Draft Night

One of the best footy nights of the year, when we put our football nerdiness to the test and choose our fantasy football teams for the upcoming season. Ten players this time around, but the ever-sapping effect of emigration means that only six of us were in Cape Town last night, with the other four being spread across the rest of the world in four different countries, on three different continents, and in several different hemispheres. That meant that there were 19 hours between the first and last time zones: one living miles into the future, the other still almost in the 20th century.

I got drawn tenth in the draft, which meant that I got the last pick of the first round and the first pick of the next. Was this a disadvantage? No, obviously not: the draft system is ALWAYS FAIR AND EQUAL.
(Yes, I would have liked to have been in the top 3.)

The pressure of choosing each player within 60 seconds doesn’t sound too bad, but when the guy in front of you takes the striker you wanted right before your go, you have to start thinking fast. And then if you are at the end of the draft order (I was) you have to choose another one immediately afterwards.

Those are some of my excuses, anyway.

So, here’s who I ended up with:

Aaron Ramsdale – Arsenal

Wesley Fofana – Leicester City (but on his way to Chelsea, allegedly)
Tariq Lamptey – Brighton & Hove Albion
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
Ben White – Arsenal
William Saliba – Arsenal

Bruno Guimarães – Newcastle United
Morgan Gibbs-White – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Thiago – Liverpool
Joelinton – Newcastle United
Neeskens Kebano – Fulham
Yves Bissouma – Tottenham Hotspur

Luis Diaz – Liverpool
Luis Sinisterra – Leeds United
Raheem Sterling – Chelsea
Che Adams – Southampton

Some established names, some new names, a couple of leftfield choices that might have great seasons or might disappear from the team roster very quickly. We’ll see. In fact, looking again this morning and given some of the names that surprisingly didn’t get picked up last night, I’ve already booked in a few changes which should go through before the season starts.

As a side, I think that it looks OK. The only thing between me and inevitable fantasy football glory in May next year is the other 9 teams which looks equally good or better.
Well, apart from one of them – you know who you are.

I’ll keep you all updated. Assuming things go well, that is. Otherwise, you’ll hear nothing.

Draft night

Being a football manager is easy money, right?

Pick your best 11 players each week, spout a cliché to the cameras in the tunnel after the match, carefully grumble about the standard of refereeing in the press conference, and then head home to your massive mansion and relax on a pile of large denomination banknotes.

I’m about to prove this theory by managing my fantasy football team – the Regal Beagles – to glory in our (now) regular draft league, starting tonight.

At least, we get to pick the players this evening. It’s a social event, with participants amassing at a secret Sea Point venue and others dialling in from the USA and Indonesia. There will be beer and pizza (in Sea Point, at least).

The actual league only begins on Friday, and I think I have a pretty formidable first XI (+ five subs) lined up. Sadly, there are 13 other players in the league, and I’m guessing that they will be after some (or more) of my team.

The way to sort this out amicably is the draft system, whereby everyone takes turns to choose a player. The draft system works by randomly assigning a draft number to each participant and then running through 1-14, and then 14-1. And repeat.
So essentially, manager 1 (who happens to be The Mexican) gets to choose the best player, but then only gets to choose the 28th best player as well. Manager 14 (The Ginger Ninja), might only get the 14th best player on offer, but then he also gets to choose the 15th best as well.

Last year, I got the first draft pick and I chose brilliantly: Mo Salah, no less. Sadly, by the time the 28th and 29th picks came around, the bottom of the fantasy barrel was already clearly on show and things went badly from there on in. I thought I was terrible at being a football manager, but some of the stats nerds on the team actually did some calculations and worked out that I was just very, very unlucky.

And lightning surely can’t strike twice, right?

This year, I got pick number 7, and I think I’ve already worked out who will be choosing whom in front of me. Obviously, I can’t reveal just who my first choices will be, for reasons of tactical security. But I think we can probably say that Mo Salah will be plying his trade somewhere away from Los Beaglez this year.

Of course, it’s not serious (but it is); it’s just for fun (but it matters); it’s all about the banter (and the points… always the points).

More news on the state of play once the teams have been picked and once the season has started.

The best weekend

Football is back!

I’ve missed football. Hell, I miss it when there’s a week off for an international break, so the last few months have been tough. And after United’s amazing exploits last time around, the close season has been a bit of an anti-climax. I simply can’t get into these televised friendly “Sponsor Cup” tournaments – they clearly mean very little to the clubs involved, given that you find wholly different teams fielded for each half, never mind each game.

Sadly, that’s left me a little behind as we head into the Fantasy League season which goes hand in hand with the EPL. I have no idea who’s playing for whom, how well he is playing and if he’s likely to feature each week. These are important things to consider, as the leagues I’m part of take fantasy football very seriously. Draft night is coming up for the Togga league on Tuesday and while testing the system, I chose Goran Ivansevic and Mitt Romney as my central defensive pairing.

I’m feeling a bit out of it.

This may be the best weekend, but it’s also going to be packed full of me studying football websites. Or maybe I need to crowdsource: who would be your top 3 player picks from the EPL?
(Or top 5, or even top 11 if you’re feeling wild.)