Fantasy Football Scout site user Liam Dorrian was crowned the winner of the Sky Fantasy Football game in 2019/20, finishing ten points clear of the chasing pack.
With the relaunch of the game imminent, we spoke to last season’s champion for his insight and advice as well as some reflection on his title-winning campaign.
How does it feel to be Sky Fantasy Football champion now that the dust has settled?
It feels great, it’s two weeks since I won and it still hasn’t fully sunk it. For the first couple of days, I was in a state of shock. I have been playing the Sky game for the past six or seven seasons so you could say I am a bit of a veteran.
I play FPL but I always focus on the Sky game as the passing, tackle and shot bonus makes the game more interesting. I would have been happy with another top 100 finish this season, never mind winning the game.
It was also great to be the first player from Ireland to win it. I am already looking forward to next season so I can try and defend my crown.
How did you take in the final day of the season, were you watching it alone or with friends/family?
The final day was like a rollercoaster filled with every emotion possible. I was still annoyed going into that day that I let my 21-point gap vanish on the last game day and found myself in second place, one point off first.
The leaderboard was so tight that anybody in the top seven could have won it. Once the line-ups came out at 3pm, I went into a mini-lockdown in the sitting room until the matches were over. I wanted to be on my own so I could focus on the games. With the winner getting £50,000 a lot was at stake, it meant every goal or assist was crucial.
My family and friends were all very supportive and were cheering me on from the other room. I think my mum and dad were more nervous than me!
I had a great final day having Kevin De Bruyne as my captain and Virgil van Dijk, Danny Ings and Bruno Fernandes all scoring goals so I ended up with 99 points. I then had to endure the most gruelling three-hour wait for the table to update. All the players in the top 10 had their teams private so I couldn’t see who they had.
I was over the moon when I found out I had won and also relief that the season was over so I could relax as the past month was very intense with a game almost every day.
Do you keep a decent chunk of your allotted 40 transfers for the end of the season, given the fixture-related bedlam that usually takes place?
I always like having a decent amount of transfers at the end of the season. I try and stick to my transfer plan as much as possible: my rule of thumb is to use no transfers by the first overhaul, have around 17 on Christmas Day and around 12 by the second overhaul.
Saving my transfers until the end of the season was a key factor in how I won.
A prime example of how important having transfers at the business end of the season was on July 14, when Chelsea v Norwich was the only game that day. I used a transfer to bring in Cesar Azpilicueta and he picked up a clean sheet and a few bonus points to score me 24 points as captain. Four out of the top 10 players had no players that day so I gained 24 points on them. That was also the day I reached the top spot for the first time that season and was the day I started to think I could win this.
I think this season punished players who didn’t have many transfers left come the restart due to the number of games being spread over a lot of days.
With there being no ‘auto-subs’ in Sky, how much importance do you place on regular starters amid the rotation roulette at teams like Manchester City? Or do the matchday deadlines being just before kick-off negate that worry somewhat?
Having players who start every game is the most important rule for the Sky game. Taking out players who aren’t starting is another transfer wasted so I always go for nailed on players so I can maximize my usage of the transfers.
Pep roulette is a Fantasy Football manager nightmare which is why I tended to avoid Manchester City players apart from De Bruyne, who plays most of the City games. I also had Phil Foden towards the end of the season but that was more of an enabler due to him being so cheap. I didn’t have Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus or Riyad Mahrez all season as I couldn’t be sure they would start.
Being able to change your team/captain right up to kick-off on the first game of the day is a really helpful feature of the Sky game. It is great as we can see the line-ups and make adjustments to our team depending on the team news.
But if your selected captain is playing in the second game of the day you just have to hope he starts – which makes the Sky game intriguing.
There’s a big debate in FPL at present over whether the likes of Raheem Sterling, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and co should be reclassified as forwards – something that is already the case in Sky. Do you feel like the midfield pool suffers as a consequence in Sky?
I thought this season there was a huge imbalance between the midfielders and forwards. In my team and other teams, there was a shift to the 3-4-3 formation which normally I wouldn’t use.
But this season, due to the lack of real midfield options and the vast array of forwards, you just had to have three forwards. The 3-4-3 formation worked well for me after the second overhaul as I had a settled defence and midfield so I could use my transfers to change my big-hitting forwards. I can see this being the way forward next season if the player’s positions don’t change.
But I hope they do change the imbalance and move some forwards back to midfielders as it will stop everyone having a similar midfield and spice things up a bit.
How far ahead do you plan your moves with regards to the daily captaincy and transfers – how much does the TV schedule have a say on your squad selection?
I tend to look three to four weeks ahead in the fixture list so I can plan when is the best time to bring a player in or out. Planning is a key part of the Sky game. Not planning correctly can cost your transfers and points.
The TV schedule has a huge impact on my transfer plans as I like to have a captain playing every game day. Some times the TV schedule throws up a game like Norwich v Brighton on a Monday night which can be very awkward but planning ahead allows me to fit this game in. My teams usually consist of roughly seven to eight players from a different team so they can cover most of the fixtures and save me wasting transfers to cover games.
From that core of assets, I always have a player from Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United as they are shown on TV most and are most likely to be selected for a single match day. If your team is made up of three to four players from the same team, you could end up using a lot of transfers.
With many Sky managers making their team private and there perhaps not being so much ‘noise’ on social media, do you think this helps you to stay focused on your own decisions and strategy?
Most of the season, it was good that nearly all teams are private as it allowed me to go with my own decisions and not get swayed by what the other teams are doing. Sometimes it’s good to go against the grain.
For me personally, I don’t give any information about my team to anybody, I like the secretive nature of it. This is probably why most Sky players aren’t as active on social media platforms compared to FPL players.
In the last few weeks before the season was over, I tried to guess who the other top players had in their teams so I could use my transfers to cover them off. Especially on the last day, if every team was public I would have known I had won pretty quickly rather than waiting around for three hours. Those three hours aged me about 10 years!
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