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Addicted to fantasy football

Words by Nathan Irvine

Championship mentality.

The first indication that I was besotted with fantasy football (the soccer variety), was when I woke up thinking about Danny Ings. 5.30am and I’m staring at the ceiling wondering whether the Southampton striker has contributed any assists this season. In fact, what are the Saints next fixtures like? Is it worth saving cash for other areas of my squad by signing Manchester United wonderkid Mason Greenwood instead? There was much to ponder.

Before the 2019/20 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) season, I used to play for fun. The most effort I put in was choosing a humorous team name. I soon get bored of it though. Usually around the same time I find myself at the bottom of the private leagues I play in. But this season is different - somehow I’m topping them all, and an addiction to stay ahead has taken over.

Now I’m checking and rechecking my squad every other hour. Scouring Google News for any training ground mishaps that may have injured my players. And taking more photos of potential team tweaks than I have of my own children. My virtual management has evolved into serious business.

I found myself cheerily telling my wife about how happy I was that Aston Villa's Jack Grealish had scored. Usually the bemused look I received would be enough to bring the conversation to a close, but I soldiered on.

“Y’see, he plays in midfield so gets more points than strikers when he scores, so this is good...” I rambled on. “Oh, right” came the response. She was just as disinterested when I tried to explain the merits of having a registered defender who actually plays in midfield. I’d gone too far.

© FPL My current squad before Harry Kane is jettisoned.

Harry on regardless?

While it isn’t affecting my ability to deal with important real-life stuff, I find my mind wanders back to FPL stuff a lot. Like just now when I was having a coffee with a colleague. I could see their mouth moving, but I was locked in deep thought about who to replace an injured Harry Kane with. Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is leading the race so far, but I’m going to need to waste an hour trying to decide later.

Sure, I could be catching up on my reading, taking in the latest Netflix show or enjoying the cooler temperatures here in Dubai, but then I wouldn’t know more about Sheffield United’s backline than I thought was humanly possible. Plus, playing it gives me a reason to tune into the weekend’s football – something I’ve found difficult to do since my beloved Man United have been AWFUL recently.

The addiction is real, but manageable, even if I have stopped typing this article to check my team a bunch of times. I just never expected FPL to embed itself in my daily routine so deeply. Don’t worry, this will probably all pass as soon as I start slipping down the table, and I can go back to never thinking about Danny Ings ever again.

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