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Ten keys to English Premier League fantasy football

Posted by Britrock on October 1, 2014

In true Bilip (bad Philip) style, I’ve just returned from a lot of travel in a short space of time, 50+ airport visits in two months, so naturally there’s lots to catch up on. And I’ve just spent two hours reviewing fantasy football lineups for NFL and EPL leagues I play in. Both seasons are relatively speaking, at a similar premature stage and newbies have either got the hang of it or are utterly lost. NFL fantasy obsessives have countless complex sites and tv shows that provide guidance, but the EPL has relatively few. Perhaps because EPL fantasy fans have more rich and fulfilling lives… or are too lazy/ambivalent to care. To help out two close friends of mine, new to fantasy EPL (Great midwest boys weekend StEvil B and the Pocket Dog!) I threw a few links and pieces of advice together. Make of it what you will. I’ve never won a fantasy EPL league and I’m a Saints fan.
Overall EPL dream team
Biggest factors in EPL fantasy:
  • Goals scored earn 6 pts (plus bonus depending on if the goal won the game)
  • Cleansheets/no goals conceded earn 6 pts for defenders (2 pts for midfielders)
  • Assists earn 3 pts
  • Captain doubles his pts each week
  • Two wildcard transfers a season
  • Playing 90 mins earns 2 pts
Ten considerations for fantasy EPL success
1) Scoring goals from setpieces
As goals are relatively difficult to predict, its good to consider the predictable moments e.g. set pieces (free kicks within shooting distance and of course penalty kicks) Last year Lambert earned me heaps of points because he didn’t miss any of his penalty chances and scored lots of freekicks. The aging legend is on Liverpool’s bench now, and Gerrard (while I don’t rate him much as a player; sometimes controls a game, he overhits 85% of his passes a fundamental skill for a midfield player & perpetually looks perplexed) he does take the penalty and free-kick chances for Liverpool.
So its worth looking at this link: EPL Penalty & Free kick takers

2) Consider the schedule
Southampton are going to have a fairly miserable time of things between the end of November and mid January as they play Man City, Man Utd (twice), Arsenal (twice), Chelsea and Everton. Naturally this will affect your teams ability to score points and my need to drink pints. Useful link of weird colored fixtures: Geekiest spreadsheet of EPL fixtures in existence
EPL 2014 Fixtures Ranking
3) Captains double your points
Selecting a team captain will double his points contributed. This should be your marquee player every week. Diego Costa would have earned you almost 100 pts as your captain every week. P.S. Its week 7 this week. That’s ridiculous return. In general the goalkeeper can only score a maximum of a cleansheet plus a bonus = 8 or 9pts. Diego Costa on two occasions this season has surpassed double figures. The caveats to choosing your best player as captain; if the opposition is difficult it reduces both goal scoring and cleansheets, or if he may not last a full game due to struggling with an injury or is Balotelli. The guy has a shot at goal every 15 minutes but hasn’t scored yet, and negatively affects teammates ability to score. Having said that Liverpool’s fixtures look favorable and he’s bound to go off like a firework from a bedroom window. Link to utterly unhelpful story about Balotelli setting house on fire: 
4) Wildcard transfers let you reset your team
Wayne Rooney is suspended for three games, Aaron Ramsey and James Ward Prowse are injured for multiple games, your goalkeeper is Hart sitting on a bench, Balotelli and Wellbeck are your strikers, for some reason you gambled on a back line of Stoke, QPR and Burnley players. Play your wildcard. Twice a season you can make unlimited transfers in one sitting, that will allow you to reset your team. Don’t forget bargain players at unfashionable clubs. Useful slightly hidden stats page

5) Make transfers at the end of the week
Premier League teams involved in midweek cup competitions risk having players injured and tired from these games, as a result its wise to wait for these games to play before making roster changes. A club with lots of injuries will obviously not play as effectively. Man Utd currently have at least 9 players out. Track injuries here:
6) Set your line-up before Saturday morning
Each week there is a deadline to set your line-up, chose your captain and make transfers. (generally a majority of teams will play on a Saturday morning).

7) Order of substitutes matters
Your lineup is set and contains a number of Man City players. Pelliegrini likes to rest players randomly, and as a result two of your players don’t play any part in the game. Not to worry, because those players not taking part are automatically substituted out and replaced with those on your bench in the order you have placed them. Make sure you leave your weakest player in the number 3 spot. Weakest is defined by ability to score points, not simply because he looks as skinny and weird as Peter Crouch.

8) Formations can change
Unlike Sam Allardyce’s rigid 4-4-2. You don’t have to play the 4 – 4 – 2 shape the form gives you each week. If you’ve built your team around Costa, RVP and Aguero, play with three up front each week. If goalscorers have the potential to earn more points by scoring goals why wouldn’t you play three up front if that’s who score the most goals? Because anyone can score goals, just ask Begovic. Play around until you see a shape you like. Remember midfield players receive two points for a no goals conceded, and forwards are most often substituted reducing their chance at 1 extra point for playing 90 mins.
3-4-3 4-5-1
9) Form & fixtures matters more than class
Balotelli, Van Persie and Dzeko or Ulloa, Berahino and Weimann? The former have 56 pts costing a combined 30.8 m pounds versus the non-glamor players have 98 pts at a current price of 17 m pounds. Track the form and fitness of players, ease of fixtures and potential suspensions.
Useful stats link: form stats

10) Its all luck with a little knowledge thrown in for seasoning. Or vice versa
If anyone could actually predict the result of sporting events they’d setup an organization that would allow them to pit their wallets against anyone who fancies themselves a sporting soothsayer. Not sure who is mostly likely to be the Jacksonville Jaguars of the EPL? See what the sports betting agents think collectively, its not as if they make money on this every week or anything. Combined betting perspectives:

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Fox Soccer: The, Like, EeeeeEEEEEEENNNNNNNDDDDD!!!!!

Posted by Britrock on May 17, 2013

Fox Sucker ChannelThe title of this piece might be a little confusing and hard to read, but its what the kids do with language these days isn’t it? Using lots of apostrophes and capital letters and the like. My apologies if anyone that has read anything I’ve ever written before is turned off, its simply my way of appealing to a new audience, perhaps poorly imitating their nuanced form of communication to ingratiate myself to them. This metaphor is laboring in much the same way Fox Soccer Channel struggles to inject excitement into end of season games, which is a shame as I was going to rant about being too lazy to invest time and effort into researching who my new audience might be and what it might want.

Fox Soccer lost out to NBC in holding the broadcast rights for the English Premier League (or BPL or whatever rights holders are contractually obliged to call it) and for that I’m grateful. Not to be disingenuous as Fox Soccer Channel provided good coverage of many EPL games, Sky Sports News, MLS, SPL, La Liga and little bits of Serie A and others. Fox Soccer must also be credited with attracting a wider U.S. audience and helping entertain people that perhaps wouldn’t have access to soccer coverage before and preferred helmeted battle chess, America cricket and other sports with excitable fans.

The challenges to watching Fox Soccer Channel are lengthy, and I’ll do my best to avoid turning this into an over the top moan at high pitch that loses momentum halfway through because I don’t feel comfortable enough in my convictions… damn it, I’m slipping back into the mocking analogy I abandoned in the opening paragraph.

The five lessons NBC needs to learn from Fox’s mistakes:


The commentary was generally awful; from the feckless Tommy Smith and his idiotic ‘catch phrases,’ to the clown Gus Johnson and Ian Darke they all appear to have forgotten that their role is to report on an event as it occurs. Yelling a players name into a device that captures and amplifies sound provides no benefit to the audience. Granted describing what is happening is challenging particularly if you may have received instruction to make your commentary colorful and impassioned like those Latin American fellows. For all Ian Wright’s excellence as a goalscorer his reputation should be protected from himself by never being allowed to use a microphone again. Wright’s poor use of language, repetitive phrases, lack of real insight, unfamiliarity of when to speak and when to allow his partner to speak, I’ve yet to listen to game he’s commentated on where something wasn’t “embarrassing.” At least not as embarrassing as his commentary.

Expert analysis

Steve McManaman and Brian McBride aside, expert analysis on Fox was a shambles of irrelevance led by Rob Stone, Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda. The latter three shared an awkward camaraderie and to be fair to Barton and Wynalda, that at least have a little football experience to call upon and occasionally offered insight. Stone is a fish out of water, a lumbering striker defending his own penalty box opposite a skilled ball player. Prone to growling of a goal scorer’s name during highlights packages in the manner of a sufferer of Tourettes syndrome, Stone’s lack of soccer knowledge justified the ‘expertise’ of Barton and Wynalda.

Premium premium plus channel

Whoevers decision it was to charge a premium for a sports/Fox Soccer Channel made a good decision. Its a niche that not everyone wants to subscribe to. Approximately midway through the Fox Soccer Channel deal, viewers who paid for Fox Soccer Channel suddenly lost access to half the broadcast games unless they wanted to pay an additional premium for a premium Fox Soccer Plus channel. Not quite bait and switch but Fox made some of us soccer fans feel like suckers. Funnily enough this alienated a few overseas fans of soccer who simply refused to pay for a premium on top of a premium channel and chose to watch the few games of interest online or in bars. Watching international feeds of EPL games online also meant viewers were not subject to the awful US studio commentary that lacked atmosphere and listenable reportage.

Deep-throated cinematic style voiceover promos

The cringeworthy voiceovers of Jimmy Hodson that have long accompanied movie commercials found there way onto the Fox’s networks playbook of nauseating tricks, and has been overused on FSC. Fortunately NBC and ESPN hasn’t adopted this practise. The countdown to never having to hear “Chel-sea…. ver-sus… Nooor-witch” growled with the same intensity as a horror slasher flick ever again has begun.

Highlights Packages and News

A crucial aspect of being a fan of any sports league is being able to see highlights of all other games within the league. The collated highlights package from the sports native country will offer all the necessary elements, by all means add local U.S. appeal with local commentary teams and experts, but soccer is not as complex as gridiron football and doesn’t need to be dumbed down. Fox Soccer News is often a confusing mixture of news from around the globe, with Ed McMahon offering its one ingratiating feature. Perhaps he’s a little low-key in his delivery and not full of the vim, vigor and ‘sparkle’ of other anchors of other shows, but employing his perspectives and observations would add credibility to any soccer program he associates himself with.

That the NBC commentating, host and expert opinion duties will be include experienced individuals from the UK is a positive. Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle are all well versed in presenting soccer in an unpatronizing manner. Analysis from Gary Lineker, Graeme Le Saux and Lee Dixon who will continue to provide the same duties in UK which have gone down fairly well with friends back home. Just as long as they don’t export the droning clueless Mark Lawrenson or the personality void Alan Shearer.

With an immediate return to the Championship, arguably more entertaining for not being full of wealth, I’m looking forward to watching Southampton start a new Premier league season in August without the grating irritations served up by Fox.

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Getting a good tightend makes life better in America

Posted by Britrock on September 10, 2012

American sports are better observed, learned, understood and then properly enjoyed through gaming. And yes, there’s a British English vs. American English discussion lurking in only the second word of this piece but I’ll save that as a filler paragraph later in another article.

When I first arrived in New York City in the winter of 1999, to reach the sidewalk I had to drag my suitcase over a small embankment of garbage strewn snow, amongst which was the sports section of a newspaper with a close-up photo of a helmeted football participant cheering. Steam poured out of his mouth as rainy globs of snow streaked passed him. Anything that could make a grown adult male that happy while obviously cold, damp and probably bruised was immediately intriguing, yet I didn’t know where to begin learning football.

At school we played and learned games including rugby, association football, cricket, golf, tennis, rounders, softball, athletics, field hockey, volleyball, basketball and cycling. We didn’t learn how to race bicycles but we did learn the principles of how to ride one safely on the road, receiving a ‘cycling proficiency’ certificate and a free reflective piece of plastic on completion. The only time I use the word proficiency is in relation to a cycling lesson at school, making it a grotesquely underused word possibly made uncool because of its originator – the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

“Football for Dummies” didn’t really help, despite reading more than half of it my limited attention span didn’t allow it to sink in. The mere mention of tightends made me smirk like a schoolboy hearing the word “breast” regardless of context. So I bought a Playstation and a copy of Madden 2000, forced Brett Favre to avoid early retirement and take the Packers to three Superbowl titles. And like a girl I picked Green Bay because at the time their green and golden-yellow uniforms had a nostalgically cool look to them.

So, I became familiar with ‘downs,’ QBs, WRs, RBs, the difference between a passing and running game but not when to deploy them, how to defend or not to ‘go for it’ on fourth down everytime. And I still didn’t know what a tight-end was, where they played or what they did, but I knew I liked the entertaining education and participation in virtual sport played over here, and set about learning an American sport a year.

This was around the end of football season and I can’t remember who won the Superbowl that year. Giants won last year, and a couple of years before that I think. But I can tell you I almost won at a superbowl party pick’em’game, finished second in a fantasy baseball league the following year, and in one evening in the summer of 2005 I learned three American sports; kickball, beerpong and flipcup.

Fantasy baseball takes levels of commitment, conservative estimate is an hour a day and a little luck; I landed New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alfonso Soriano in his rookie year. Daily scanning of news websites for information on starting pitchers, batters on hot streaks, and patterns. Always looking for patterns because that’s how humans try to make sense of things.

Baseball, college basketball and football, a little ice hockey, MLS have all entertained me but I’ve not really dedicated any time to wasting hours on NFL games beyond dipping my toe lightly into a playoff league where everyone had the same players and no one really cared about the result.

With limited reading and only intuition to go on, I logged onto and dived straight into a free ESPN league that included a ‘live’ snake draft. There are entire websites, books and even TV programs dedicated to fantasy football draft strategies and even more words written about the merits of every single player in the National Football League. So I ignored it all and went with my gut feelings.

Top five things I learned from my first draft:

a) A quarterback will score the most points each week, not always the same QB each week however. There are eight maybe ten elite quarterbacks, and only five or six that will deliver big points almost every week.
b) Kickers and defenses will likely contribute the fewest points and definitely not the most points on any given week. Pick them towards the end of the draft.
c) There are lots and lots of running backs and wide receivers who tend to score points sporadically depending on if their team is winning or losing, and picking the right four or five guys is more luck based than anything else.
d) Tightends, especially good TD scoring tightends are worthy of a 2nd or 3rd round pick. The name makes me chuckle less now.
e) If fantasy sports makes watching sports much more fun, imagine doubling it and making it a once a season activity with the tension of the final moments of any close, freescoring game. There’s more pressure during the draft that will affect enjoyment of sports on a weekly basis than picking lottery ticket numbers that could change your life.

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Thoughts on the demise of Southampton Football Club

Posted by Britrock on May 12, 2009

Having just watched Manchester United beat a poor Hull City side in the English Premier League’s final round of games and by quirk of fate seal their status in the top flight of English football, I’ve begun to reflect on the demise of the team I’ve supported through think and mainly thin – Southampton Football Club.

Although I live in NYC, I take every opportunity I’m able to seek out the fortunes of the Saints via supporters forums online, Internet radio, my iPhone, televised highlights on my computer or TV through Fox Soccer Channel, a random game on Setanta or a visit to the club every trip home to England. However its difficult to describe affection for what losing this connection to a football club means without coming across as cliched or worse a poor imitation of Nick Hornby.

As a young lad, I grew up in the South of England and at the age of eight I found my interest in football growing and the need for a team to support and players to idolise. Generally accepted wisdom suggests that football teams are chosen by a combination of factors that include the closest team to where you live(d), who your parents supported and who was popular at the time. My closest team by geography was Southampton Football Club, an underdog if ever there was one, and I was lucky enough to attend a few games at The Dell with friends. In 1976 the club won its greatest honour the FA Cup, sadly I was three years old and living in Edinburgh, Scotland at the time. By 1982, Southampton’s best finish in the top flight of English football – second place, I had my first replica kit and my dedication was cemented.

Saints fan - 1982

Southampton have been on a downward rollercoaster ever since, with moments of snatched glory and marginal highlights glimmering through including an FA Cup final appearance against Arsenal in 2003, a 6-3 victory over Manchester United in a Premier League game, dramatic escapes from relegation and inspired individual performances on the pitch from players like Matt Le Tissier. The following BBC slideshow BBC’s slideshow captures many of the highs and lows of Saints demise. Off the pitch the club moved from The Dell, one of the coziest grounds to a legitimate full sized stadium St Mary’s, sold many of its best players and struggled with financial and boardroom challenges.

Regardless of how the club has performed or where I’ve lived my allegiance has never wavered, meaning I’ve sat through and by accounts forced friends and girlfriends to experience watching Southampton lose on TV in grimy, smelly bars all over New York City. Some have even had the pleasure of watching Saints in England and taste the gastronomic dirge that is steak and kidney pie. Relegation to the Championship tested my patience as even fewer Saints games were televised in the U.S. leaving me to huddle over a computer to listen to Internet radio commentary of games we invariably lost.

Regardless of the misery Southampton Football Club have helped me endure, I’d prefer not to lose this constant relationship. Part of my English being, personality and connection to the motherland is maintained through the Saints. I’ve moved away from home, changed job, immigrated country, married, divorced, loved musical groups and then despised them but the one true constant is my football club allegiance.

Through poor performance on the pitch last season the club finds themselves relegated to League One, the third level of English football, and face a ten point deduction for falling into a state of not being able to pay wage bills or other outstanding debts. If Saints do exist next season in League One playing the likes of Millwall, Yeovil and Exeter my trips home to watch games will be less than glamorous… there will be no David Beckham’s for my girlfriend to watch. Most importantly the club needs to be rebuilt from the boardroom down, living within our means and building up and out of League One, without being tempted to look beyond our capabilities. I’d love to see the club receive new ownership, although why anyone would invest in a football club is beyond me with even Manchester United in debt to the tune of millions of pounds.

Financial mismanagement has led the club to the brink of not existing for a “next season” at all. Without a new investor the club will be effectively bankrupt. Meaning the club will be extinct. The will be no more Southampton Football Club to waste countless hours and money over, and rather dramatically part of me would no longer exist either. Without a football club at all how much would I change for better or worse. Personally I hope I only ever have to contemplate the awful prospect and never actually deal with it. To the fans of Newcastle United, Middlesborough and West Bromwich Albion think on to a next season. To my Saints supporting brethren – fingers crossed we’ll have a next season.

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