the Trickstars into second, and had they started the in-form Robertson over Alexander-Arnold or Walker-Peters, they’d be looking down on everyone right now. 49 points from captain Kane, Son and Reguilon provided the foundation the rest of his team built on, with Zaha, Ings, Patricio and Jimenez adding further returns to take the Trickstars just two points off the summit. In terms of potential problems looming, Onomah’s omission from Fulham’s squad and Douglas leaving Leeds on loan leave Slick Rick with just one outfield substitute; he would be well-served to spend some of the £2.8m left in his transfer kitty to upgrade at least one of those players and give himself some options, especially as neither Trezeguet or Dendoncker are likely to add many additional points. Still, a great start to the season for Slick Rick, who will be looking to Mourinho’s marvels to take him one place higher next time out.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Five, which saw the Dragon start to roar, which saw King Ding hit the floor, which saw defeat for the Lord in the Wars of the Lawes, and which saw Ginger Ben’s inexperience and flaws fling wide open the door for his rivals to outscore him in the weeks that matter more. As always, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
Gentlemen's Classic fixtures, Gameweek Six:
All-Star Vogt vs Big Steve
Sirloin Sean vs Flash Funk
Hitman Hodgson vs King Ding
Ginger Ben vs Big-Time Birkett
Lord Geord vs Deadly Daz
Slick Rick vs Private Parvesh
The Masterchef vs Jockin' Jeeves
The Ox vs Who Horner