In the Blog: PL Fantasy

by Neil Sherwin

Fun and equally frustrating at the same time, fantasy football is enjoyed by millions worldwide across various sports, with the official Premier League version catering for over two million players. We caught up with PL Fantasy’s Chris Glover to discuss his site which provides excellent in depth analysis and vital information that is a most for anyone serious about the game.

Hi Chris, thanks for talking to us. How’s the fantasy team going this year?

Things are moving along nicely now thanks. I had a great start to the year but then really suffered with all the postponements and took a while to get to grips with the new trends for the year. My love for Cesc Fabregas cost me too as I brought him in too quickly after his injury and then had to mess around when he sat out again. I’m back on track now though and re-climbing the table (currently around 20,000th).

It’s been a strange year for fantasy with not many of the established players having great years and players like Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam and Phil Bardsley emerging as fantasy stars. Anyone set in the old routine of plugging the big name midfielders and Chelsea defenders in their teams every week will have really struggled.

Where did the obsession with the fantasy aspect of the game come from?

I’ve been playing fantasy football since I was a kid when I used to play the old Times game with my Dad. I’d look forward to buying the paper on a Tuesday to check the scores in the slim hope I’d made the Top 50 for the week (I never did). I got into the blogging side just because I didn’t really know of many other sites around to get information and ideas, whereas for the NFL or baseball there are literally hundreds of resources.

Fantasy football really just gives me and other fans another way to enjoy the game.

How easy or difficult is it to put together the various trends discussed on the site?

Some of the basic trends are pretty straight forward and it’s just a case of collecting the data. For others I try and analyse common beliefs to either back them up or try and disprove them (Drogba not being able to play with Anelka was something I looked at recently). Otherwise, it’s just a case of me being a bit of nerd with a big spreadsheet and looking at how one set of numbers impacts another. I’ve made up a few of my own stats to try and measure player value, form or overall achievement too (okay that sounded nerdier than I hoped).

It can’t be easy collating all that data. How time consuming is PLFantasy?

It is pretty time consuming but I’ve worked out the best way to tilt my laptop at work so no one can see my screen so I manage to get things done. I also have a Clint Eastwood like draw on the Alt-Tab keys to get back to a more ‘appropriate’ screen.

We’ve been playing fantasy football for years but would be too embarrassed to reveal our finishing positions. What do you think are the keys to success?

Well the other week I told everyone to captain Nani over Berbatov so I would take my advice with a pinch of salt. I think you need to strike a balance between sticking with your convictions and knowing when to cut loose. A lot of players ‘chase points’ by signing whoever scored highly last week, and while of course form is applicable to fantasy just as in reality, if the player just played West Ham but now faces the top four sides, his production is unlikely to continue. The key really is spot a genuine trend (rather than a one week outlier), exploit it, and then bail earlier enough to get on the next opportunity before the masses. That, and to captain Berbatov every time he scores five goals.

You don’t bear any resemblance to the original Statto (Angus Loughran) by any chance? That’s the image we always get when we think ‘football nerd’.

I wouldn’t say I have his sharp looks but certainly some of his nerdiness. There is a bit of a divide in football between the ‘purists’ who want to just let the players play and the ‘strategists’ who want to employ a bit more tactical discipline (the Inter – Barcelona clash in last year’s Champions League was somewhat unfairly branded as the meeting of these two mindsets). In truth, good sides need the right tactics and good tactics work better with the right kind of player and I think both concede more to the other side than they let on. I think people’s views on statistics are similar. It’s considered ‘old school’ to shun stats as you can’t quantify a player’s vision or creativity but I think there’s a place in the game for statistical analysis both to make teams better and as another way to enjoy the game. Baseball, the US sport with the most tradition, has faced a similar struggle over the past couple of decades but now accept advanced statistics as part of the game whether an individual manager or fan chooses to follow them or not. I hope football will at least try and expand in this area over in the coming decade.

We ask everybody this final question so it would be rude to leave you out – what are your plans for the site and your own writing future in general?

While I like the premierleague.com game, I think there are better ways to play fantasy football and I hope to try and play a new type of game next year, featuring an initial draft or auction of players – like in fantasy NFL or baseball – so that each player can only be owned once. My idea is to set up a super league of bloggers to play and if the game works expand it to others in the future.

I love writing about fantasy, and the weekly competition is really fun, but I am looking to expand my horizons and try writing more real life work. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few pieces published recently and hope to expand this over the next few months. I’d love to do this full time but I think I have a long way to go yet.

Stick us down for that league of bloggers! Cheers for your time.

It was my pleasure.

If you aren’t already, make sure you follow Chris on Twitter and also check out his website.

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