Lawes had a simple dream: Beat his mates at FPL. Five years later, the dream has become a nightmare.
This year was meant to be glorious.
Sometime last season, I realised just how much I hate Fantasy Premier League (FPL). My Gameweek History says I’ve been playing it since 2013, but I first started playing in 2011. I wasn’t a fan. I found managers not picking consistent teams irritating, I found it hard to stay invested in something that took so long and, well, it all seemed a bit pointless. I gave it another shot in 2012/2013, and my feelings hadn’t changed; if anything, they just grew stronger. I didn’t play in the 2013/2014 season, and I found football far more enjoyable. But then, for some bizarre reason, I decided to create a team in the 2014/2015 season. That’s when the FPL Nightmare really began.
History of the League of Gentlemen: 2014/15 – 2017/18
The way a lot of serious FPL players approach the game, they aim to finish as high up the overall rankings as possible. For me, the game was never about that. It was all about beating Dinga and Jeeves, and our mini-league, the League of Gentlemen, gave me the opportunity to do just that. Perhaps the League of Gentlemen existed before 2014, but this was the year in which it first mattered, with both Dinga’s Ringers and Geord’s Lords entering the fray. In 2014/15, rather than losing interest and finding it pointless, I resolved to give it my all. I was going to show those two just who the boss was. The problem was, in that season, I finished miles behind them: Geord’s Lords finished with 1,910 points, for a final overall position of 541,393; Jeeves’ Juggernauts finished with 1,968 points, for a final overall position of 308,948; and Dinga’s Ringers finished with 2,110 points, for a final overall position of 45,827 – to this day, the highest any of us have finished. The situation deteriorated in 2015/16, where I dropped further away than ever, finishing with 1,828 points for a finishing position of 1,643,524, compared with Jeeves’ 2,077 points for a position of 299,514, and Dinga’s 2,059 for a position of 366,398. This was not going according to plan at all.
There was a key differential in 2016/17 – Newcastle had been relegated. As someone particularly prone to bias towards Newcastle players, our years of struggle had cost me dearly. Relegation was awful as a fan, but it liberated me as an FPL player. For once, I didn’t have mixed feelings when my players scored against Newcastle – there was none of that twisted, “at least it was him that scored”, thinking that infuses every FPL player. This time, I could be objective and, without my built-in biases clouding my judgement, I could attack the League of Gentlemen. I also changed the team name, from the cursed Geord’s Lords to the Lawes Disorder. To quote many a Liverpool fan, this was our year.
Final Rankings, 2016/2017:
1st: Dinga’s Ringers: 2,183 pts., 86,109 final position.
2nd: Jeeves’ Juggernauts: 2,059 pts., 364,993 final position.
3rd: the Lawes Disorder: 2,022 pts., 507,997 final position.
Well, that didn’t go according to plan. Despite my highest-ever points total and final position, and closing the gap on Jeeves’ Juggernauts, nobody could touch Dinga. Finishing 161 points ahead of me and 124 ahead of Jeeves, he achieved the second-highest finish any of us have achieved, with his second top 100k finish cementing his nickname of King Ding. Never mind me; not even Jeeves, the former winner of the League of Gentlemen, could touch him; his personal best overall position of 299,514 just a speck of dust on the rear-view mirror of Dinga’s Rolls-Royce performances. His no-hits policy, his forward planning and his budget defenders and goalkeeper approach were paying off in spectacular fashion; in contrast, the many-hits-to-get-the-best-team approach was costing the Lawes Disorder dearly.
2017/18 started with a lot of promise, but by the end, the story remained the same: the Lawes Disorder finished third (2,039 pts., 880,133 final position), with Jeeves’ Juggernauts (2,127 pts., 360,886 final position) sneaking a memorable victory over Dinga’s Ringers (2,102 pts., 479,464 final position) courtesy of a stunning turnaround in the last two gameweeks of the season. Jeeves had finally adopted Dinga’s forward planning approach, and it paid off with a gameweek 37 bench boost giving him 14 players with two games. Had it not taking him 30 gameweeks to stop taking 3 or 4 hits a week, maybe he could have finished with his coveted top-100k finish; as it was, he had the consolation of joining Dinga as the only two-time winner of the League of Gentlemen. All was not lost for the Lawes Disorder though, with 88 points being the smallest margin of defeat, and with victories over both Dinga’s Ringers and Jeeves’ Juggernauts in head-to-head leagues. As positives go, they were only small, but they gave a glimmer of hope for the future.
Not only was 2018/19 going to be my year, I was going to retire at the end of it. Win the League of Gentlemen for the first time, then retire from this bastard game as a champion. As dreams go, it was a good one. Sadly, the dream was to turn into a nightmare …
The Nightmare Intensifies: 2018 – 2019.
In summer 2018, while everyone was picking their teams, I reached a big decision: this was to be my retirement year. The truth is, all the issues I’d had with the game had compounded over the previous four years. I got into it because I was a football fan, but I was struggling to enjoy football any more. I couldn’t enjoy matches unless my players were picking up points and, if they weren’t and my opponent’s players were, it led to me hating the game. Lazy Sundays watching the footie on Sky without a care had turned into stress-filled days of frustration, often ending in misery and gloom. This isn’t what football is about, I thought. This is it. One last season, one last shot at beating the Ringers and the Jugganauts – I think Jeeves switched from the –er spelling to an a because he’s a rapper now, but that’s just speculation – then I’m done for good. The team name changed to reflect this decision: Lawes’ Last Stand.
As the season started, I set some rules for myself. No Newcastle players, because I’m incapable of objective assessment. No Spurs or Arsenal players, bar Aubameyang, who has been one of the most consistent FPL strikers in history since his Arsenal debut. The reasons were that Arsenal will forever be an inconsistent frustration and it was impossible to predict how they’d perform post-Wenger, whereas Spurs had stadium issues and a lot of first-teamers went deep into the World Cup, and I felt they’d start and finish the season slowly because of fatigue issues. Beyond that, the golden rule was to stick to Dinga’s strategy of minimal hits with zero hits being the target.
I started the season with the following squad:
GK: Pickford, Stekelenberg (If Pickford was injured, I had his sub as cover).
DF: Mendy, Robertson, Van Aanholt, Wan-Bissaka, Peltier.
MF: Salah, B.Silva, Richarlison, Cairney, Kenedy.
ST: Aguero, Aubameyang, King.
My season started in explosive fashion, with a score of 84, featuring 5 double-figures scores. It would have been 6, had I started Wan-Bissaka, but I’m wary of starting two defensive players from the same team – it only takes one flukey goal, one dodgy penalty to ruin the gameweek if you have two or three defensive players from one team. The season continued promisingly: I put faith in my players to come good, making only 3 transfers in the first 6 gameweeks, and this paid off with an overall position of 240,072 – my highest position ever, by some considerable margin. In an attempt to push on, I broke the golden rule and took a -4, swapping out Mane and Lucas Moura for Hazard and Fraser. With Mane and Moura scoring 6 combined points that week, compared to 11 for Hazard and Fraser, this hit paid off for a one-point profit.
Over the next few weeks, the hits started to creep in, with four hits taken over gameweeks 9-11. In contrast to the golden rule, these hits were paying off, and Lawes’ Last Stand rose to a career-best ranking of 67,456 in gameweek 12 and, a week later, I was over 800,000 places ahead of Dinga, and over 1.15m places ahead of Jeeves. Somehow, I thought, I’ve worked out a philosophy of my own, combining the caution of Dinga with the reckless abandon of Jeeves. It isn’t sustainable, and it shouldn’t be deployed every week, but instead of fearing small hits, they should be embraced as they can – they are – reaping enormous benefits. I’m going to win this bastard league, and then I’m going to retire, forever a champion.
At least, that’s what I thought. The next three gameweeks brought three red arrows. The season was slipping from the Last Stand, and I needed to arrest it. A solid gameweek 16 brought 70 points, despite Yedlin taking a -3 (this is why I should have maintained my no-Newcastle rule) and 13-point Ings being on the bench, and my first green arrow in a month. The problem was, I went out on the Saturday night and, in my drunken state, I thought one last big hit would get the Last Stand purring. Out went Alonso, Alexander-Arnold and Richarlison; in came David Luiz, Kolasinac and Son for a -8 hit.
One drunken decision, and the entire season went to shit.
David Luiz brought in 2 points, the one more than Alonso. Kolasinac was benched but Bennett came in for 6 points; with Alexander-Arnold not playing, this meant that particular -4 had turned a profit of 3 points. Richarlison and Son both scored 2 points, meaning the triple transfer had resulted in a net score of -1. Not a disaster in itself, but an overall gameweek score of 29 (minus 8 points for transfers) and an overall position drop of 120,080 places set alarm bells ringing. By this stage I was down to 226,052 overall; the dream start was slipping and, looking at the forthcoming fixtures, I regretted swapping Big Rich out for Son.
The next gameweek, I brought back Big Rich for Son. Over the next 8 gameweeks, Son scored 74 points, Richarlison scored 23. Of course, everyone else in the League of Gentlemen had brought him in. Of course, I’d been in too much of a feck with him to bring him back. Just stupid, but the biggest sign that the pressure was getting to me. The only saving grace was that, for the last gameweek of that spell, I’d brought Son in, and he’d got 11 points. Against Newcastle. I hate this game so much.
By this stage, I was down to an overall position of 325,983. I’d also taken a stupid, stupid chance. When the news broke that Mendy was back in training in January, I used my wildcard and brought him in. I gambled that he’d start within a week or two and, because no-one else would have him, I’d gain the edge. It didn’t matter if he missed a game or two, I thought, because I had cover on the bench.
To date, Mendy has played a grand total of zero minutes since I took that gamble.
My head had completely gone. I was telling Dinga and Jeeves that I couldn’t wait for retirement; the sooner the season ended, the better. If I could have deleted my team, I would have done. The only hope was the double-gameweeks; Free Hit gameweek 31 and, in the meantime, build a team for gameweek 32 and beyond. A logical strategy, one which Jeeves had also said he was following.
The problem was, I’d unfollowed everything to do with FPL, so I missed out on Ben Crellin’s double gameweek guide. I think I was the only one. Jeeves had changed his strategy, and was now building a team for gameweeks 31 and 33, using his free hit on gameweek 32 and wildcarding on gameweek 34. This option, due to the Mendy wildcard gamble (zero minutes since) is off the table for me. I’m not sure what Dinga’s strategy is, but he’ll have an effective one. He always does, that’s why he’s King Ding, and why Jeeves and I struggle so hard just to compete.
As it stands, Dinga leads the League of Gentlemen, with 1670 points and an overall ranking of 196,396. Jeeves is 4th in the League of Gentlemen, with 1650 points and an overall ranking of 284,427. I lie in sixth place, with 1,605 points and an overall ranking of 579,052. The heady days of gameweeks 12 and 13 seem so far away. It’s been a remarkable turnaround from Jeeves, who has cut an 89-point Dinga lead to just 20 points in only 5 gameweeks, while building a squad to attack the blank-and-double gameweeks. Which of them finishes highest, I can’t predict. Jeeves has so much momentum, but King Ding is King Ding. He finds a way.
Me, I’m scrambling to keep hold of 6th place in the League of Gentlemen, hoping to find a foothold with which to launch a comeback. With 14 red arrows and only 3 green arrows since gameweek 13, with no wildcard and with only 9 gameweeks left, time and momentum are not on my side. I’m praying for Watford to beat Crystal Palace in the cup, because otherwise, I’m absolutely buggered in gameweek 33. I’m cursing myself for taking 88 points of hits. If I’d made zero transfers at all this season, I’d be 11 points better off, despite Mendy not having played in months, and that dents my confidence further.
From a dream to a nightmare in 16 gameweeks.
For me to have any chance of achieving my bare minimum of maintaining sixth place, I need to made cool, calm decisions, as opposed to emotional transfers. My latest was bringing in Almiron for Ward-Prowse for a -4, and watching Ward-Prowse pick up 17 points in two gameweeks compared to Almiron’s 5 points. There can be no more of this. This season isn’t over yet. There’s still a quarter of the season remaining, with at least two, probably three double gameweeks. I have my Free Hit, Bench Boost and Triple Captain. Despite disastrous form, Lawes’ Last Stand only trail Dinga’s Ringers by 65 points. Jeeves has shown this can be overcome, but to do that, I need focus. I need commitment. I need some help from the FPL gods, and I need a great, big pair of bollocks. I can’t be looking towards the end of the season to retire from this god-forsaken game.
As such, the decision has been made. Until I win this bastard League of Gentlemen, all plans of retirement are shelved. I’m officially committed to Fantasy Premier League until I defeat Dinga and Jeeves. It may take nine weeks, it may take nine years, but I’ll be in there, fighting, for however long it takes.
Lawes’ Last Stand are down, but we’re not out. The Jugganauts are on a roll, but no hot streak lasts forever. The Ringers have got to go to gameweek 31 and get something. The Last Stand refuse to give in. We’re still fighting for this title, and let me tell you, I will love it if we beat them, love it.
I dream of retiring from FPL as the champion of the League of Gentlemen. I’m going to fight until that dream becomes reality.
'The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps'
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