Suj and James put a poll on Twitter this week about what meant more to you: your real team or your FPL team? The obvious answer is of course the team you support. But the question got me wondering.
Now I won’t bore you with why fantasy teams are enjoyable and important. The planning and strategy involved makes it something most of us think about most days. If you have a Telegraph or Sky team you can plan transfers during the weekend, if you have a draft team you need to think about which unpicked gem to claim on waivers. And then after all that planning the sheer enjoyment of your captain getting three, or being the only owner of a player in your draft league, or the pure excitement of going on the whatsapp group to absolutely rip the piss out of someone who gets 20 points in a gameweek.
FPL especially offers an interactive side where people who you might never meet chat to you, offer tips, leak team news; in short it’s easy to feel involved and part of something.
If you’re a fan of a big Premier League club what are you part of? Especially if like me going to matches is now a rarity given the cost, having two young children, girlfriend working weekends.
And before you all roll your eyes at the spoilt Manchester United fan, I’ve got three main points. Firstly this feeling could equally apply to any fan of the “elite” clubs who doesn’t go to games as much anymore. Secondly no fan of a Premier League club can claim to have it that hard, there’s always someone worse off. Fair enough a Huddersfield fan might only dream of winning the league but let’s face it none of us support teams like Leyton Orient, Charlton, Blackpool etc clubs that are being run into the ground in the lower leagues. And thirdly you’re right I am spoilt. I was thirteen years old when a team that played breakneck, wonderful football won the Treble! How much better can football get?
But what really makes it hard to feel part of anything is the kind of club Manchester United are currently. What does the club represent now? Who does it represent? The owners view the club as a way to rinse huge dividends out of the club for themselves. Over a decade after buying the club it is still in debt, mainly because it’s cheaper to be in debt than it is to be in equity. Indeed the only positive thing that can be said of the owners is that at least they don’t have links to terrorism, slavery, homophobia and misogyny like the owners of some famous Manchester clubs. The main aim of the club doesn’t seem to be to win trophies but to gain sponsorship deals. The purchase of players has been taken out of the hands of a two time Champions League winning manager and is now in sole control of an accountant who is overruling Mourinho and actively briefing against him.
And then there’s the product on the pitch, I won’t bore everyone again with my thoughts on Mourinho but he is only following a fairly long line of dullness. The van Gaal and Moyes eras were even worse. And whisper it but the last four years of Ferguson were dull as dishwater too. His genius in extracting everything out of an increasingly limited and underfunded squad was only matched by his utter shamlessness in defending the Glazers as he pocketed larger and larger pay rises from owners he helped to put in place by starting a ridiculous fight with the previous largest shareholders.
The fact I don’t go to games as often as I should is my own fault but the feeling of disconnect isn’t. Hopefully in ten years time I’ll be going to games with my kids and telling them that the United players out there are good but nowhere near as good as Keane, Ronaldo and Giggs. Maybe one day I’ll buy them a United shirt and tell them the story of when I asked my parents for a United shirt for my ninth birthday and got Kanchelskis 14 on the back when it cost 50p a letter. This was March 1995, Kanchelskis was the top scorer, what could go wrong? Well Kanchelskis never played for the club again and was sold to Everton amid faked injuries, Russian mafia threats and bribes. Maybe, but as it stands I’m more looking forward to starting a family mini league and telling them about the first ever triple captain year when I wasted it on Jermaine Defoe.