What I love about running this blog is that I speak to people who are heavily invested in various topics but it all leads back to one game: Championship Manager. The latest in this line of guests is @FPLHints, or as I call him, Chief. FPL, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid it, is Fantasy Premier League, and I’ve been speaking to the Chief about his love for it, his 90s memorabilia and of course Championship Manager.
Thanks for joining me, Chief. Tell us all about your website fplhints.blogspot.ie please
I set up my blog in 2011, a year after I became a fully fledged fantasy football addict. It began innocuously when I posted my latest team on a weekly basis, as well as my recommended player for the weekend. My weekly team post became a mainstay and a reoccurring feature for five consecutive seasons. Due to other commitments, I don’t post weekly on my blog anymore and instead divert my attention to social media via Twitter. In addition, over the years, I have also been privileged in having guest writers that have also provided quality content on the blog.
So, presumably you’re quite good at FPL! How is this season going and what’s your best ever finish?
I guess I got remarkably lucky in my first year of blogging when I finished 110th during the 11/12 Fantasy Premier League season. Going into the final Gameweek I was ranked 73rd in the world and had a very good chance for a Top 50 global finish. Unfortunately my transfer, Juan Mata, didn’t play and was rested as Chelsea were due to participate in the Champions’ League final the week after. I was on course for my lowest haul of points for that season until the final minutes when my captain, Sergio Agueroooooooo, scored a famous winner against QPR to seal City’s first ever Premier League title. I managed top most of my mini-leagues and also finished as the No.1 Newcastle United fan for 11/12.
Do you only play the official FPL game? Or do you dabble in the others too?
In terms of fantasy football, I used to solely play FPL. But over the years, I have tried out an assortment of other fantasy football games too. I finished 9th in the world in PlayTogga’s inaugural Perfect XI game and finished 61st in Football Survivor’s first ever public league. More recently, the latest one that I have taken an interest in is MyLittleNuts. This game has a more informal vibe than other fantasy football games and is ideal if you want to play among mates, rather than millions of random managers.
When did you get into the CM games? Do you think CM led you towards FPL?
I got involved with CM when a school friend introduced me to it during the late 90s. Prior to that I had dabbled with Ultimate Soccer Manager and FIFA Manager. They were also good football management games, but I always felt they lacked something in terms of realism. CM 97/98 was the first version of the game that I played. It led to a CM/FM addiction covering three decades that lasted from 1998 through to early 2010.
I noticed you firing CM9798 up recently on Twitter. Is CM9798 your favourite version of the series?
CM9798 always conjures up nostalgia in my mind. It was also the game that made me realise that football was more than a game where you kicked a ball, could get a way with a dodgy haircut and wear flashy boots. I grew up with this game. It’s definitely one of my favourite CM games, even if it lacks in game play, staff recruitment, training and contract negotiations. I must also give an honourable mention to CM01/02 which addressed some of these concerns. But unfortunately, the best thing to happen to CM was when they had the ‘great split’ – FM 2005 remains one of my favourites from the CM/FM series.
The Toon Army march on thanks to Rush and co! pic.twitter.com/TqqkQXG6XE
— Chief ⚽ #FPL Manager (@FPLHints) 14 October 2017
Everybody has at least one CM save that took over real life – what’s yours?
I have two CM saves that took over my life. One was with CM01/02, a year before university (ideal timing!). I ended up managing for over 100 years. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep any screenshots but I managed countless teams and clubs, as you would expect. The second time was with FM 2005. This came about after my first every FPL season (07/08) didn’t go according to plan, which meant I decided to rededicate myself back to FM. Again, I ended up managing for over 100 years (just under a year and a half in real life). For this save, I managed to get a few screenshots and later wrote about the experience.
Do you ever get the chance to play the newer FM games?
I recall owning FM 2009 but hardly played it. The final FM game that I probably owned was FM 2012. Fortunately, I documented some of my adventures from that game on my blog as I took ‘Team GB’ to Olympic glory. I haven’t owned a newer version of FM since then. Why, you may ask? Life commitments have taken hold. The same life commitments would frown upon both an FPL and FM addiction – something had to give.
It seems to me that the popularity of FPL has gone through the roof in recent seasons, why do you think that is?
The number of FPL managers has effectively doubled since the 11/12 season. Fantasy football has gone mainstream. The Premier League’s rising popularity around the world has been a massive factor in the influx of FPL managers. Also, office leagues seem to be more competitive with the numbers of prizes at stake. But more importantly, the online ‘FPL community’ has also been a reason for the growth of the game. It’s been the difference (along with various apps) between ‘casual’ managers evolving into ‘addict’ managers. With this in mind, I have no doubt had social media been around in the mid-to-late 90s that CM would have been even bigger and more mainstream than it was.
I am a little bit sad and I have a motto that changes from season to season for FPL. This year it’s “you can’t have everybody so stick to your guns and it’ll be fine.” Can you suggest a more sensible approach for me to adopt please?!
‘Form is key, class doesn’t matter’. That’s been my FPL motto for the past 6 or so years. FPL in essence is about gauging form and predicting it. If you’re able to nail that and commit to the game from August to May there will be nothing to stop you from securing a top 1% finish.
If you could make one change to the official FPL game, what would it be?
Good question! Plenty has changed in FPL over the years, such as the additional wildcard and ‘chips’. However, I think FPL needs to do more to keep managers engaged with the game throughout the season. The sad fact is that by May, almost 80% of managers become inactive. One way FPL can address this is to have a ‘Mulligan Chip’. If someone has a shocking score during one Gameweek, they should have the option to have it wiped out and instead have the average score for that weekend replace it instead. It may sound simple, but something like this would definitely keep some managers playing the game for a little bit longer rather than packing it all in after one bad weekend.
I heard a rumour you collect 90s football memorabilia. Tell me more…
That’s right! Apart from my ex-FM and current FPL addiction, I am an avid collector of football memorabilia. The bulk of my collection is from the 90s, ranging from albums, stickers, cards, pogs and autographs. I also have some items from the 00s. I like to cultivate my collection. If your readers are interested in buying or selling, I’d be more than welcome in having a chat with them.
Toughest question of all to finish – I need one name. Who is your favourite CM player of all time?
There’s too many! And that’s the truth. But if I am asked to pick one, it would oddly enough be a non-CM player – Fernando Cavenaghi from the FM 2005 era. He was an uncapped Argentinian in this version of the game. It didn’t matter whether I bought him when managing in the top tier of Scotland or England, he always seemed to deliver. I remember one time I managed Reading and got them promoted to the Premier League. Cavenaghi was the first player that I signed. He ended up as the top scorer in the league and secured us a creditable league position. Glad to see him eventually being capped in real life for his national team, just a shame he was unable to get a chance with a top European club. Apart from that, honourable mentions must also go to Freddy Adu and Cherno Samba. And of course, To Madeira if we want a CM legend!
Thanks again to the chief for chatting to me and allowing me to combine two of my favourite things. Make sure you follow the chief on Twitter @FPLHints – I’ll be back on Sunday with the CM9798 Cup semi finals.
Don’t forget we’re giving away France 98 Monopoly tomorrow so you best enter as soon as you can!
Who wants to win France 98 Monopoly? Just RT this tweet and follow to enter the draw. Closes 9pm (BST) Thursday 19th October. Good luck! pic.twitter.com/zzCAetWBL8
— Dave Black (@cm9798) 16 October 2017