Friday, February 24, 2012

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

With just two months of the 2011/12 season remaining, I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on my progress in this seasons Texaco sponsored Championship Fantasy Football league.

In August 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.

As the months have gone on, my last update was back in October, I have delved in and out of the transfer market as players have lost form, moved clubs, suffered injury or been suspended.

A lot was expected of some players this season, some have delivered whilst others have failed. There are a lot of 'experienced' players in the Championship such as West Ham's Kevin Nolan, David James of Bristol City, Leeds United's Luciano Becchio, Blackpool's Kevin Phillips and Kenny Miller of Cardiff. This season has also seen a lot of exciting young talent emerge. The likes of Birmingham's Nathan Redmond and Crystal Palace's Wilf Zaha to name just two.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Southampton and West Ham sit at the top of the league. The Saints, although a League One side last season are looking for back to back promotions, and are the Championship's top scorers. The Hammers spent heavily in the summer and are looking good for an immediate return to the Premier League.

The other relegated sides from the 2010/11 season, Birmingham and Blackpool sit 3rd and 7th respectively, and will both have a keen eye on promotion. Birmingham who started the season slowly have been in cracking form since Christmas. In fact they last lost a league game at Selhurst Park on the 19th December!
Reading like Brum started slowly but now sit 4th. Also in the play-off places are Middlesbrough, who have been up their all season and Cardiff, who take on Liverpool in this Sunday's Carling Cup Final at Wembley.

Hull, Brighton and Leeds occupy those places just outside the top six, and will be looking to take advantage of any slip ups by the teams above them as they press for a an end of season place in the play-offs.

So how has this reflected on the Championship fantasy football team since I last updated you back in October?

In October my team was as follows:

Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davies (Southampton).

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

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

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

I have made twelve transfers since October and seventeen out of a possible thirty since the campaign kicked-off in August. Only the free scoring Southampton striker Rickie Lambert and Leeds United's midfield maestro Robert Snodgrass have been ever present in my side since the start of the season.

Finding a strike partner for Lambert has been a problem! I selected Cardiff's Rob Earnshaw at the start of the season, and stupidly stuck with him until around Christmas time, when I replaced him with Glenn Murray, the Palace striker. Earnshaw scored just three times and fell out of favour at his club. Murray started the season well but lost his form and starting place at Palace and scored just twice for me before I replaced him a month ago with Billy Sharp. Sharp a proven goalscorer, moved to Southamton in January but he too is struggling to hold down a starting place alongside Lambert. I had to sacrifice Kelvin Davies and bring in Birmingham's Boaz Myhill to accommodate Sharp. I think on reflection 16 goal Ross McCormack would have been the answer. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

I brought in Derby duo Jason Shackell and Ben Davies at a time when Derby where flying and looking like a good bet to be play-off candidates come the end of the season. However their season has badly fallen away, and the club now lie 15th in the league. As a result both players had to go.

In their places I transferred in Hull duo Liam Rosenior and Robert Koren. Both signings have been outstanding, with Rosenior keeping eight clean sheets in ten appearances, and Koren scoring three times and claiming three assists in his ten games. Matt Taylor has had an injury ravaged season, making just 17 appearances for West Ham and scoring just once. I replaced Taylor with the ever reliable Peter Whittingham, and the Cardiff midfielder has scored six times and claimed nine assists in his 19 games for me. Happy days!

Recently I replaced Adam Lallana the Southampton midfielder player with his team-mate, the exciting French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin to freshen things up a bit. Lallana has had a cracking season, but lately he seems to have lost his spark.

I also brought in Birmingham's Curtis Davies to replace Cardiff's Anthony Gerrard, who is seemingly unable to hold down a regular first-team place with the Bluebirds. In his thirteen appearances Gerrard kept four clean sheets. In just five starts Curtis Davies has already kept three clean sheets. Finally I replaced Blackpool's Ian Evatt who did an 'average' job keeping six clean sheets in twenty games, and I replaced him with the underrated Alex Pearce and the Reading man has already delivered, with five clean sheets and a goal in eight games. Enough said!

As it stands today my current team is as follows:

Goalkeeper: Boaz Myhill (Birmingham).

Defenders: Alex Pearce (Reading), Liam Rosenior (Hull), Curtis Davies (Birmingham and captain), Jonathan Parr (Palace).

Midfield: Robert Koren (Hull), Peter Whittingham (Cardiff and right), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton).

Strikers: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Billy Sharp (Southampton).

I am 393rd overall in the whole competition, 2nd of 28 players in the 'Holmesdale Radio' private league, 9th of 752 in the 'Official Crystal Palace FC' private league and 3rd of 99 in the 'Where Eagles Dare' private league.

Between now and the end of the season............good luck!

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