When I returned to Fantasy Football in 2006, a statistics fetish and the quest for one-upmanship over my rival Granville inspired this website and underpinned some high ranks in Fantasy Premier League. I got myself a flying start, an early advantage.
Almost fifteen years later, the pitch has been levelled.
I have to admit, when Fantasy Football Scout became my universe, I buried my head and shut out the social media powered community that grew up around me. I built walls and obsessed about protecting what I had, forgoing likes and subscribers to keep my roof intact.
Now free of those concerns, I was shocked when I reared my head to look around. Both the depth and breadth of the FPL community is extraordinary, the amount of information and data being shared openly overwhelming.
Eight million managers make a high rank that more difficult to achieve, but the explosion of new voices spraying knowledge and opinion far and wide raises the bar with each passing season.
Back in the day, I was among a few hundred who wandered trance-like down supermarket isles deliberating a four-point hit. Now there are thousands extending loo breaks to unfeasible lengths of time while they compare Sadio Mané (£12.0m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) for touches in the box. Like myself all those years ago, they have spreadsheets, irritated partners and an insatiable drive to succeed: a triple threat.
I need to raise and change my game if I’m to remain in their company.
Too long in the tooth and arrogant to be told the latest do’s and don’ts or ten tips for success, I know the mechanics of the game and how to bend them to my advantage. To really improve, I need to look hard at myself, analyse my methods and learn from mistakes.
I’ve always hurried away from FPL failure. I’m almost ashamed that dismal Gameweeks spark family tension in garden centres, so why would I ever dwell on every error? I bury mistakes to maintain an equilibrium. Forget that bad transfer, move on, greet the next deadline as a liquor to quickly drown my sorrows.
That changes now. I should see my mistakes as an opportunity to learn more about how I play, to identify my favourite error traps and the bias at play when I run my eye over Match of the Day highlights or Goals Imminent tables.
Thanks to an almost catastrophic campaign in 2019/20, I have plenty to pick apart. I’ve learned to enjoy looking back and attempting to fathom my thought process behind each bad decision. But that’s just a post mortem; I need to attack this new season with this same analytical mindset.
I have to be more inquisitive as each Gameweek rolls by, question and challenge each decision I make and develop methods that reveal a clear choice that I’m happy to take, not just one I’ve convinced myself is correct by brute-forcing fuzzy numbers and rose-tinted eye tests.
You might have noticed that psychology is a popular buzzword right now, an emerging theme in the community that can be conveniently tucked away in a bulging box file labelled “overthinking”.
But I’m convinced that something is afoot. When Magnus Carlsen, the world’s finest Chess player, hits the FPL top 100, we need to stop in our tracks and consider that there could be a new breed among us.
I reckon your average Grandmaster spends more time pondering King to G7, rather than King to centre forward. So I might have the edge on Magnus when it comes to thinking time, I may even have more knowledge and data at my disposal.
But does Magnus employ a logical method to his decisions and keep bias and emotion in check? Does he indulge in bouts of introspection and analysis of his judgement calls? Does he read all those psychology threads on Twitter with a knowing smile?
He’s the best chess player in the world. He does all the above and has a team of advisors doing it for him while he sleeps.
These days everyone can get a glut of knowledge, information and data in their timeline with relative ease. But to work out how best to process it, how you learn to separate luck from skill and focus on improving the input, not dwell on the output, that might just be the new marginal gain. A fresh route to success.
After last season, I’ll give anything a go.
Magnus must be petrified.
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