FC Steaua Bucaresti – Press Conference

*camera cuts to plush lounge, where a scrum of men in leather jackets, and three ladies in Acquascutum raincoats can be seen necking russian champagne and scoffing nuts*

*the door to the side of the podium opens, and a guy, groomed to the last nostril hair and attired in a long, sweeping black Burberry coat; walks alone – almost dances – in patent leather shoes to the table, where there is an array of microphones*

*cameras flash, and a hush descends*

Laurenţiu Aurelian Reghecampf(for it is the Coach himself): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press! I trust you find our hospitality satisfactory? *smiles grimly*

Reptile 1: Coach! I hear you are adopting a new formation for the forthcoming Europa matches?

L. R.: Well, Vasily, as you know, we favour a 343 in the domestic matches. However, the signing of Dempsey has given us a new option in this regard. *smiles charmingly, signals to the three ladies*

Female Reptile 1*swooning*: Laurentiu – you look very elegant today – is it true you were offered the job at West Ham?

L. R.*winks conspiratorially*: Cosmina, you know my heart belongs here! *F. R. 1 blushes furiously, and a rude noise is heard in the room* *L. R. raises an eyebrow, and silence descends* Besides, my good friend Mark Noble is in line for that job, when sense is granted by the D … God to the owners … Continue reading

Wild Cards – Some Fantasy Strategies

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There is now a substantial debate about the most effective use of our two wild cards. I have been asked to add my ha’penceworth to this debate, so here goes.

The first thing to note is that the January wild card may be used at any time in game weeks 22 to 24 inclusive(from after 11:30 Jan 1 until and up to 11:30 Feb 2), that is 4 weeks grace, leaving 35, effectively 33 other weeks when you may deploy your other wild card, assuming for the sake of this article that no funny buggers are going to do two cards in a three or four week period!!!

There are two or three prime reasons for deploying your wild card. Firstly, you may have lost faith in your team, and feel the need to transform it with, shall we say, more than 4 transfers, implying at least a 12 point hit. Secondly, we managers are always keeping an eye on the overall value of our team, with a view to being able to afford more than 5 “big hitters” therein; and a suitable opportunity arises to chase one or more fast rising players over an extended period – say an international break. Thirdly, there may be a marked change in fixtures, where a previously favoured team hits a trough, while one or more other teams face a run of kind home fixtures. There is also “Injury Creep” to worry about, where one suddenly realizes that three of one’s team are injured, and there is only one substitute available, perhaps not even viable! On the wilder shores, there are also those who plan to “get the drop” on their rivals; choose a team for game week 1, and then wild card in game week 2. I wouldn’t advise the latter course to anyone but hardcore fanatics!

Starting in reverse order, here are some of the pros and cons of the various options. For those hardy souls, such as Tosey, who have gone very early, it will be difficult to choose which are the viable players, as most teams won’t show their true colours for at least two more weeks. Is Hazard the real deal? Is Adebayor match fit? Will Swansea, West Bromich Albion and Fulham maintain their form? On the upside, team values will soar, with Michu, Tevez and Hazard already guaranteed double rises, Dyer on the way, and plenty of tasty players on a single rise. Fixture wise, the picture is mixed, with only Everton experiencing a real upturn … In game week 4!

Injuries, etcetera … Ah, my Manchester of yesteryear! Koscielny! Ban der Vaart – what’s that all about? And last, but far from least, the hammer blow that is Aguero’s damaged knee. Well, if you have been really unlucky, and suffered fallout from all of the above … NOW is a good time!!!

The international break starts as soon as FPL is up again on the morning of Saturday September the 1st. This will be, in my opinion, the time when the majority of managers will wild card. Firstly, the aforementioned upswing in Everton’s fixture fortune. Expect an influx for Baines! Secondly, there are two whole weeks for any rises/falls to take effect – so transfers in of all the game week three scorers/assisters/bonus darlings are de riguer, while out go the losers/red card receivers/penalty missers!!! Team value, managed well, can and may well soar in this period! Thirdly, most of us can probably grit our teeth and get there without any hits!!! A big bonus, this one – if you have had to take a hit, you should probably try to keep your card! Christina is a big advocate of this strategy:

“Yeah, I wild carded with the first Int. Break last year as well, and it turned out well. Build some team value over the 2 weeks, assess possible injuries owing to International Fixtures and get clarity on Dempsey/Rvp vs Rooney/Adebayor/Ba vs Cisse and the Aguero injury.

Also makes it possible for me to get the Michu’s/Petric’s/Guthrie’s/Hazard’s of this world if they are still fit and the flavour of the month. Without any hits!

Someone mentioned that there is no swing in fixtures after gw 3, but I disagree. I want Everton/new players and since I don’t have any of them it makes sense for me to WC.”

The most obvious downside to this option is the actual loss of the card, for double game weeks/bad weather/injury freak outs etcetera. Also, I personally have found that the first dozen game weeks are my most difficult period, and the “comfort blanket” of the wild card, still in my pocket, I hope will help me navigate this!

The next International Break starts directly after FPL lockout on October the 6th. It is arguable here that Chelsea have a downturn in fixtures, while Sunderland’s, perhaps, brighten up. Furthermore, there is a long run of 14 game weeks without break, so getting one’s team set up at this juncture would be strategically sound. That also takes in the run-up to Christmas. If you are not going to keep your wild card for a rainy day, this is possibly the best time to use it, certainly in the first half of the Season, in my opinion. However – it does mean that you use it! Also, you have to get that far in one piece …

Immediately after the Third Round of the F. A. Cup, comes the January wild card: “The January Wildcard can only be used after Gameweek 21 starts (1 Jan 11:30) until Gameweek 24 ends (2 Feb 11:30); as the January wildcard isn’t available until after the Gameweek 21 deadline, the earliest these transfers will be active is Gameweek 22.” So the next possible use of the floating wild card is after FPL lockout on February the 9th. May we disregard this? What it would really mean is that you have made a mess of the timing or substance of your January wild card – or both!!!

However, we then come to the March the 16th. Lockout, which would set up your team for the final 8 gameweeks. If you still have your wild card here, then you would be blessed indeed, in my opinion …

Peripheral issues: if you have clearly made a bog of your goalkeeper selection, the wild card may be your only option. Ditto your forwards. Everything else – muddle through!

Remember, a wildcard is like a bee’s sting – effective, of course – but to use it is to lose it!!!

West Ham Press Release

BREAKING NEWS: There has been a so far bloodless revolution at the Anne Boleyn Ground in Upton Park.

The ashen-faced vice-chairman, Karen Brady, nicknamed Princess Ida after the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera, stood next to the homberg-hatted joint Chairmen David Gold(W. S. Gilbert) and David Sullivan(Arthur Sullivan), and read out the following statement, tonelessly:

“The Board are delighted to announce the unanimous choice of the Board as Operations Manager and ongoing Player-Manager, Mark Noble. We are sad to announce that Big Fat Sam had lost the confidence of the players, the Club, the Board, and of course the fans. We have, of course, offered Big Fat Sam the usual severance terms and conditions …”

Princess Ida starts at a gunshot, and drops her notes. Gilbert wordlessly kneels down, scrabbles around, and retrieves them for her.

“… and he leaves us with our heartfelt wishes for a happy future.”

She is seen to wipe away a tear

“In future, Mark Noble will run all aspects of the club, including the media. My position, and that of my fellow Board members, will remain the same as always.”

She breaks down into uncontrollable sobs, and has to be led away by Gilbert and Sullivan. A beaming Mark Noble bounces down the steps, jauntily sporting a dashing revolutionary cap with a very large red star.

“Good Afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the press! My first signing will be Alou Diarra from Marseilles, for which the board will be forking out £2m. I’ve got a little list – I’ve got a little list, they never would be missed – who never would be missed! Any questions?”

Glares round at the open-mouthed assembly.

“No? How very wise! No money – no grovel! Viva la  … Academy of Football! Good Afternoon!”

Flies back up steps, as if on the wings of an angel.

The assembled press corps breaks up in total pandemonium. Strangely, a chorus of girls starts singing …

“Comes a train of little ladies From scholastic trammels free,

Each a little bit afraid is, Wondering what the world can be!

Is it but a world of trouble – Sadness set to song?

Is its beauty but a bubble Bound to break ere long?

Are its palaces and pleasures Fantasies that fade?

And the glory of its treasures Shadow of a shade?

Schoolgirls we, eighteen and under, From scholastic trammels free,

And we wonder – how we wonder! What on earth the world can be!”

Doosra

A West Ham United fan who once had a fling with Charlton Athletic, because they treated and trained my children so well! I am 58. I have a soft spot for Everton, and a great deal of respect for United. I quite like Stoke, which earns me numerous brickbats!

Started playing Fantasy Football in the Guardian game, for two glorious years. Didn’t win anything, but ALWAYS selected ONLY English players. Had an abortive stab at FPL in 2008/9. Guardian game ceased in 2009/10, owing to a lazy marketing department.

I migrated, via The Mirror to FPL in 2009/10, still only selecting English players. Played on with full teams since then, gradually improving. I have been on FFS since that year.

Won my public head-to-head last year. Set a record bench score of 43 for FFS; my team scored 57 … I am notorious for my differentials, and sometimes dispense sound advice. My best achievement last Season, however, was succeeding in persuading everybody that Yaya Toure was a sound investment!. I have a fondness for box-to-box midfielders which started with Steve Hodge … and will continue this Season with Alexander Song!

Co-founder, with Ginkapo of the bodacious “It’s a Long and Winding Road …” set of Leagues. My ambition this year is to run these successfully, and break 2200, and get into the top 20k.