After a summer with very limited football which weirdly seems to have gone both really slowly and really quickly at the same time, the Premier League season starts again tomorrow! Yes, the best league in the world (err) is back, everybody, and it’s time to rejoice because there’s now a full nine months of wonderful domestic football ahead of us to enjoy. Right?
Wrong. If only it were that simple. Because unfortunately, as always just before the start of the season, there’s something else that’s weighing heavily on our minds right now. It’s not that your team’s star English player has been nabbed by a top four club only to probably sit on the bench because of those stupid homegrown rules. It’s not that your best striker keeps picking up injuries when he’s “just a couple of weeks away” from returning and that you’ve not signed anyone to replace him yet. And it’s not even that Dejan Lovren has been playing far too often for your liking in pre-season friendlies and might somehow be first-choice again.
No, it’s even worse than those (okay maybe not than the last one) – it’s the return of Fantasy Football.
The most devastating part is how you get sucked into it the same way every year. Every single damn year. And yet it still excites you at first. You see your slightly over-eager mate tweet out his team and league code in the middle of July. It gets you enthusiastic, and you log into your Fantasy Premier League account for the first time since you gave up in the middle of October last season. “I’ll stick with it this year”, you tell yourself. The first broken promise.
But don’t worry about the past, there’s a big £100 million budget to greet you! That’ll make things nice and simple. I mean, you can get a lot for £100 million. Sergio Agüero? Yes. Diego Costa? Of course. Eden Hazard? Well, it’d be silly not to really. Oh look, there’s that Dutch guy who just joined Newcastle that was good for you on Football Manager! What a bargain he is! Easy stuff. Just a few more players and a team name and you’re all good to…
And then, suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see that little blue box at the top of the screen: ‘Bank’. You’ve only got £3 million left, and there are still two defenders and a spare goalkeeper left to fill. Oops. Back to the drawing board it is.
Fast forward a few draining hours later though and you finally get there. There are no more gaps, AND you haven’t overspent this time! It’s a proud moment for everyone. Sure, there are a couple of players that you don’t really want in there and you couldn’t afford Agüero in the end, but it doesn’t matter. He always gets injured at some point and he’s got a yellow mark thing next to his name already. Troy Deeney will easily make the step up to the Premier League this year anyway.
Besides, in the middle of all that you’ve come up with that great original name now as well – ‘Who Ate All Depay’s?’. Quality stuff. Even if you do a bit crap, however unlikely that is, that’ll save the embarrassment. Now just copy and paste that league code into the right place and it’s all done and dusted. “Who else is in the league, anyway?” you mutter to yourself. You’ll win it regardless, but there can’t be any harm in looking. Maybe there’ll be another half-decent team name to laugh at too.
‘Dave’s XI’? ‘Nice To Michu’? Jeez, get some originality, guys. People barely even remember who Michu is anymore. You probably came up with that one yourself a couple of years ago and told your friend it too. Fucking fraud. That doesn’t matter, though, because your name’s better and your team inevitably is too. The title, and the bragging rights, will finally be yours. You log off. You smile. All is good with the world again.
It’s not obvious at first though. Even with those lingering concerns over Lovren’s potential playing time which are in the back of your mind, things seem good. Like hey, it’s almost the weekend and the season starts tomorrow! It’s a time for happiness. And at least Lovren doesn’t have to be in your Fantasy Football team! That would really ruin things. Maybe you should have a quick look at that and double-check you’ve got the right person as captain for the first gameweek, though. You know, just to be safe side. It’ll only take a minute or two.
You log on. You haven’t checked your team again since that day back in July when you set it all up, and why would you have? It was pretty great. It still looks good as well – and oh look, there’s Costa set as captain at home to Swansea like you thought. Easy choice; he got a hat-trick against them last year and he’ll probably get… although… he has got that yellow thing by his name. He missed the Community Shield too, actually. Hmm. And then it starts.
Is Costa even gonna play? I mean, you left Agüero out because of the same logic. You’ve only got Deeney as a replacement for him on the bench, too. Why’s he there? Championship strikers NEVER do that well when they come up. Everyone knows that. Those two are definitely coming out. And whilst you’re at it, Theo Walcott's had a pretty good pre-season. Maybe you can fit him into the midfield if you free up a couple of million or so in defence.
It’s too late to escape it now. The cycle has started. The headaches have returned. The dog’s scratches at the backdoor go unanswered. Dinner’s on the table downstairs and it’s going cold. But it doesn’t really matter. At this moment, nothing else does. There are other priorities to attend to. You know you’re in for a long, thankless night.
And all for what? Deeney’s just going to score tomorrow anyway and ruin everything. Fucking Deeney. So look, do yourself a favour – don’t worry about it too much. You’ll only have forgotten all about it by October.