How I won €200,000 Playing FanTeam Fantasy Football

Last season Josh Wooldridge won the FanTeam Premier League season-long contest, bagging €200,000 in the process. As the winner of one of the biggest prizes in fantasy football, we were keen to find out how he went and masterminded his life-changing victory.

Hello everyone. First and foremost, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Josh, and I absolutely love fantasy football.

Some of you may have heard that I recently won the FanTeam Premier League season-long game for €200,000 (it feels crazy to even write that number down, to be honest!).

In one of the first articles I’ve ever written, I want to give some insight into how I did it, and some thoughts on strategies that can be applied to future fantasy games. So let’s get into it!

Are FanTeam and FPL the Same?

First of all, I would like to point out that FanTeam is remarkably similar to FPL. In fact, I’d say of all the ‘other’ fantasy games, it’s the one which is most similar in style and scoring.

I played both FanTeam and FPL hand in hand last year (along with what I would label as an ‘unsuccessful’ first year in Sky!) and I found that most of the research I did for FPL also applied to FanTeam.

The only slight differences between FanTeam and FPL are that on Fanteam you only have two Wildcards, and none of the other chips, so in general I think a more conservative play should be favoured on FanTeam.

Moreover, instead of the traditional BPS system, FanTeam offers a much more transparent bonus system, with ‘additional’ points for your player completing 90 minutes, having a shot on target (new for fantasy games starting this year), and for their team winning whilst they are on the pitch.

A final difference is that you’re encouraged to enter multiple teams on FanTeam. In FPL, that’s frowned upon. For full transparency, I entered 12 in total last season.

Let me be abundantly clear – last year was also my first year playing FanTeam. For the first half of the season, I was certainly following my FPL team more closely. FPL has always been my favourite game, and for a long time the only fantasy game I played.

However, as the season continued on, and I realised how well I was doing on FanTeam, the flip completely switched. By the second half of the season, FanTeam was my primary focus.

Now I’m going to go into a few more details on the specifics of my winning 2020/21 season!

The Importance of a Good Start on FanTeam

As I mentioned, I got off to an amazing start on FanTeam, hence the shift in focus.

I think this is hugely important, as templates form very, very quickly on FanTeam, so it’s hard to gain significant ground most weeks.

Similarly, I noticed most players at the top tended to captain the same player almost every week, with only one or two highly-ranked players going for differential picks. I was in the top five on FanTeam from around Gameweek 15, and didn’t leave that position for the rest of the season.

Two of my rivals who also finished in the top four were also in the same position for that entire period, emphasising the importance of getting off to a flying start in this game.

The 90 Minute Men

best fpl gameweek 30 players

Something I really focused on in my initial selections was picking ‘the 90 minute men’. Remember, players that remain on the pitch for the entire game will earn an extra point, so it’s a really valuable metric to focus on.

Players like James Ward-Prowse, Wilfried Zaha, Jack Grealish and Tomas Soucek were picked in a lot of my 12 starting squads, as well as the ‘usual suspects’, like Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Jamie Vardy and Mohamed Salah.

The four cheaper ones I first mentioned were particularly key to my strong start, as they achieved really high points for really low cost, demonstrating exceptional value and allowing me to spend more in other areas of my team in the process.

The scoring system on FanTeam really benefits players who never get subbed, so these players will always outscore “better” players who are subbed more frequently. Gareth Bale was a great example last season.

Saving my Wildcard

I saved my first Wildcard for the last possible opportunity, which was Gameweek 19. That’s because I knew that with only two Wildcards to help me all season, each should be held until I really needed them.

Similarly, it meant I could hope to save my second Wildcard till as late as possible, which is something I was lucky enough to be able to do. This is a strategy I will carry into next season almost definitely.

Memorable Moments

Now for the fun part- reflecting on all the memorable moments during the season.

I am choosing to only focus on the ‘good’ moments here, as these are the ones which stick most distinctly in my mind. Interestingly, these all seemed to come very early in the season.

Firstly, I have to acknowledge Aston Villa’s 7-2 win over Liverpool, where I owned Grealish and had Salah as captain. The pair combined for around 50 points between them.

I also captained Bruno in Man United‘s 6-2 victory over Leeds, when a lot of my rivals went for someone different that weekend.

To emphasise how lucky I was getting around that time, I also got Stuart Dallas off the bench that week, who scored a late consolation for Leeds.

A standout moment that wasn’t quite as memorable for the neutral football fan was the game between Aston Villa and Southampton.

I only owned James Ward-Prowse and Grealish, but Ward-Prowse got three (yes, three!) attacking returns in the first half, In the second half, Grealish got three attacking returns himself, two of which came deep into added time.

I was listening to the game on the radio, and literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That was extremely early in the season, but I couldn’t help but notice that things were falling my way even at that stage.

Navigating the Second Half of the Season

All of those things happened within the first half of the season. Whilst I knew I was extremely well placed at that moment, I still didn’t think I had a strong chance of a decent finish at that point.

This probably comes from my experience as a poker player. There were times where I’d built up a huge stack of chips early in a tournament, then lost one or two big hands. It can all go wrong very, very quickly.

I knew even despite all of this luck, and with lots of things going my way, there was still an awfully long way to go. Any hopes of winning were just that – certainly not realistic thoughts at that moment. 

However, if we fast forward all the way to Gameweek 36, which happened to be the week I had saved my second Wildcard for, I was still somehow in fourth place – and within touching distance of second.

This was a really pivotal moment in my season, as I felt I could mostly pick a really solid template team and include just a few picks around the peripheries to make the difference.

I noticed that most of my rivals had triple Liverpool already, and, perhaps most crucially, none of them had Sadio Mane. He was a player I just had to pick at this point.

He had maximum motivation and three really favourable fixtures. In addition, Liverpool’s defence had looked extremely shaky up until that point, so I chose to double-up on the attack and have just Trent Alexander-Arnold from their defence. He’d looked a real threat going forward for a long period before Gameweek 36.

I was also targeting players who had motivation and were nailed, such as Michael Antonio, Harry Kane and Raphinha, who I thought could score well, and not all of my opponents would have.

Goalkeeper Pairing Played its Part

fpl gw38 tips

A goalkeeper pairing of Ederson and Illan Meslier proved to be extremely fortunate in the final three weeks. I should spend some time going into the details of my goalkeeper fortune, as it proved absolutely crucial.

An hour before I locked in my wildcard, we got a team leak for Man City, who were playing on the Friday night, that Scott Carson would be starting over Ederson for Man City. Despite sounding absolutely ridiculous, this caused enough doubt in my mind to swap my reserve goalkeeper from Steffen (Man City’s second choice goalie) to Meslier.

Sure enough, Ederson didn’t play, and Meslier got a nine pointer against Burnley away the next day. If I’d kept Steffen, both keepers would have scored zero. Then, to top it all off, Ederson had that haul on the final day to ultimately win me the game. 

The Final Day

I was actually surprisingly calm going into the final day.

I was placed third: five points ahead of fourth, eight points behind second, and a massive 21 behind first. In all honesty, I expected to finish between second and fourth, and all I could do is set my team and hope for the best.

I had two free transfers going into Gameweek 38, having decided against moving Mane to Bruno in 37, a decision I had pondered for days on end. Ironically, I only had one real player I wanted to get in for 38, which was Patrick Bamford for his home fixture against West Brom. To do this, though, I had to bin one of my other Leeds players as I already had three of them.

Meslier, who I was going to bench anyway, was the obvious one to sell. So that’s what I did – I moved Dominic Calvert-Lewin (who was away at Man City) to Bamford, swapping Meslier to another goalkeeper in the process.

I was always captaining Salah in 38, as I knew most of the other top players would do this. I’d been following their decisions closely in the previous weeks in order to try to secure myself a top four finish overall.

I also thought he was the best candidate, with both the golden boot and a top four place at stake. So my only other decision to make on the final day was whether to start James Tarkowski or Craig Dawson. I got that call completely wrong in the end!

Pre-game I found out that my transfer in, Bamford, had been benched. This was by no means ideal, but all the other team news had dropped in my favour. The first 30 minutes of the games were relatively uneventful, with only Burnley and Spurs losing their clean sheets early, both to insignificant goal scorers.

Then, between 35 minutes and halftime, what unfolded can only be described as the most ridiculous ten minutes of football I have ever witnessed.

Firstly, Sadio Mane scored. It was an important goal given I was the only one who owned him within the top five in the table.

Literally 30 seconds later, Ederson, my goalkeeper who none of my rivals had, saved a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty. To make matters worse for the top two, the penalty was conceded by Ruben Dias, who they both owned.

I had hit returns from my two most differential players within less than a minute of each other. To top it off, just before half-time, Son assisted Harry Kane, both of whom were in my team. 

The Second Half

Half-time was the first time I considered the possibility that I could win it.

I still wasn’t top, but I certainly wasn’t far off, and I knew if I had a favourable second half, I could win the whole thing for sure.

Several things happened in the second half – some good, some bad, but one moment stands out above all: Sadio Mane scored an extremely lucky, deflected goal. At that point I thought I was probably top, but I couldn’t be sure.

My heart sank in injury time when my team, West Brom, scored an utterly pointless ‘real-life’ consolation goal at Leeds. I had Stuart Dallas at the back, and I knew that one of the guys chasing me didn’t have any Leeds defensive coverage. I truly thought I had lost it at the death

Thankfully, just after 6pm, I was ahead by 3 points. That’s one thing that’s amazing about FanTeam – there are no bonus points, so your score at full-time tends to be your final score. Of course the scores still had to be verified, but as it happened, nothing was altered.

I had managed to win the game and €200,000!

Life-changing Money

The money will make a huge, huge difference to my life.

I live in London, so this win will enable me to put down a house deposit for a place for me and my girlfriend. Other than that, I will spend lots of money on my friends and family, to make sure they all get some happiness out of my win.

I guess the most exciting thing I am going to do with the money is go to Vegas next summer with a bunch of poker friends, to go and play the World Series of Poker. It has always been an absolute dream of mine to play in the World Series Main Event, and thanks to this win, I can now tick it off my bucket list! 

Five Tips for FanTeam Success

I am going to end by offering five top tips for success on FanTeam in summary form. A lot of them I have already covered in the article, so I am going to keep this section short.

  1. Pick players, especially midfielders and strikers, who are likely to complete 90 minutes.
  2. Pick attacking defenders, preferably ones who get lots of shots off.
  3. Enter more than one team! It gives you more chances to get off to a good start in one of them.
  4. Save your wildcards for as long as possible.
  5. Make your transfers as close to the deadlines as possible.

The last one is probably the most important one here. With the price rises and falls not as transparent on FanTeam as FPL, it is best to wait for maximum information before doing your moves.

That’s enough from me – thank you for reading and I hope many of you give FanTeam a go next year!

FanTeam Tips

Don’t forget to check into Fantasy Football Hub when the season-long FanTeam game launches. We will have all the very best tips for you to challenge for that top spot!

 

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