After two group stages and a semi-final knockout round, we have reached the Grand Final of this season’s Gentlemen’s Classic, with Big Steve and Jockin’ Jeeves competing over two legs for the first trophy of the season.
The Tale of the Tape
Big Steve - Appleby Town Champs
Current League Position: 7th.
Current Points Total: 1,092.
Current Overall Ranking: 451,382.
Final League Position, 2020/21: 2nd.
Highest Final Points Total: 2,378 (2020/21).
Highest Overall Ranking: 16,444 (2018/19).
Highest Gameweek Score, 2021/22: 85 points, Gameweek Nine.
Lowest Gameweek Score, 2020/21: 28 points, Gameweek Seven.
Chips Still Available: Free Hit x2, Triple Captain, Bench Boost, Wildcard.
Last Five Gameweeks: 346 points (73, 53, 81, 70, 69).
Jockin' Jeeves - The Townhead Gunners
Current League Position: 2nd.
Current Points Total: 1,158.
Current Overall Ranking: 90,079.
Final League Position, 2019/20: 5th.
Highest Final Points Total: 2,341 (2020/21).
Highest Overall Ranking: 152,480 (2019/20).
Highest Gameweek Score, 2020/21: 96 points, Gameweek One.
Lowest Gameweek Score, 2020/21: 43 points, Gameweek Seven.
Chips Still Available: Free Hit x2, Triple Captain, Bench Boost, Wildcard.
Last Five Gameweeks: 343 points (66, 60, 65, 85, 67).
It all comes down to this. Two Gentlemen of esteemed pedigree, with Big Steve the back-to-back silver medallist, and Jockin’ Jeeves a two-time League of Gentlemen winner, facing off over two legs to determine the second-ever Gentlemen’s Classic champion. It will be a titanic struggle to decide who takes Hitman Hodgson’s crown, with the uncertainty around which fixtures will go ahead adding an extra dimension to the affair. Though Big Steve progressed into the semi-finals as group winner, and has defeated Jockin’ Jeeves twice in this season’s competition, it is the Rap Rob Roy who enters as favourite with the bookies, with the Butcher’s reputation as the bridesmaid a huge hurdle to overcome.
Big Steve enters this match with a slight edge in recent form, having outscored Jeeves 346 – 343 over the last five gameweeks. He has improved on his overall points total for five consecutive seasons, showing he is getting stronger with experience and the increased challenge within the League of Gentlemen. However, his sluggish start to this campaign has led some to question whether the Butcher’s performance has peaked, and whether the scars of successive silver medals have dealt a psychological blow he cannot recover from. His performance so far within the years of the chronicles mirrors that of Newcastle United in 1995-96 and 1996-97, with his first season seeing his huge lead overhauled by King Ding, and last year seeing him finish second in a year where the title run-in became a one-horse race. In 1997-98, Newcastle United lost in the F.A. Cup final following a deeply-disappointing performance, which is ominous for the Butcher. A slow start to the campaign saw him in fifteenth position after Gameweek Thirteen, but he has rebounded since then and now finds himself seventh in the table, hot on the heels of the top five.
Jockin’ Jeeves is a man with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove, following his failure to finish in the medal places for the first time in the division’s eight-year history last season. He started the season in scintillating form, finishing second in August’s Manager of the Month race, a feat he repeated in October. Having come third in November’s scoring, he now tops the table for points in December, with only a disastrous September blotting his copybook. It is a run of form that has kept him in the title race all season, and though he has yet to top the table, many expect him to take top spot in the coming gameweeks, having outscored the league leader in four of the last five gameweeks. The Rap Rob Roy also has impeccable cup pedigree, having followed-up his LoG Cup success in 2019-20 by winning the Gentlemen’s Trophy last season. Victory in the Gentlemen’s Classic Grand Final would make Jockin’ Jeeves the only-ever Triple Crown champion in League of Gentlemen history, and though regaining the league championship he has failed to win for five seasons is his priority, he will see the Gentlemen’s Classic as the first step towards achieving that goal, and ensuring his legacy is remembered long after the FPL Nightmare is over.
The First Leg
The teams are in, with both competitors affected by cancellations. Big Steve has chosen to respond by taking a four-point hit, switching Jota and Raphinha to Mount and Martinelli. Jockin' Jeeves has taken the opposite approach, opting to roll his free transfer and go with ten men.
Big Steve (4-4-2): Ramsdale; James, Dias, Cancelo, Tierney; Martinelli ©, Bernardo, Gallagher, Mount; Watkins, Joelinton.
Subs: None available.
Jockin' Jeeves (4-3-2): De Gea; Cancelo ©, James, Tierney, Alonso; Mount, Smith-Rowe, Foden; Broja, Lacazette.
What makes this final particularly interesting is the variance between the teams. The finalists share only four players - James, Cancelo, Tierney and Mount – and Jeeves has captained Cancelo, making the scores of only three players irrelevant. Any damage from Jeeves’s Cancelo captaincy is limited by the Butcher also owning him, but Jeeves will be feeling the nerves when Big Steve’s captain, Martinelli, takes the field against whipping-boys Norwich.
Matches One to Four: Manchester City vs Leicester City, Norwich City vs Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur vs Crystal Palace, West Ham United vs Southampton.
Big Steve has everyone bar James, Mount, Watkins and Joelinton playing in Matches One to Four, while Jeeves has De Gea, James, Alonso and Mount to come later in the gameweek. That means this is the crucial stage of the First Leg, and it’s an early disaster for Jeeves, with Foden left out of the Manchester City starting XI and Smith-Rowe benched for Arsenal. There are no such concerns for the Butcher, who sees all of his players in their respective starting line-ups. A strong start for Jeeves sees captain Cancelo pick up an early assist, but he fails to add to that and concedes three goals to leave a captaincy score of just eight points. It left Jeeves looking trepidatiously over at Martinelli, but not only was Big Steve’s captain unable to secure anything other than a clean sheet point, Smith-Rowe rose off the bench to give Jeeves the same six points as the Butcher’s captain, while Lacazette fired home eleven points for the Rap Rob Roy, outscoring the Butcher’s Ramsdale, Gallagher and Bernardo single-handedly and removing the player advantage Big Steve held. Though Dias was able to add an assist for Steve, Broja matched that for Jeeves, leaving …
Big Steve 33 - 43 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Five: Aston Villa vs Chelsea.
With both men owning James and Mount, this match becomes a battle of Steve’s Watkins against Jeeves’s Alonso. Ultimately, it proves a damp squib for both men, with James’s own goal seeing him score zero points, Mount doing nothing for two points, and Alonso and Watkins failing to add anything extra to proceedings. Alonso did pick up a yellow card, reducing his score to just one point, and you have to wonder if that point could well prove crucial by the end of Gameweek Twenty. With the early advantage, however, the tightness of this affair plays into Jeeves’s hands, and leaves the Butcher hoping Joelinton can contribute something against Manchester United. Were he able to, it would have the added benefit of denying Jeeves a de Gea clean sheet.
Big Steve 37 - 46 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Six: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Brentford.
No representation from either manager’s starting XI’s, though Jeeves will be hoping for a strong showing from Sanchez in case de Gea is unable to play in Match Seven. The Brighton goalkeeper responds with a performance that, in many ways, is too good. His nine points leave Jeeves hoping that his starting goalkeeper doesn’t play, while the Butcher enters the final match of the gameweek feeling like he has gotten away with one.
Big Steve 37 - 46 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Seven: Newcastle United vs Manchester United.
The final match of the First Leg sees Jeeves enter with a nine-point advantage, a lead that would be doubled if de Gea misses out. Unfortunately for the Juggernaut, he is named in the Manchester United starting XI. The kick in the teeth is confirmed when Saint-Maximin scores a wondergoal after just seven minutes, leaving de Gea with no chance of a clean sheet and Jeeves taunted by his substitute goalkeeper’s nine points. The Butcher’s hopes of Joelinton adding to the damage are boosted by a barnstorming man-of-the-match performance, but despite going close to a goal, all that Joelinton contributes in FPL terms is a booking and a one-pointer. Meanwhile, Manchester United’s defence being torn apart by the Geordie boys gives de Gea the opportunity to rack up the saves, eventually walking away with two save points and a bonus point. Not quite the nine points of Sanchez, but five points that will sting the Butcher far more.
First Leg, final score:
Big Steve 38 - 51 Jockin' Jeeves
The Second Leg
Big Steve will be disappointed that, despite having an extra player, he lost the First Leg by thirteen points. He’s still very much in the tie, but the form of Jeeves has been imperious recently, so it is a huge ask for the Butcher to overhaul a double-figure deficit.
It’s a task that looks a little less daunting following Jeeves’s decision to take a minus-four in the transfer market, bringing in Reguilon, Son and Gelhardt for Alonso, Smith-Rowe and Lacazette. It’s an aggressive response to the cancellation of Arsenal’s game against Wolves, unlike the Butcher’s more conservative choice to retain his three Arsenal players and Watkins, whose game against Leeds has also been cancelled. His only transfer is to replace substitute goalkeeper Sa with Lloris, enabling him to field a full team.
Big Steve (4-4-2): Lloris; James, Dias, Cancelo, Alexander-Arnold; Salah ©, Bernardo, Gallagher, Mount; Joelinton, Dennis.
Subs: None available.
Jockin’ Jeeves (4-5-1): de Gea; Cancelo, James, Reguilon, Alexander-Arnold; Salah ©, Mount, Foden, Jota, Son; Dennis.
Subs: Sanchez; Broja.
With the Liverpool lads available this gameweek, the teams are far more similar, with both men sharing James, Cancelo, Alexander-Arnold, Mount, Dennis and captain Salah. That leaves just five players who can make a difference for the Butcher: Lloris, Dias, Bernardo, Gallagher and Mount. He needs them to outscore Jeeves’s de Gea, Reguilon, Foden, Jota and Son by nine points, and when you see the names Jeeves has as differentials, you realise the scale of the challenge ahead for the Butcher.
Matches One to Three: Crystal Palace vs Norwich City; Southampton vs Tottenham Hotspur; Watford vs West Ham United.
It’s a challenge that has just got a whole lot harder, with Gallagher being ruled out of the game against Norwich. One of the Butcher’s best hopes of turning the tie around, snatched away in a failed lateral flow test. It’s a cruel blow, but there is nothing Big Steve can do now. Dennis gets both men an early, irrelevant goal, while Ward-Prowse scores for Spurs to deny the Butcher a clean sheet, meaning two of his differential players have failed to produce. Compounding the pain is Son’s assist giving Jeeves six points, though Reguilon’s zero-point performance keeps the Butcher in the tie. There is no doubt, though, that Jockin’ Jeeves is in complete control.
Big Steve 47 - 60 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Four: Leicester City vs Liverpool.
While both men have captained Salah and own Alexander-Arnold, this is the match where Jeeves expects to seal the deal. His Jota, up against an injury-hit squad that conceded six goals in their previous match, and Big Steve having nobody available to reply. However, the Festive Frenzy throws up some unexpected results, and this match was one of them. Salah missed a penalty to score both men zero points, while Jota could only produce two points in a 1-0 defeat. It is, however, two points closer to the trophy for Jockin’ Jeeves. The Butcher can only hope Dias and Bernardo can do some damage, and he really needs Joelinton to play up-front for Newcastle in the absence of the injured Wilson. Fifteen points is a hefty difference to make up with only three differential players to play.
Big Steve 49 - 64 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Five: Chelsea vs Brighton & Hove Albion.
Disaster for the Butcher, as Everton vs Newcastle is postponed, taking a second of his differential players out of the equation. With both men owning Mount and James, the only interest in this game is in the performance of Sanchez, Jeeves’s substitute goalkeeper. Mount gets an assist to deny Sanchez a clean sheet, but with four saves made, the Brighton stopper bags three points. It’s unlikely they will come into play, but Jeeves will be happy to know they are there if necessary.
Big Steve 54 - 69 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Six: Brentford vs Manchester City.
This is the big one for Big Steve. It’s his last chance to save the situation, and he needs Dias and Bernardo to outscore Foden by sixteen or more points, just to have a chance. Dias does his part, banking six points for a clean sheet, alongside the six Cancelo scores for both men. It comes down to the performances of the midfielders, with a goal and three bonus points meaning one of them outscores the other by eight points. Inevitably, it is Foden that secures the extra points for the Townhead Gunners, all but sealing the trophy for the Rap Rob Roy and condemning the Butcher’s reputation as the bridesmaid to grow. Three seasons of the archives, three years of echoing the failures of his beloved Newcastle United for Big Steve. It is, perhaps, the greatest FPL Nightmare imaginable.
Big Steve 69 - 86 Jockin' Jeeves
Match Seven: Manchester United vs Burnley.
Of course, it isn’t over yet. Should David de Gea concede seven own goals before getting sent off, Big Steve would win the trophy in the most ridiculous of circumstances. With rumours swirling throughout the day that the Spaniard would miss out on playing, the Butcher’s chances looked dead and buried, only to be revived when a random fan photographed him at the team hotel. All the Butcher needed was seven own goals and a red card, or for Burnley to score 36 goals. When Aaron Lennon fired home, Big Steve started to believe. Only 35 goals to go, fewer if an own goal is scored. Alas, de Gea did not conceded 35 further goals, nor did he score seven own goals before being sent off, leaving the Big Steve’s hopes of a trophy butchered yet again.
For Big Steve, the Gentlemen’s Classic meant everything. For Jockin’ Jeeves, it was just another gameweek. He will be pleased to become the first-ever Triple Crown winner in the League of Gentlemen’s history, and he will hope to complete the Grand Slam by winning the Eliminator in Gameweek 26. Ultimately, though, his objective for the season hasn’t changed. He wants that title back, and anything other than first place in the league will be seen as failure. He will raise a wry smile, then he will return to his Fair Hill training facility with Hot Rod, and he will resume the plotting and the scheming. This is the first trophy of the Townhead Gunners era. Only time will tell if it will prove the last.
The Gentlemen’s Classic,
Grand Final result
Big Steve 69 - 88 Jockin' Jeeves
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