Then, on Monday morning, the impossible became reality. A glance at the table saw something we have not seen all season. A red arrow next to the name of Dumb and Dummett. The Butcher was down to second. The King was at the top.
It could not last. As the rest of the gameweek played out, the Butcher regrouped and his charges found the points needed to end the gameweek back on top. Indeed, for the casual observer who only checks the game when the matches are concluded, nothing had changed. The Butcher first, the King second, a four point gap remaining. For the hardened FPL player, however, a paradigm shift had occurred. They knew the King had found a chink in the armour. They knew the Butcher, however temporarily, had been brought to one knee. Though he rose again before the conclusion of the festivities, though his streak at the top remains unblemished, the King knows he can be displaced. We know he can be displaced. Going into the Final Day, the Butcher knows he can be displaced.
The psychological impact of such a revelation will only become known on Sunday evening. Surely, after ten months of dominance, surely, after the longest streak at the top of the league in history, surely, after all is said and done, the Butcher will take the title. Surely, twenty-four years on, the story of Newcastle and Manchester United will not be repeated by their avid followers. Surely, a quarter of a century on, the wrong will be righted.
Only one man can prevent that happening. The biggest worry for the Butcher is that one man who can prevent it happening is the greatest manager in League of Gentlemen history. The ultimate FPL shark, and he now has the taste of blood.
Worrying times for the Butcher heading into the Final Day. What should have been a procession is now on the verge of becoming the ultimate FPL Nightmare. As we approach the Final Day, let us assess Gameweek 37 in more detail, for it was a week which saw much volatility in the table, and which featured another incredible happening we thought we’d never see.
Elsewhere in the Also-Rans, Tits-Up Thompson and Wooden Spoon Helling remain in nineteenth and eighteenth, the positions they’ve been destined to finish in for many months. Jie retains the slimmest of chances of escaping the Also-Rans in the final week, but a 51-point gap will surely prove too much to make up for a team that secured just 30 points this time out.
In thirteenth lies Who Horner, another manager who saw his team fall this week. Seven returns, including twelve points for Doherty, gave the White Warriors a score of fifty points, a total which leaves them six points ahead of The Ox and six points off that crucial twelfth position. Defending the final Gentlemen’s Classic qualification spot will be Slick Rick, who rose two places in the table following a sensational 84-point gameweek – the second-highest in the League of Gentlemen. Captaincy of Kane was the key element; his 26 points being the highest score for a captain in the division, repaying Slick Rick’s enduring faith in him. Seven more of his players secured returns, including thirteen points from Alexander-Arnold. The real shame for the Tiptoppers was the 28 points left on the bench, including twelve for Mings. Had Slick Rick had the Bench Boost to play, he would’ve crashed into the Hundred Club; as it is, he now has to defend twelfth position knowing that the three managers behind him – Who Horner, The Ox and Ginger Ben – all have a Bench Boost to play, and all lie within range of the score his own bench amassed this week. In eleventh is Flash, who scored 29 fewer points than Slick Rick this week, but who retains an insurmountable 71-point cushion over the teams behind him. That knowledge will allow him to go on the attack with his Final Day Free Hit, knowing that his position can only improve. With the Chasing Pack just six points away, he has to be the favourite to secure a top-ten finish.
It is turning into a war of attrition for who can secure sixth spot between All-Star Vogt and Lord Geord, with both managers also retaining hope of finishing even higher. Only a single point separates the two teams heading into the Final Day, and it is Lord Geord who ends Gameweek 37 with the advantage. All-Star took the brave decision to captain Wood, and must have believed his luck was in when Wood’s opponents were reduced to nine men before half-time and his hitman scored. In the second half, however, no further points were secured, leaving him with a disappointing total of fourteen points – great in normal circumstances, but a big let-down given the situation that had materialised. A further nine returns put Boom Xhakalaka in a strong position, despite three one-point defenders keeping twelve-point Mings from adding his score to the gameweek total of 64 points. Lord Geord needed something big to overcome the deficit, and his team gave him what he needed. A massive fourteen returns, including seventeen points from Sterling despite a penalty miss, saw Geord’s Lords overcome their rivals courtesy of Alexander-Arnold’s huge haul in the final game of the gameweek. Vogt’s Free Hit advantage on the Final Day has been negated by Lord Geord overtaking him; now, the All-Star must find a team to overtake the Lords, rather than created a squad designed to hold him off. Just a one point difference, but a point that changes the entire dynamics of the situation.
On Monday morning, it finally happened. The competitors of the League of Gentlemen, for the first time since Gameweek Four, woke up to a new name at the apex of the division: King Ding was sat in his throne again. Sadly for him, there were still three nights of the gameweek to go, and as the action was concluded, he was back into second place following the Butcher matching his gameweek total. The remarkable thing was that both men, the benchmark of quality this season, contrived to both produce the joint-lowest score in the top eight places of the division. The King secured eight returns, but also three one-point scores, including one for his captain, Bruno. Rubbing salt in the wound for the King was the knowledge that every single player on his bench brought in extra points, including two nine-point totals. Had they started, the King would have a 24-point-plus lead over the Butcher going into the Final Day; as it transpires, the situation is unchanged after Gameweek 37. Four points to make up, four points needed to secure the greatest title victory of his FPL career. The King couldn’t find them this week. With both the psychological boost of seeing his name atop the table and a Free Hit to play, the Final Day will be his final chance to find the four needed for glory.
The question is, will he be remembered as a Jurgen Klopp, who dominated from the start and never relinquished control? Or will he echo the memories of his hero, Kevin Keegan, by allowing a near-certain triumph to slip from his grasp at the last? A 119-point lead has been slashed to just four points, yet the Butcher remains in the best position possible: top of the league, with a small cushion. With two free transfers to play, the Butcher has flexibility, though nowhere near as much as the King’s Free Hit affords him. At 3pm on the Final Day, the Butcher sends his team out for one final time, four points ahead of the King, the title within touching distance. The last time the Butcher and the King went head-to-head for silverware, in Gameweek 35, the King emerged with the Gentlemen’s Trophy following a seven-point victory. The Final Day gives the Butcher the change to avenge that defeat, and he doesn’t even have to beat the King’s gameweek score. Finish within three points of it, and the Butcher, Big Steve, will be crowned the League of Gentlemen champion. All he has to do is beat the best there has ever been.
The Butcher versus the King. The greatest League of Gentlemen manager of the first 37 gameweeks versus the greatest League of Gentlemen manager of all time. It all comes down to the Final Day. For the final time this season, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be ever in your favour.