Heading into the final Gameweek of the season Adam Levy has a seemingly unassailable lead at the top, 60 points ahead of second place. He’s had a brilliant season and destroyed the field, blown them to smithereens. Veteran fantasy managers cannot recall anyone having a bigger lead at this stage of the season.
Now, like a long-distance runner who’s left the chasing pack behind, Adam has his sights set on a world record – the record points total in FPL. He needs 81 points on the final day of the season to break it.
It’s a record that was set a surprisingly long time ago, all the way back in the 2009/10 season. What makes the record so impressive is that it was set when only one Wildcard was available for the whole season – the January Wildcard was introduced the following season – and there were no other chips.
The record is held by Jon Reeson (aka Westfield Irons), the first ever member of FFS to win FPL. In this article I ask Jon about his record-breaking season.
Are you surprised your record has stood for so long?
“I guess when you think that there are double the players and loads of FPL content it’s a bit of a surprise. I think people take FPL more ‘seriously’ now, with more analysis than when I won. Back then it seemed the bulk of people went on hunches, form and big names from big teams. Expected Goals? That certainly didn’t exist. If you knew about Double Gameweeks you were in the minority, times have certainly changed.”
“I’m a massive fan of the FPL content out there. I’d like to take a chance to say congratulations to Mark for FFS and the entire team and everyone on the chat for making it such a good site. I cannot get enough of the streams from FFS and other FPL folk including Andy / LetsTalkFPL – the FPL Family, FPL Cougars and more. They are a great watch and I’ve killed many hours glued to their content looking for confirmation bias for some dullard Jonty-type move I’ve got in mind. I love the passion these people put into their work/hobby and appreciate the commitment and time they spend doing it – thanks you lot!”
“I think the stats available now are amazing – but they don’t seem to always win out – FPL wise. The whole template team debate is valid. I often hear about Mark making ‘maverick moves’ – I think that’s got to be the way forward.”
My performance often seems to be hindered by worries about ownership and missing out, rather than going with a hunch, like I might have when I won.
When interviewed by FFS about your winning season, you mentioned that your tactics were: “1. Cheap keepers 2. Cheap defenders. 3. If in doubt, captain Frank.” Have you now changed your opinion on cheap defenders?
“Clearly this season premium defenders have been very effective. From a purely ‘real’ football point of view – the Liverpool defence has been incredible, and the likes of Azpi, Laporte, etc are good footballers in good teams, so that kind of defender is always a good choice. I’m always inclined to start the season with very cheap defenders, often all at 4.5 or less. There usually seems to be a tantalising rotation opportunity, or decent fixtures that entice me to get cheaper defenders – and I’m guilty of thinking I’m going to pick the next Doherty or whoever. Plus I enjoy the conundrum of finding a way of getting Hazard, Salah, Sterling and Aguero (for example) in a team, but still expecting my other players to do OK.”
In the year you won Frank Lampard scored 284 points, which is still the third highest total behind Suarez (295 points, 2013/14) and Salah (303 points, 2017/18). Nailing the captaincy seems crucial to having a successful season. Aside from captaining Frank, do you remember much about your choices that year?
“To be honest, no, I don’t remember. I seemed to nail a few hat-tricks and mix it up a lot more than people do now. I guess there’s an argument to leave it on Salah now – and that’s the mentality that’s crept in to my play recently. But it’s kind of boring isn’t it ? – it takes the fun or risk/reward out of FPL.”
The 2009/10 season was the first in which you could roll a transfer, did you find that rule change particularly helped your style of play? Did it affect how you planned transfers?
“I seem to remember back then I only made transfers due to injuries and suspensions, but did keep an eye out for players on 4 yellows, etc. If I wasn’t forced into a transfer, I wasn’t doing anything more intelligent than comparing who was in my team to other players that looked like they had a decent run coming up. No ‘shots in the box’, ‘touches in the box’ or xG stats to worry about then! Simply ‘Drogba’s got a few easy games coming up, I’ll get him in’.”
“I was lucky I guess!!”
You won by a margin of 38 points and were top for the last 11 Gameweeks. Did you alter your tactics as you approached the finishing line?
I did spy on the competition, no doubt about that. For example, I would check their transfer history and assess if they had made 2 transfers this week, costing 4 points, it gave me more confidence to do the same. Plus I think once or twice I brought in form players my competition had to neutralise any gains there.
There were as many as 12 Double Gameweeks in your winning season. That must have made planning fun!
I’m not sure but that season might have been when games were rearranged due to snow?
I think it was carnage for the fixtures and planning, and good news if you were focussed and paying attention. So Double Gameweeks were a regular occurrence – but I think for just a couple of teams at a time. Your mini-league mates were doomed with that kind of disruption, but I doubt my competition for the top spot were affected.
I notice in the period of time around your winning season you had three top 10,000 finishes in four seasons, followed by more average ranks later on. Has your relationship to, or motivation for FPL changed in recent years?
“I felt like I had enough of FPL after winning, plus had young kids, a busy job and so on – so I switched off the next season and didn’t really look at FPL. I admire some of the players in the HOF – I have to admit, I sometimes regret not trying the next year to cling on to the ‘fame’ – but in reality I’m way off the pace or focus required to compete now.”
“I feel very proud of winning and it was a great experience meeting Mark and the FFS team and loads of other FPL fans who’ve loved talking about my win with me. Now I’m happy to still be an FPL addict, soak up all the content and analysis, but not beat myself up if I cock it up. I have a job winning my mini-leagues now (shout out Simon Ruelens)! There are so many good focused FPL players out there.”
“We play a draft league in the office and I find that very interesting and get as much enjoyment out of checking that – and we play the same squad (no transfers) all season. You know your FPL luck is running low when your draft team picked at the start of the season scores more in a Gameweek than your Fantasy team you’ve been fussing over for ages.”
After winning FPL, you and Mark were interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live! Unfortunately no copy of that interview still exists, do you remember much about it?
“That interview was kind of funny. I think it was Nicky Campbell on 5 Live with Mark and I. I was camping on holiday at the time, with very young kids, and couldn’t find anywhere quiet to talk so took a long walk on the beach. When we were live, all of a sudden seagulls came out of nowhere making a racket through the interview.”
“My treasured possession from those glory days is my FourFourTwo magazine interview. I’m a very average footballer so to be in that magazine was cool.”
Nowadays, many FPL managers complain that things are getting easier for the casual given the abundance of information available via the Official FPL website, Twitter, and FFS. Yet the following quote referring to improvements in FPL, comes from 2008: “… This level of assistance may frustrate those who pride themselves on spotting bargains, unknown talent and keeping up to date with team news but then it means the top Fantasy Managers have to keep on their game to stay ahead.” Has FPL really changed that much?
“I don’t like the way purists refer to casuals. It’s a game, we’re not playing it to be judged for our moves – I suppose some people like to go that route, but it doesn’t achieve or prove anything. I guess I was a casual in a way and I did ok.”
“On another topic, I’ve been playing fantasy football since the Can You Kick It days. Do you remember that? I was never a ‘gamer’ playing Football Manager or similar. When FPL became the main game and people at work started to talk about it and set-up leagues, that’s when I got into it. At that time (pre-internet on mobile phones) I used to fix my team on a Friday afternoon and print it out to check over the weekend because I didn’t have a laptop or PC at home. I used to write on top of the players’ names based on watching their contributions on Match Of The Day. That’s analogue fantasy football isn’t it…?”
“And another thing! This is taking FPL to extremes. My son plays football and like a lot of Dads I got roped into being a coach, did my Level 1 coaching badges and ended up managing a team for four seasons from Under 11 to Under 14 (the mighty AFC Oakley Crusaders). I cannot deny that I tracked clean sheets, assists and goals scored like FPL to work out my best squad or player of the month.”
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and best of luck in the final Gameweek of the season.
“Thanks for the good luck wishes. My season has drifted from hoping vainly for a top 40k ish finish to a probably top 200k. I haven’t got the time to explain or work out why! I had all the chips lined up and a master plan – but flopped terribly!”