Man it’s good to be back!

Having RealFF back as the number one fantasy football draft site makes this gap between premier league seasons somewhat bearable. It’s only been a year since the site ‘went dark’ but it feels like forever ago that I could truly enjoy a complete draft experience. The guys now steering the RealFF ship have high hopes and grand plans for the site, I for one can’t wait to see it evolve.

So, a little about myself for any newbies to the site. I participate in two leagues on RealFF; my ‘home game’ league with long-time friends, and in the highly competitive and globe spanning BFFA premier league. There’s a very real possibility this may become 3 or more leagues by the time the season starts, it’s going to be hard to turn down any invites now RealFF is back! I’d say I’m a top-drawer fantasy football theorist and advisor, but only a very good manager. Sometimes the least likely person to follow my sage advice is the Gaffer himself.

 The guys now steering the RealFF ship have high hopes and grand plans for the site, I for one can’t wait to see it evolve.

I’ll be writing articles weekly throughout the season on strategy, players, trades etc, as well as providing regular updates on my own leagues. If there’s any content you specifically want to see around draft strategy or advice, please get in touch. There’ll be plenty of draft advice and player rankings over the next month as the season draws close, but with the lack of transfers seen so far we’ll save that for now.

Therefore, to kick off our coverage of the 19/20 season I’d like to introduce you to the thing that matters most in my fantasy life (beside RealFF of course) – the Bags League. This is a league that means a huge amount to me and really encapsulates why RealFF, indeed the draft format in general, is so much better than traditional FPL style fantasy football.

The Bags league is made up of ten friends and has been playing the draft format for 4 seasons, three on RealFF and one on another site during RealFFs hiatus last year. In its time we’ve only had one manager drop out and one join, I can honestly say barring a death it’s unlikely we’ll have another for a long time. It matters that much to us and we are that committed to it. 

As I’m sure many of you had we tried traditional FPL, Daily Telegraph etc mini-leagues prior to finding RealFF and the draft format. Some were ok, some a complete failure. The problem with traditional formats is that the most committed player is highly likely to win every season, the one who understands the rules and knows the right strategies. Traditional fantasy football, especially FPL, is pretty much a maths test when all said and done. It’s an equation that can largely be solved. Everyone being able to pick the same squad puts a huge emphasis on any mistakes, a less knowledgeable member of your league forgets to change his captain or react to a double gameweek and his season can be over in an instant. An early season lead for a strong player can be insurmountable as he starts to take the highest owned players, it comes down to science rather than football. You could blank out all the player’s names and a manager who ‘knows the system’ could maintain a lead quite comfortably. 

This is a league that encapsulates why RealFF, indeed the draft format in general, is so much better than traditional FPL style fantasy football.

This is no good for a bunch of friends who want a fun league that they can all be competitive in. We could have played for a hundred seasons at FPL, some managers simply couldn’t beat others due to a lack of time or motivation to learn the right strategy, read the right websites, listen to the right podcasts. It breeds a lack of interest in those who struggle early season, it’s not fun for the winners or the losers. 

Then in 2015 we found RealFF and the draft format, which changed everything. Suddenly ten friends could use their football smarts to battle on a level playing field. The most important factor being that everything I do in the league, every player I draft, trade or drop, impacts every other manager. Rather than just making individual decisions to influence my team, I can offer trades to my mates and see who bites. I can plan a trade knowing I’d be getting a player someone else likes, who I can then trade on for more value. I know who each of my league mates like and dislike, over and undervalue. 

I can scheme, weasel and connive my way to the playoffs rather than just learning the right formation and who’s got a double gameweek etc. It’s so addictive. Proof is in our league’s Whatsapp group we set up during the first draft season, we’ve just exceeded 50,000 messages. RealFF brought our league closer together and we’re all in daily contact during the season, even if it’s just to try and trade with each other.

We’ve had four years of drafting, and many more to come. Draft day itself, we draft in person and use an auction format, is one the most important days on the calendar. No one plans their summer holidays or accepts wedding invites without checking for clashes with the draft date. It’s at least a half day’s affair, normally full of drinking and derisory comments about each other’s picks. Last year nine of us flew to Northern Ireland purely for the draft, had a cracking night out, then flew home again. Making the playoffs after game week 36 is a must for most of us, avoiding the wooden spoon for finishing ‘dead f*cking last’ the aim for others. 

Draft can build a league that lasts a lifetime, in a way no other format can.

No one plans their summer holidays or accepts wedding invites without checking for clashes with the draft date.

I’ll be providing updates on our league’s progress, from draft day through to the final playoff games, throughout the season. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting, and if it can help one other group of mates get a league together I’ve done my job. I promise you won’t regret it. Here’s a quick overview of the participants:

  • Gaffer (3* league champion) – Founder of the league and its most successful participant, yours truly. Known for spending a little too much time on fantasy football but the hard work has paid off, with 3 titles in the last 4 seasons. Mo Salah enthusiast and believer in premium defenders.
  • Wilm – Hard drinking and a busy life stifles Wilm’s draft ability, but solid football knowledge and tactical nous keep him in the hunt most years. At last year’s draft Wilm’s penchant for liquor resulted in the second half of his squad being drafted randomly whilst he complained of “being on a movie set”. Don’t drink and draft kids. A Harry Kane and Eden Hazard lover, Wilm will need a new strategy this year following Eden’s departure, wonder if Pulisic could fill the gap left in his heart….. 
  • Whitty (1* league champion) – A strong and evergreen manager, Whitty always has a coherent draft strategy that results in a top 5 squad. Winner of the league in 2017/18, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Despite being super fit having taken up marathon running Whitty is ironically enamoured with Romelu ‘5 bellies’ Lukaku.
  • Carl – Fantasy enthusiast and regularly ‘oldest man in the nightclub’, Carl has a strong record of challenging for league honours. Recently announced he’s expecting twin babies around the winter break, which could hamper his normally laser-like focus on team tinkering and trading players. 
  • Fraz – The wild man of the group. Fraz has overcome terrible drafts, a host of substitute players, and an obsession with Theo Walcott in recent seasons to become a surprise challenger for top honours. A staunch stance of owning the whole Chelsea defence last season saw him claim an unexpected second place. Also expecting a baby during the season, Fraz will do well to repeat such lofty heights. Famous for declaring “got my man” one transfer window with a look of sheer joy on his face, before revealing his great signing to be Hull’s Nikica Jelavic.
  • Silv – Chair breaker, pig farm owner and all around good guy Silv is the gentle giant of the league. Blessed with an unshakable belief in his skills as fantasy manager, Silv has underperformed in recent years. A fourth-place last season was a good comeback from 17/18’s wooden spoon, but he’ll have his sights on a higher finish this season. Just like his lookalike Jeremy Clarkson, Silv truly believes he’s “the best at what he does………………….. in the world”. Could this be his year?
  • Jolly – A former military man who kindly moved to Northern Ireland, providing the league with their first “foreign draft” last season. Don’t be fooled by the moniker, Jolly rarely cracks a smile. His strong football knowledge and tactical ability is regularly undermined by a predilection for the “shiny new thing”. Most likely to draft well but then trade badly, ending up with a team of Premier League new boys e.g. Pulisic, Teemu Pukki etc. Has been known to make 11 transfers a week in the latter stages as his inexperienced squad falls apart. 
  • Ste – Bit of an enigma this one. Ste could easily reel off the Torino youth team such is his football knowledge but ask him his opinion on Luke Shaw and he’ll happily explain why he deserves the Ballon D’Or every season. Ste’s fantasy career thus far can be likened to an unbuilt Porsche – he’s got all the pieces to be top drawer but hasn’t put them together yet. One to watch.
  • Barb – Want to know who’ll own all the top teams’ bit-part players every season? That’ll be Barb. Lucky enough to resemble a grizzled Brandon Flowers, he’s certainly been a Killer in our league with a 75% record of reaching the playoffs. If he could only swap Shaqiri, Mahrez, Sane etc for regular starters he’d be virtually unbeatable. Great football knowledge, great guy, likely to be seen filling a top half spot this season.
  • Dr Quinn – Ah the Doctor, one of life’s great mysteries. Good football knowledge, a winning personality, exceedingly high IQ, yet regularly brings in Burnley defenders just before their trip to the Etihad. No one knows why, and we’re not sure he does either. Tends to draft a huge money signing, then surrounds him with 14 pieces of utter garbage. A regular winner of the wooden spoon, something needs to change radically for the Doctor to achieve a playoff berth. 

Draft day is scheduled for 3rdAugust, and quite frankly I can’t wait. 

Hopefully this has inspired some of you to sign up for a draft league. Any questions or comment please interact with me via @realffgaffer on twitter.

Gaffer