The Spartans in guilty-pleasure film 300 hold their children at arm’s length to decide if they should be allowed into the clan or tossed off a cliff. No, this is not a cheap attempt to shoehorn the words ‘children’, ‘tossed off’ and ‘Cliff’ into another wise dry Fantasy Football blog to engineer cheap hits through mistaken Google searches, this is the perfect analogy to describe how managers should use the build up to week 3 to take a cold, dispassionate look at their players to decide if they have what it takes for the long haul.
Week 3 is the perfect time to do this. Just as on a 3rd date, the initial hope and novelty of taking a chance on someone has worn off and you now have a sense of their character and foibles so you know if you should get down to business or move on. For me, Bojan Krkic arrived for his first two chances in my team as a fresh faced newbie, rich with the promise of youth, smelling faintly of new car and with a hint of exoticism from his glamorous past clubs. He was a hunch, a hope that a fragile orchid could thrive on the wind-blasted heath of The Britannia Stadium. Now though, the otherworldliness which drew me into picking him grates with me as I see him gamely toddling off down the channels, drifting mellifluous passes into the centre where he has been conditioned to expect flair players such as Xavi and Messi to be waiting, but instead he is left confused and pointless as he finds the rather blunter instrument of Steven N’Zonzi. His is a fish out of water comedy that will never end with a freeze frame punch of the air in victory. No, it’s time for him to bag his tiny bag of things and hit the road.
I had another hunch on Newcastle this year and a certain Yoan Gouffran. I picked him not just for the delightful rhythm and rhyme his name has when you say it slowly in a French accent, but because I believed that Pardew could forge his flighty French and Dutch imports into an impressive unit. I saw Gouffran continuing to play further forward than his position and price tag suggested and delivering a steady stream of points. Unfortunately, he has instead delivered a steady stream of disappointment and now finds himself playing way out of position on the Newcastle bench. So, he must shrug his shoulders and slope off my team sheet too.
Talking of hunches, among my premature advice to stake your house on such non starters as Rojo and Johnson last week (apologies to any now homeless readers for those), one of my randomly thrown recommendation darts hit Nikica Jelavic. Sure enough, this inspired the Crafty Croatian, as I hear he has embroidered on his short sleeved silk shirt playing for Robbie Brady’s pub darts team, to put a great shift in for Hull last week and score. Unfortunately I didn’t put my money where my mouth was so I missed out on those points but now his value has risen further I have not hesitated to pay an Ed Woodward ‘top price’ for him. He had shown since his Everton days that he is a confidence player who scores in batches so once again I’m backing him this week.
My other new transfer in is Dusan Tadic because, despite my scathing critique of Bojan, I just can’t resist a young winger with bags of potential and a name that is written correctly using extra squiggly symbols that no one can be bothered to insert when typing. And my auto correct keeps changing his name to Susan Tadic which brings to mind Susan Boyle marrying a waiter after a holiday romance and amuses me greatly. As a final bonus, his Wikipedia page describes him as being ‘known for his flamboyant dribbling skills’, which will be impressive as long as it refers to him on the pitch and not in an adult sized high chair. If internet research only is good enough for Alan Pardew and Alex Ferguson to make ill-fated signings then it is good enough for me.
Tomorrow I will be doing some proper scouting in person at Turf Moor, so I can see if Ashley Young really is as disappointing in the flesh as he has been on my team sheet and if Danny Ings can repay me keeping faith in him by pulling his finger out. If any of you see the game on BT Sport, try to stay awake through Michael Owen’s co-commentary to look for me in Row H shouting hopelessly at Ings and Young to shoot from anywhere. Until next week, hope your Fantasy Teams do better than mine.