Scot free

It has of course been a week when Scotland decided that England has a heart of gold underneath so we can continue our broken relationship, like Coleen Rooney keeping her eye on the money and turning a blind eye to the grannies shimmying down their Cheshire mansion’s trellis in the dead of night. All the talk of Scotland over the past few weeks has led me to misty-eyed memories of my first ever Fantasy League season, led by that venerable local publication the North-West Evening Mail, which had the wonderful quirk of allowing managers to pick from Scottish as well as English clubs. What a glorious manifestation of the Union that was, giving me the pleasure or gorging myself on the Old Firm’s late nineties dominance. I fondly remember the must-have Peter Lovenkrands rampaging through the rag-tag defences of Patrick Thistle at will, giving a return on investment more guaranteed than any peddled by RBS.

In my younger days I reached the heights of my short playing career by leading the Dane Ghyll 2nd team. As one of few schools in Cumbria big enough to muster a second 11, we spent our afternoons taking on teams cobbled together from boys who couldn’t really venture far from their inhalers sitting on the touchline or the sons of families who lived too near to Iceland, enslaved by an addiction to 89p bags of potato smileys. Even my goal-hanging (does anyone remember ‘goal hanger’ being shouted as an insult in schoolyard games? I wonder if it is now seen as a compliment in these post-Costa days) accumulating 6 goals without getting my knees dirty – until I scrunched up a clod to rub on my knees whilst walking off of course, our teacher was a traditionalist when judging performances after all – could not compare to the ease with which I cantered to the mini-league title that season, borne on the back of Rod Wallace and the incomparable Celtic poo palace, Mark Viduka.

Now as I sift through the mysteries of an open, anything-goes Premier League, how I wish that the metronomic points scoring from North of the border was open to me, even in these less certain times with Celtic in 5th and Rangers still not even in the top flight. Perhaps to celebrate our intact union, Fantasy Managers should be allowed to take players from all corners of the United Kingdom for one week only. I would certainly relish grazing on the fresh statistical pastures of The New Saints, Airbus UK Broughton and Portadown. In fact, anything to level the playing field against those who have taken the obvious choice and picked Diego Costa for the past few weeks would be welcome.

Perhaps we should also regress for one glorious week to the method of transfers from those glorious days of local newspaper Fantasy Football too – phoning a premium rate phone line and using an over-sized plastic push-button phone to key in the code number for each player. For us early pioneers in Fantasy Football, it was not furtive calls to cigarette-starched sex line workers that we hid from our mothers, but the 40 minute battles with a Hal-like computer who, after 20 attempts, may finally allow us to swap Robbie Earle for Kevin Philipps. The fact that I am one of very few current managers to still possess the rare artifact of a push-button home phone so would find myself with a transfer monopoly is purely coincidental.

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