With only a few days left of the 2010/11 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) season, our build-up to this Sunday’s final round of matches has been boosted thanks to an interview with current Fantasy Football Scout and World Number 1, Chris McGurn.
We’ve been tracking the progress of Chris’ team for a number of weeks now in our “Follow the Leader” articles and as the days draw closer to the season’s climax, Chris looked back over what has been a pressure-filled Fantasy campaign.
FFScout: You’ve been inside the top 1,000 since gameweek 3, then subsequently been in and around the top 100 since gameweek 5. Have you been able to enjoy this Fantasy season or, with so much success so early on, has it been one filled with tension? Would you rather have made a late surge up the rankings?
Chris: It was great at first as I had never been so high before and didn’t think I would stay there for long, so was enjoying it while it lasted. However the longer I stayed near the top, and especially when I got in the top 2, it seemed to become more stressful than enjoyable, knowing that one bad decision could make such a difference. Given the choice, yes, I would much rather have been in the pack and made a late surge, but I can’t complain with the way things have gone.
FFScout: You’ve played two seasons previously, comfortably ending both inside the top 10,000. Do you adhere to any particular tactics as a rule and if so, did you alter or keep to your gameplan this season?
Chris: I have generally taken a fairly conservative approach with few risks, preferring to go with the more reliable ‘big four’ players where possible with some cheap guaranteed starters to make up the numbers. Also two cheap keepers to rotate; this usually works well with Foster getting good points this year and Hart and Schwarzer in previous seasons. I have probably been a bit more aggressive this year and not been afraid to sell players who have scored well if there is a better option elsewhere, and this seems to have paid off.
FFScout: How long do you typically spend on team selection each gameweek? Are you pretty certain in your choices or do you find yourself sometimes switching the captain’s armband from player to player at 11.29am on a Saturday morning?
Chris: I find team selections are generally ok as I tend to have a few cheap players so the bench often picks itself and it has been 3-5-2 all the way for most of the season. I have had a lot more trouble deciding on my captains though, especially this year as there generally hasn’t been an obvious choice with little to choose between the big players. I often think I have gone with the wrong one. Recently I have made a point of setting my team/captain on the Friday and not changing it. There is nothing worse than making a change at 11.29 and seeing it backfire.
FFScout: It’s been a very open Fantasy season this time round, with injuries or loss of form meaning there’s no real stand-out player this season. Any players you gravitate towards handing the armband regardless of fixtures? Also, are there any particular players you have taken a punt on that have proved a surprising source of points?
Chris: Marlon Harewood’s 15 points in week 1 was a very pleasant surprise (did I really have Harewood?), especially as the guys in my league gave me a lot of stick beforehand for getting him. Other than that most of my points have been from the usual suspects (Drogba, Tevez, Nani, VDV, RVP etc), albeit they have hit form at different stages of the season. The key has been getting them in and out at the right time. My captaincy picks are usually pretty safe, generally being the big attacking player with the easiest home game, although I did tend to favour Drogba early on, Tevez more mid-season and RVP more towards the end.
FFScout: What have you made of the extra winter wildcard this season? Do it alter how you approached the beginning of the season or how/when you played your initial wildcard? Also on rule changes, any you would personally like to see introduced for next season that would make the game better?
Chris: I don’t really like the extra wildcard. It makes it too easy to get all the top performing players and people can end up with very similar teams, especially in the early weeks. Generally speaking I am happy with the rules and scoring although there is some scope for improvement. As well as getting rid of the extra wildcard, there should be a selected (not automatic) vice captain with no captain if neither play. I reckon they should also look at the cut off time for appearances and clean sheets as 60 minutes is often the time that subs are made and so one defender can play 59 mins for 1 point whilst another can play an extra minute and get 6 (maybe make it 45 mins?). Bonus points are a bit of a lottery but at least they give us all something to whinge about on the message boards so I am ok with these.
FFScout: Has there been any particular gameweek that stands out in the memory this season? Any huge captaincy score or players come off the bench with big scores to give you an unexpected boost?
Chris: No gameweeks particularly stand out for me. I have had some good captain picks but nothing like a 40+ and I rarely get much off the bench. I did have a stand out spell though from GW 25 to 28 which put me into contention and nearly won me the monthly prize for February (I was gutted when Vidic’s red card in the last game of the month pushed me down to 2nd in the month)
FFScout: Last season’s winner was a big West Ham and admitted having a slight anti-Spurs bias as a result. Are you a fan of any Premier League team and if so, does it ever affect your decision-making?
Chris: I support Crewe Alexandra. One of the few benefits of supporting a rubbish team is that it doesn’t influence my FPL decisions which I imagine supporting a Premier League team might. There are a few teams I tend to steer clear of though; I don’t recall ever having an outfield player from Blackburn, for instance.
FFScout: Points hits. Are you a fan or do you avoid them as much as possible?
Chris: I have mixed views on taking points hits. I didn’t used to like doing them as I was never confident enough that I would gain at least 4 extra points to cover the hit, except perhaps for some double gameweeks or when struggling to raise a team. This season however I have started to take a longer term view on points hits and more often decided they are worth it, particularly when you have a number of transfers you want to make, as you are not just benefiting from the extra points that week but also from the extra transfer it frees up for the next week.
FFScout: What’s your policy on double gameweeks? Load up or be prudent?
Chris: I guess it depends on the circumstances. Whilst they can be extremely lucrative they are just as likely to be a major let down. When looking at the DGW, I would always plan a few weeks ahead. I would generally only load up on DGW players if I was happy to keep them for more than just that week eg. if they played for one of the top teams or a team with a good run of fixtures. Otherwise I tend to avoid as, after the DGW is over, I wouldn’t want my team full of players I wouldn’t normally consider. That said, I’m in no position to comment on DGW strategy after captaining Jamie O’Hara during the last one.
FFScout: Finally, you’re thirteen points ahead of the FPL pack going into the last gameweek of the season. Sleeping much, Chris?
Chris: Not too bad but I will certainly be relieved when it is all over. 13 points is a decent gap but it could disappear with one good/bad captaincy choice. I would be more confident if I was happier with my team but I don’t think it is looking too good for this week. I guess many people are thinking the same about their teams but those chasing have little to lose so will probably take some risks that may pay off, which I can’t really do in my position.