Fantasy Football League Name: ‘Hussle and Motivate’ 2019/20 Season

By Ali Pugh (The Chairman), August 2019

As the Premier League kicks off for another season, the Jigsaw Fantasy Football competition is also underway. The hard task of picking your team follows the even harder task of picking your team’s name. This more often than not reflects your own allegiance – we have ‘Hallervside’ from a West Ham fan, ‘His teeth are offside’ from a Liverpool fan, ‘Luka Mile Jedinak’ from a Palace fan and ‘Last kick of the game’ from (me) a Spurs fan (a reference to THAT game in Amsterdam in case that’s not evidently clear!).

And then there’s Unibol. The one to watch. The one to always bloody watch. Our reigning champion for the past three seasons. And who does Unibol’s manager support? Bolton. That’s right, League One’s Bolton. So, on the face of it, his achievements are even more remarkable – to keep abreast of a league your team has no involvement in to the extent you can pick the right players to steer you to victory three years running appears quite the accomplishment.

I say ‘on the face of it’ because I’ve begun to wonder whether us Premier League team supporters are hamstrung by this very fact. Unibol’s manager (Critical’s Jon Wood to give credit where it’s due) doesn’t have to worry about whether putting Harry Kane in his team will jinx him, whether transferring in Mo Salah will mean he would suffer a similar curse or whether it’s ethical to put Arsenal or Chelsea players in your team.

Instead he can more clearly look at the whole league & select the best players for his team free from the biases that afflict those of us with an emotional vested interest, such as …

Confirmation bias – we all spend time around supporters of our own teams, either in real life or on social media. Jon is less susceptible to this. He doesn’t think that Formals will be dark horse of the league, or that Milivojevic is a right bargain at £4.1m because @bolyenbarry or @selhurstsimon said so on Twitter.

Availability bias – we all watch our teams week in, week out. We probably know more about our own teams than we do about some members of our own families (I know Pochettino was born in Murphy, but would struggle to name the birthplaces of many of my nearest & dearest). But this may mean we have a more limited number of players on our radar. If my team loses, in a sulk I’ll avoid football for the rest of the weekend, no Match of Day, no game of the day on Sky. Jon – being less prone to such behaviour – will watch and learn about the more in-form players.

And of course, there’s the beginning of the season ‘optimism bias’ – ‘surely this is our year’ we cry ‘to win the league/FA cup/Champions League/qualify for Europe/achieve a top half finish/stay-up’* (*delete as applicable). And this can be reflected in our player choice, I can’t possibly decide between Sonny & Moura (it’s like Sophie’s choice) so I’ll put both in my team.

This could all of course be me demonstrating ‘clustering illusions’ – seeing patterns in random events. And Jon just might pay attention to his team all season, while some of us get to April with the best part of 40 transfers intact. But hopefully being aware of some of the more common biases we exhibit as football fans might help me be more objective about selecting players.

Still can’t have any Arsenal player in my team though, that would just be plain wrong….