Miles Reucroft is undertaking a different way of playing the ever popular Fantasy Football this season. To understand his methodology, read part one here. The Week 1 review is here, Week 2 transfers & preview here, Week 3 preview here, Week 3 review here.
I received a rather unexpected call on Thursday 31 August. The international break was well under way and I was kicking about at FC Fakin’ Run Aboutabit HQ with not a great deal to do. I’d poured over hours of DVD footage, looking for signs of recovery in the squad and signs of hope from elsewhere.
Jay Rodriguez had reported in on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Two consecutive days of head tennis and Nandos lunches, however, had seemingly driven him to despair as he phoned in sick on Thursday. My lunch plans were ruined. Sitting alone in Nandos isn’t a good look for a struggling manager – just think of the tabloid headlines.
So it was with some relief that the silence in my office was broken by the sound of my mobile phone vibrating against my mahogany desk. This wasn’t just another WhasApp message, but an actual phone call.
“I’ve had a drop out for tomorrow and I think we’ve got some business we can conclude on the trip,” says the unmistakable cockney wide-boy voice of Gary, my player agent. “Private jet from Farnborough, top tickets for the game, private jet waiting on the runway to take us home after.”
“Sounds good, thanks,” I mumble. “Couple of questions, though; private jet to where and which game? I mean, I’m in, I’ve got nothing on, but just checking.”
Gary laughs, which makes me nervous. He’s got a sinister laugh, the type you hear in those ropey East End gangster flicks right before some geezer cops one in the nut. You know the type. “Malta, you berk,” he snaps. “Get yourself to Farnborough for 2pm, we’ll have a couple of sherbets and jet off.”
Well, this was a most unexpected surprise, but not one I was going to turn down. Actually going to the game would be better than another whisky fuelled night alone in my office watching football in the dark, so I headed home to get my gear together.
I can’t remember too much of the game. I remember Harry finding the net, which was something of a relief given his poor start to the season for us. That’s about it, though. It was dull and according to type, so Gary and I took full advantage of the hospitality on offer.
“Right then, let’s talk business,” says Gary as we collected another couple of pints at half time, starting the conversation that has resulted me in fundamentally changing my tactics for this weekend. “I’ve got a lad who’s keen on joining you and he’ll bring plenty to the table. We can shift some deadwood out of your ranks as well, so no need to worry about FFP or any of that bollocks.”
My interest was piqued. “I could use a bit more quality in midfield,” I reply.
“Perfect, this lad is a midfielder,” says Gary.
“This might be the booze talking, but we could also use a bit more panache, a bit more swagger,” I suggest. “I look around and well – Nathan Ake has a cracking hair do and Manolo Gabbiadini has that wild look, but the rest of the lads are all a bit short-back-and-sides. Do you know what I mean?”
Gary is laughing by now. “You’ll love this, then. If it’s fancy hair you’re after, this guy will look the absolute dog’s bollocks in your shiny new stadium. What if I said ‘Paul Pogba’, to you?”
I damn near spilled my pint. I was sold. Gary drew up the paperwork and delivered it on Monday morning. Paul arrived two days later and goes straight into the side for this gameweek.
The only fly in the ointment was releasing the apple of my eye, Bernardo Silva. He just hasn’t hit the ground running. I hoped that the arrival of Cedric, another Portuguese speaker, would light his blue touch paper. It didn’t. I hope he will return to strut his silky stuff for FC Fakin’ Aboutabit again one day. It saddens me to think that he might not. But that could just be the hangover talking.
Butland – Cedric, Stones, Keane, Bertrand – Alli, Kante, Pogba – Gabbiadini, Kane, Rodriguez
Grant, Ake, Xhaka and KdB