While our social consciousness is flooded with self-absorbed selfies from Premier League stars on far-away beaches, I’m in front of a keyboard researching Bournemouth’s pre-season friendlies.
This is the time I lay the foundations for another season. Another campaign tussling with my Fantasy Football peers, in multiple games and leagues, with money and pride at stake.
Having turned Fantasy Football Scout from a casual hobby to a distraction that now occupies my every waking moment, I can’t really afford to relax. My “job” is to keep similarly hardened Fantasy Football managers informed, to do the leg-work so they don’t have to.
It’s a labour of love and it means I have to care about Bournemouth on a Wednesday night in Exeter.
This week is the biggest week of the year for me and other Fantasy Football managers.
Over the next five days we will select the players who will take us into the season, who will decide whether that first weekend is one of joy or frustration. Whether we can watch Match of the Day with a smug smile, or gritted teeth.
While I’m mulling over my own decision-making, I’ll be trying to help you out along the way.
For Fantasy Football fledglings, I’ve compiled the ten steps to success that will guide your initial foray into my world.
For more experienced campaigners, I’ve commissioned several articles over the week that will help answer some key questions I just know are keeping you awake at night.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Quite frankly, I don’t care. I’m too busy contemplating the merits of spending over five million on Troy Deeney…
Mark Sutherns is from Fantasy Football Scout the tips, news and views site for those who don’t just play Fantasy Football.
Nobody likes to “read the manual” but if you fail to suss out the intricacies of the game, you’ll likely miss a trick. Do assists matter? Are there points for Man of the Match awards? Get to know the scoring rules and factor them in when scanning the player list.
Talking of which, you’ll need to reserve some time to soak this up. There’s bound to be some underpriced gems buried in the deep recesses of that long list of midfielders. Above all, look for players who are wrongly classified and potentially playing further forward. Strikers listed as a midfielders are often the key discoveries.
Take some time to check out the promoted sides. They might look like whipping boys but, in the early weeks, they can spring surprises and offer some great value. Set-pieces are often targeted by promoted sides as a source of goals – find their deadball specialists and make them a source of points.
Try to avoid getting distracted by the razzmatazz surrounding expensive new arrivals. Drown out the fanfare and consider sticking to proven talent. For every Diego Costa that tears up defences from the get-go, there are ten Ricky van Wolfswinkels struggling to cope with the pace and expectation.
Make the fixture list your friend. Treat it like revision notes – refer back to it and scan it at every opportunity for a chink of inspiration to guide your player selection. Players with kinder schedules are more likely to bring in the points, so look for patterns of easy and tough opponents and sort your transfers accordingly.
Stay up to speed with the injury and team news. You can actually make a long-term injury work for you if you can identify a cheap reserve player who is suddenly elevated to certain starter status. Similarly, if a player is out of favour, it may just allow a cheap Fantasy option into the starting XI and unearth a new bargain.
Try to set your team up to be as flexible as possible. In other words, try to distribute funds across the positions to allow you to react to form and injury with one or two transfers. If you go overboard on expensive players, you may find that you’re tasked with making major surgery in order to swoop for the must-own asset who emerges in the first few weeks.
If you play in a mini-league, be sure to keep tabs on your rival Fantasy managers. Study their lineup and try to anticipate their transfers. If they open up a gap at the top, you may need to take a few risks and bring in some players that sets your squad apart – a “differential” or two.
Mind games are not just for Mourinho to roll out on a Friday afternoon press conference – you can gain some advantage by attempting to get into the heads of your rivals. A quick Monday morning taunt at the water cooler could prompt them into reacting with a “knee jerk” transfer.
Watch a lot of football. Your partner may not enjoy this crucial part of you strategy but needs must – this is “vital research”. Scouting matches will give you a vital view on form and guide your future transfers.