Friday, October 07, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011/12 - The npower Championship. Update!

With the football international break upon us, I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on my progress in this seasons Texaco sponsored Championship Fantasy Football league.

Two months ago I selected eleven players from the second tier of English football that I felt would excel for their respective clubs this season, as I pitted my wits against friends and football fans around the country, in a 'foolish' attempt to convince myself that my knowledge of Championship football was equal to or maybe even superior to that of other football fans.

I must point out that I have stayed within the rules, which fundamentally consist of four main criteria - keeping within my set 'fictitious' financial budget, selecting a maximum of no more than three players from any one club, choosing one of two formations for my team, namely 5-3-2 or 4-4-2 and finally observing the rules regarding the transfer of players in/out my side, as set out at the start of the competition.

Now, who would have thought with nearly a quarter of the season gone, newly promoted Southampton would be top of the league, with Middlesbrough second and Derby, along with another newly promoted club Brighton in the top six.

More surprising is possibly the shocking form of managerless Nottingham Forest and South London's Millwall, and the rather average start to the season made by the likes of relegated Birmingham and last seasons play-off finalists Reading.
Money-bags Leicester started poorly but are making good progress, as are Leeds and Cardiff.

My own club Crystal Palace have surprised me with a solid start to the season after fighting off relegation for the previous two seasons, and they are also into the last 16 of the League Cup. Peterborough too have kicked on well after promotion from League One last season...........but it's still very early days!

So how has this reflected on the Championship fantasy football team I selected two months ago?

At the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign my team was as follows:

Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davies (Southampton).

Defenders: Ian Evatt (Blackpool), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Anthony Gerrard (Cardiff), Sean St Ledger (Leicester).

Midfield: Kevin Nolan (West Ham and Captain), George Boyd (Peterborough), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds), Lee Bowyer (Ipswich).

Strikers: Rickie Lambert (Southampton, pictured right), Rob Earnshaw (Cardiff).

Since then I have made five transfers: First to go was Sean St.Ledger, a player I really thought was going to score me a lot of points after his £1.2m move from Preston, but he has failed to deliver. Leicester started the season poorly and St.Ledger has rarely featured, so I think that was a good move. I replaced him with Palace's versatile Norwegian full-back/midfielder Jonathan Parr and he has one cleen sheet and two assists in five appearances. Steady if not spectacular.

I recently made another defensive transfer when I off-loaded former Palace favourite Jose Fonte from a Souhampton side that was scoring goals for fun but conceding too many for my liking. Derby's Jason Shackell has replaced Fonte, but although he was a cheaper option he has not really improved my defence significantly with one cleen sheet in three appearances, but if Derby continue their good form he may prove a valuable acquisition. Without doubt the purchase of a Middlesborough defender would have been a better option, as three of their defenders are the top defensive points scorers in the league!

In midfield I believed the experience of Lee Bowyer would have been a bright light in the Ipswich side, but both Ipswich and Bowyer started slowly, and although Ipswich's season has picked up, Bowyer has failed to impress in my opinion. I replaced Bowyer with another Derby player, the experienced Ben Davies and he has had a greater impact, with four assists in his six games since I brought him in.

Kevin Nolan was my most expensive purchase at the beginning of the season, but he has had a stop-start season so far, terrific one week and anonymous the next. Maybe he is taking time to settle in at West Ham. However I have been more impressed with the displays of his team-mate Matt Taylor, a summer signing from Bolton, so I swapped Taylor for Nolan.

In midfield I have also replaced Peterborough's highly rated George Boyd with Saints Adam Lallana who has so far had an outstanding season for his club. The England U'21 international is currently the top point scoring midfielder in the Championship. Lallana has four goals from midfield and a host of assists in a free-scoring Southampton side, who have bagged 25 goals in their opening 10 games!
Meanwhile Boyd has made a disappointing start to the season.

Up front Rickie Lambert is rattling in the goals with eight in just ten appearances, but Rob Earnshaw concerns me. He has only netted three times this season, and has recently lost his place in the Cardiff team. I am definitely looking for a new striker, perhaps Miller, Jermaine Beckford, Glenn Murray, Ross McCormack or Chris Wood would be more effective. I have the international break to decide who to partner Lambert with.

As it stands today my current team is as follows:

Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davies (Southampton).

Defenders: Ian Evatt (Blackpool), Jason Shackell (Derby), Anthony Gerrard (Cardiff), Jonathan Parr (Palace, pictured right).

Midfield: Matt Taylor (West Ham), Ben Davies (Derby), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds), Adam Lallana (Southampton).

Strikers: Rickie Lambert (Southampton and Captain), Rob Earnshaw (Cardiff).

Rickie Lambert, Blackpool defender Ian Evatt, and Leeds midfielder Robert Snodgrass have been my stand-out players so far this season. As far as my own season goes I am in the main competition along with tens of thousands of other players, and also in three private leagues.
My current points total is 125, after ten league games.

I am 2,386th overall in the whole competition, 3rd of 28 players in the 'Holmesdale Radio' private league, 26th of 752 in the 'Official Crystal Palace FC' private league and 3rd of 99 in the 'Where Eagles Dare' private league.

Until next time............good luck!

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