In a twist to the tale nobody was prepared for, the Lords are at the top of the table. Is this the start of the fairytale conclusion to the saga, or the harshest twist in the Nightmare that the FPL Gods can conceive?
And so, after seven years and thirteen gameweeks, the Lords have made it to the top of the mountain.
The combination of lucky number seven and unlucky number thirteen is fitting, because there has been no luck involved in my team becoming the apex predators. The serendipity and the misfortune have balanced each other out as a result of my studying the failures of previous seasons in minute detail, then formulating a plan in how to approach this season. It was a plan I revealed in the epilogue of The FPL Nightmare II: The Crying, the Hits and the VAR Probe, and it’s one I have stuck with despite never quite being happy with my squad, never quite feeling in control of the situation and never quite entering a gameweek with confidence of a strong showing.
What I am learning is that having a plan works well in removing doubt from the situation. I am the only manager outside of the Irrelevants not to take a single transfer hit, which has meant starting my gameweek a striker’s goal ahead of some of my main rivals on several occasions. During the early, fallow gameweeks of Harvey Barnes, my abstention from extra transfers meant his aversion to goals and assists went unpunished, because I already had the extra four points in the bag. As Barn-Door Barnes gave way to Said Blankrahma, again, the points I’d banked by not taking a hit mitigated the damage. With Bryan Mbeunopoints now stinking up the joint, and Michail Antoniohdear failing to make much of an impact, not taking a single transfer hit means that their incompetence is shielded from hurting my position. The old Lawes would have taken around thirty-two points-worth of hits by now. The old Lawes would have missed out on Saint-Maximin’s haul last weekend, two White clean sheets earlier in the season and Toney’s fifteen points in two gameweeks. He’d have spent four points to replace Rudiger with Alonso for a gain of nothing, he’d have spent another four points to switch Antonio to Jimenez for another gain of nothing, and he’d have spent four extra points to switch Mbeumo to Gallagher for, you guessed it, another gain of nothing. The old Lawes would’ve been twelve points down this gameweek despite having a better squad. The Lawes that walks the King’s Road is top of the table by eleven points. The plan is working.
The problem I have now is that I’ve never been in this position before. For seven years and thirteen gameweeks, I have been the chaser. Now, I am the chased, the hunted, the man locked in the sights of forty sniper rifles, all waiting for a stumble that gives an opportunity to take me down. Perhaps this is the final torture of the FPL Gods, to give me a taste of glory only to snatch it all away. Perhaps this is the beginning of the most improbable title success ever, in the final book of a trilogy that was never meant to exist, by a player who has previously shown no signs of being able to become a champion. It certainly alters the dynamics of the story, making it more difficult to write and more intriguing a prospect.
The season is a third of the way completed, meaning this is no fluke, but there are still twenty-five long, hard, arduous gameweeks to go, with the Festive Frenzy, the African Cup of Nations, blank gameweeks and the doubles all still to navigate. So much can still go wrong, and all I can do is take it one gameweek at a time. That being said, I will not shy away from the challenge. I believe I can win this division, and that my FPL Nightmare will end with the completion of the King’s Quest. For Gameweek Fourteen, the approach I have decided on is to bring in Gallagher for Mbeumo. A solid transfer, an obvious transfer, yet the sensible move. Double-Brentford attack is not the route to success this season, and Gallagher is the third-highest scoring midfielder in the game, is on set-pieces (when Milivojevic isn’t on the pitch) and is a bargain price. I toyed with the idea of selling both Antonio and Son, but I believe both have a higher upside than Mbeumo, so they receive a stay of execution.
There is nothing revolutionary about my tactics, and there is nothing in my history to suggest I can maintain my position at the top. However, this is not the old Lord Geord. This is the Lord Geord that walks the King’s Road, the Lord Geord that has the courage to complete the King’s Quest without needing to give myself an excuse for failure by taking ridiculous transfer hits. I have made it clear this will be the final chronicle of the League of Gentlemen. It’s now or never for me, and I embrace the pressure and the challenge that goes with that.
Seven years and thirteen gameweeks to make it to the top. Twenty-five gameweeks to go. One gameweek at a time.
The Cup Chronicles
Both groups are poised on a knife-edge in the Gentlemen’s Classic, with Matchday Nine’s results leaving us with three teams tied for second in both groups. The defending league champion, Dan the Dragon, underlined his prowess with a narrow one-point victory over the two-time league champion, Jockin’ Jeeves. With both men deadlocked at 48 points apiece after ten players, it came down to who would replace their absent attackers. The Dragon’s heart was in his mouth when one-point Townsend entered the fray, but that miserable single-pointer was enough, with Jeeves’ Livramento failing to secure a solitary point. With Broja’s two points taunting him from the third-substitute position, Jeeves will be hoping his ordering of his reserves does not prove his ultimate downfall. He retains second position on a three-way Tiebreaker, with Sirloin Sean’s unexpected victory over Big Steve leaving three players tied for second. With the Dragon needing only one victory to advance, the three other managers in Group A will be hoping for some big victories to prevent leaving the competition through a Tiebreak situation.
In Group B, Ginger Ben drove home his improvements this season with a comfortable eleven-point victory over the reigning Classic champion, Hitman Hodgson. The Hitman will rue the absent Son and Reguilon after Burnley vs Spurs was cancelled, as although Pinnock’s six points came off his bench to replace Reguilon, Fornals two points were no replacement for Son, a man with five goal involvements in three games against Burnley. Had the South Korean star featured, the result may have been different, but Ginger Ben – whose two substitutes called-upon scored just two points – now needs one victory from his remaining three matches to confirm his place in the semi-finals. The manager who would join him remains open for question after The Ox stunned Red Hot Rob, with the shock benching of Ronaldo opening the door for The Ox to steal a two-point victory. Stage Two has been a struggle so far for The Ox, but this victory gives him hope that a strong finish could yet see the underdog reach the knockout stages.
Gentlemen's Classic results, Matchday Nine:
Big Steve 39 - 42 Sirloin Sean
Dan the Dragon 49 - 48 Jockin' Jeeves
Ginger Ben 61 - 50 Hitman Hodgson
Red Hot Rob 39 - 41 The Ox
After his fortuitous survival in Gameweek Twelve, it’s the end of the road for Uncaged Bage in the Eliminator, with his abysmal 24 points nowhere near the benchmark for advancement. The second slot went right to the wire, with three teams within a point of each other. It was a case of three substitutes, with Rice’s two points ensuring Red Hot Rob made it through, while Terminator Tris was saved by Saint-Maximin. For the Gentleman who suffered Elimination, it was the sub denied entry to the game by a one-point cameo from Mount that proved decisive. As Josh King’s six points wasted away on the bench, the one-point deficit proved too much to overcome, meaning the man saying goodbye to the competition is Deadly Daz.
The great run of form continued for Killer Kev, who had an abysmal start to the campaign but has rebounded in fine fashion. After winning October’s Manager of the Month award by 22 points, he has continued to climb in the rankings, making it up to 33rd in Gameweek Thirteen following a 62-point gameweek – the joint highest in the division. He did waste his Triple Captain in doing so, gaining only six extra points from the chip, but he will be enjoying climbing through the ranks and will hope to keep doing so. The other manager emerging with 62 points is Stone Cold Stephen Levins, whose differential captaincy of Vardy proved inspired and saw him back in the green arrows. The Ox’s cup success did not translate to his league performance, with the Masterchef’s ballsy choice of Alexander-Arnold as captain seeing him rise four places in the table, displacing The Ox in 26th. The father-and-daughter Lawes duo retained their 22nd and 21st places, with their poor showings not enough to see them fall, and Sirloin Sean’s eight-point hit keeping him firmly in their sights. The FPL Nightmare continues for Big-Time Birkett, who has plummeted in the table in recent gameweeks, and who failed to break thirty points for the third time in four gameweeks. That the only time he managed to do so was with a Wildcard is a big cause for concern, though he was perhaps a touch unfortunate to see both goalkeepers ruled out, two outfield Spurs players unable to play, Bowen benched for tactical reasons and Cresswell go off injured. His squad could easily rebound with a huge score, but the pain of his recent woes will linger for many gameweeks to come.
In the upper reaches of the Irrelevants, Brad the Lad and Gladiator Glen continue to climb through the top twenty, though Big Steve and King Ding, who gave us such a thrilling tale in the first FPL Nightmare book, remain in fifteenth and fourteenth and continue to struggle for momentum. Iceman Newton and Ash the Bash climbed above Terminator Tris and Red Hot Rob, with Ash the Bash now within striking distance of Hitman Hodgson, who just can’t seem to take that final step into the Elite. He did manage to take a huge stride towards that goal in Gameweek Thirteen, however, closing the gap by fourteen points to leave himself just four extra points to find. Given the way the man in eighth is approaching the game, few would bet against Gameweek Fourteen being the one in which the Hitman climbs out of Irrelevants.
The reason for that is because the man in eighth place, Grinchy Vogt, has completely lost the plot. Since losing top spot in Gameweek Nine, following the disastrous decision to captain one-point Vardy over 24-point Salah, the Grinch has gone into self-destruct mode. He has taken eight separate transfer hits in the last four gameweeks, leaving his squad unable to have any time to score him points, and absolutely decimating his overall ranking and league position. Having enjoyed four gameweeks inside the top-1,000 overall, he now lies just outside the top-770k and he is falling fast. No longer brash and confident in the press conferences, he has become obsessed with the apparent unfairness of transfer hits counting in gameweek scores in these chronicles, and has declared he will continue taking excessive hits for the foreseeable future, claiming he is finding more enjoyment in overhauling his squad than in scoring points. Jez Messing, undercover as a tea lady, reports that his players are whispering between themselves in the canteen, and that they believe he is trying too hard to cover his disappointment at dropping in the rankings. The Grinch’s men find the pressure of being expected to perform instantly or else face the axe too much to handle, and they believe this act of self-sabotage is so that he can claim, come the end of the season, that he would’ve won the league, if only he’d wanted to. It’s a warning to both the Chancellor and myself about the perils that come with the loss of top spot, something the Chancellor now has to contend with and I must be prepared for, should I relinquish top spot in the future. Hopefully the Grinch can get his head straight, because it’s a shame to see someone who was so excellent from Christmas until Halloween throw it all away in a tantrum over nothing.
There were no positional changes throughout the rest of the Elite, save for the Chancellor dropping into second spot. Indeed, the Dragon, Mighty Mouse, Jockin’ Jeeves and Go Cartin, who jockeyed for position throughout the gameweek and all held various other slots at various points, ended up scoring within three points of each other and staying right where they started. It was a situation Ginger Ben thrived on, outscoring them all by at least ten points to put eighteen points between his bronze medal position and Go Cartin in fourth. Not only that, he made up a massive 23 points on the Chancellor, slashing what was a 28-point margin to just five points. That he did so with three of his defenders contributing just two points between them is even more impressive, with the Liverpool trio of Salah, Alexander-Arnold and especially Jota pivotal to his success. Also critical was Toney outscoring Ronaldo by nine points, though the Chancellor was saved from complete obliteration by Fernandez securing his first clean sheet of the season, bringing in nine crucial points that limited his fall to just one place. With more than half of their teams distinct from each other, anything could happen in the medal positions in Gameweek Fourteen.
The Man Who Would Be King
That volatility extends to the gold medal position as well, with only four starting players shared between the Chancellor and myself. While Ginger Ben and I share seven starters, those that are different are high-impact players, who could secure a haul in any given gameweek. It’s a situation that is tantalising for the neutral, and it makes me relieved to have an eleven-point margin over the Chancellor and sixteen over the Ginger Goliath. It would be a lie to say I’m completely comfortable in this position, with my immediate thoughts turning to how many points I can afford to lose next time out, rather than my chances of pulling further away. Though I dreamt of winning the League of Gentlemen, I never imagined I would top the table at this stage of the season. Where once there was no pressure except whether I could avoid transferring myself into oblivion, now I face 25 gameweeks of expectancy. This is my last chance, and I’ve put myself into the driving seat. I’m eleven points clear, and I’m 39 ahead of Jockin’ Jeeves, who has a psychological hold over me that nobody else in the division manages to have. There’s every chance I will overthink myself into oblivion. There’s every chance I will panic amidst an injury crisis, take one hit and see it lead to another, then another. There’s an excellent chance that I will be overtaken by somebody, at some stage, and how I handle that is something I cannot predict, because I have no experience in this position. There are so many uncertainties, but there is also immense pride that, after seven years and thirteen gameweeks, I am finally the Man Who Would Be King. That leaves me just one last hurdle to overcome, converting the ‘Would Be’ to ‘Is The,’ and it’s the toughest task of all. Let’s see if I’m up to the challenge.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Thirteen, which saw substitutes at the fore with the cancellation of Burnley vs Spurs, which saw the Dragon and Ginger Ben take pole position in the Classic, and which saw a gameweek finally end with the Lords on top. Ahead of the midweek Gameweek Fourteen, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
Gentlemen's Classic fixtures, Gameweek Fourteen:
Sirloin Sean vs Big Steve
Jockin' Jeeves vs Dan the Dragon
Hitman Hodgson vs Ginger Ben
The Ox vs Red Hot Rob
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All Lawes wants is to win The League of Gentlemen, yet the FPL Gods are bastards that conspire against him.
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