Last week the Fpl Chihuahua managed to get some time with the legendary Matt.
Most people will know him from winning the #FPL game season before last, when he beat millions of managers to be crowned number one in the world! I know how popular Matt is with all of you and in all honesty I’m a huge fan too.
I was honoured that he took the time out to speak to me.
Matt, thank you so much for doing this interview with us. Can you start by giving us a footballing introduction to yourself? Have you always been a football fan? Who do you support? Do you remember the first live game you ever went to?
You’re welcome – thank you it’s my pleasure.
I’ve been a football fan since I was a young child – probably since around 5 years old. Growing up in Preston, which is great historic football City, I always seemed to be playing football or watching football. I support two teams – Preston North End & Liverpool FC. Some people say you cannot support two teams, well I do! Preston North End is my home town team, and Liverpool FC is the team I’ve been brought up with by my family from an early age.
Yes I remember the first live game I went to. It was Preston versus Norwich at Deepdale when I was probably about 7 or 8 years old. I think it was a friendly match, or it may even have been a reserve game. I cannot exactly remember. Although I do remember my first live Liverpool game. It was way back in October 1987 at Anfield. I was stood at the front on the famous Kop! I couldn’t really see much of the game though as I was a small child. Queens Park Rangers were the visiting team that day, and Liverpool ran out 4-0 winners, with my favourite player, John Barnes, scoring two goals. His 2nd goal was a great solo goal from the halfway line. This is still one of my favourite ever goals, even today.
Congratulations on entering your 9thseason of playing this beautiful game. Has it changed much since you first started playing? Any noticeable differences as the seasons have progressed?
Thank you. Yes I’ve been playing FPL for eight years now. The mechanics of the game does seem to improve each year, but the basis of the game is still the same like it was from day one, which is to get as many points as you can per game week.
Yes the FPL game has change a little since I first played it. Back in the early days the game significantly benefitted the attacking players – even more so than in recent years. We could play two at the back then! I remember playing 2-5-3 many times, which brought me success in my first two seasons – including my first top 1000 finish back in 2007/8 season.
The bonus points have also change a lot over the years, from the ‘Man in the Stand’ giving the likes of Barry Ferguson 3pts for the man of match award every week, to a now more calculated and transparent system. There has never been a perfect Bonus Point System (BPS), and there probably never will be, but I think this coming season the newly tweaked BPS may prove to be the best so far, as it looks like it will rewards players more fairer/evenly – based on their performances.
The season before last you bested all the players in the game. Congratulations on your victory. Most of us have read your guide that you put out last season (a great read by the way), but for those who haven’t can you briefly tell us how the experience was for you and a key moment that helped propel you to victory?
Many thanks. It was an amazing experience to win the FPL title. The whole season was very special really, and it just intensified week by week, especially over the last few months of the season. On reflection there were many important moments almost every single week, from the opening Double GW1 gamble, right the way through to getting my final GW38 transfer and tactics correct. Although I’d say probably the two key moments that stand out for me that helped propel me to the FPL title are:
> Breaking into the overall top 20 rankings for the first time in GW16 with significant game week rank of around 6,000. I never looked back from this point of the season – and even though it was only around Christmas time with still a long way to go in the FPL season, I had a feeling for the first time that I could actually win it!
> Achieving my first, and only, 100+ points score of the season, in the very tricky Double GW26. This score gave me a significant GW rank of 2,835, and it propelled me up to number 3 in the world. Also this significant GW score did not just get me closer to the worlds top two managers, Julian Zipparo and Kelvin Travers, but it also opened up a nice gap from the players below me. I didn’t know it at the time, but this GW gave me the platform to never drop out of the overall worlds top 5 again for the remainder of the season.
Did you believe in yourself that you could have won the game, when planning all that way back for GW1 in your winning season? Or did that come later as the season progressed?
I didn’t think about winning the FPL when I set out at GW1. I just wanted to win my friends mini league, which I had won twice previously – hence the two stars after my team name at the time. It wasn’t until around Christmas time when I’d got into the overall top 20 rankings (as I mentioned above) that I started to believe of the impossible. I had a special feeling that Christmas time that I could actually win it – and that’s when I started to take the game a little more ‘seriously’.
Having finished in the top 1k last season and winning the season before, what is the aim for this season? Surely it has to be winning again?
Ha – yes it has to be another win! I want the FPL title back asap! Seriously, I would like to win it again, and I have a good chance as anyone, but realistically, to win it again would be something I cannot even comprehend.
Although last season in my FPL title defence season, I reached the overall world ranking of 175 with just a couple of months to go. I then did start to dream of winning it again! I felt I had the team, the momentum, and the experience to win it. However, my dream though was quickly destroyed the very next GW with a GW ranking score of around 2.6m – but that’s FPL for you!
I said before last season in an interview that a top 5000 finish was my aim, and I achieved a top 1000 finish – so I was pleased overall with my FPL title defence. This season though I would like another top 1000 finish, or even a top 500 finish – if I was not to win it again that is!
A few fellow managers have debated the element of luck in the game as opposed to planning and preparation. For you; a member of a popular forum and avid twitter user who does like to prepare, would you say that luck plays a part in the game? Any examples spring to mind?
Yes sure, luck, be it good or bad, plays a significant part in FPL, like it does in real football management. But I always say you cannot be lucky every GW! Once you pick your team/tactics/transfers/captain etc, and then submit it prior the deadline, then luck can take over – whether it be a fantastic captain hat-trick, or an unlucky injury to a key player for example.
But this is the same for real football managers also. Alex Fergusons & Jose Mourinho, for example, were/are not successful because they were/are lucky, they were/are mainly successful because they knew/know what they were/are doing most often than not and did/do it better that their counterparts. This ‘knowing’ is not just football knowledge – it is good careful planning and preparation. It is well known in all parts of life that if you ‘fail to prepare, then you must be prepared to fail!’
Also do not underestimate gut feelings. This is something I cannot explain – but when a transfer move, tactic, plan etc, feels right, or wrong, then go with it, or against it, and then stick by it.
I have lots of examples of luck versus careful planning versus gut feelings etc. But one example that springs to mind instantly is the final GW38 of my title winning season. A rampant Liverpool team were at home to a relegated QPR team, and Daniel Sturridge had scored a hat-trick the week before away to Fulham. I felt a lot of the talk and pressure in the FPL world was to get Sturridge, and maybe even captain him.
My gut feeling was to stay away from Sturridge. Also I was happy with my front three, RvP, Lambert, and Tevez – who had all served me well up to then, and I trusted them to deliver again one last time, which they did. I transferred in Coutinho instead that GW38, for a player, Fellaini, who I did not want in my GW38 team – because Fellaini was a ‘Blocking Tactic’ GW37 move, due the GW36 Michu injury, which was unlucky for me (or even lucky maybe). Either way, the whole thing of careful planning, luck (good &/or bad), and gut feeling, played a significant role in the final weeks to get me the FPL title win, by just two bonus points – which came from Coutinho, after his winning goal in a 1-0 win.
After your victory you created a charity league for the following season. Can you tell us the reasoning behind that? It’s something that we admire and hope it’s returning again this season, please tell us it will be?
Yes I created a FPL Charity League last season to try and raise money and awareness for a good cause whilst we play the game we love. I wanted to try and give something back to the World, not just the world of FPL, but to the World in general, where poverty and hunger remains unfortunately. Save the Children was the chosen charity, simply because ‘No child has the right to die’, which is unfortunately happening on a daily basis around the World due to lack of basic food, basic medical supplies, and general support.
Whilst I recognise that I, along with the FPL community out there, cannot change the World and eradicate World hunger and poverty, I also recognise that I, along with the huge FPL Community, can make a significant difference to someone else’s life – to the point where we can give them life, & not have to die. Mother Teresa once said…’If you cannot feed 100 people, then feed just one’. So if we can all give a little something, whether it be money through my charity league, or whether it be time spent on the ground helping people, and also give these little things with great love, then the World would will be a better place for our children and their families.
The FPL Charity League was very popular last season and it was contested by hundreds of FPL managers from around the world. The winner of my charity league finished in the overall worlds top 100 – so the standard was pretty high to say the least! Over £700 was raised for Save the Children. I would like the opportunity to say thank you again to all those who took part, and especially to those who donated.
Hopefully this new FPL season I can set up another FPL Charity League, and it will be even bigger and better! All are most welcome to take part. I will announce the new FPL Charity League 2014/15 on my Twitter account @spiderm4tt as soon as it’s set up.
The website went live just a few days ago, have you had a chance to peek at prices? Any initial thoughts? Would you say they’re any higher than usual?
Yes I’ve had a chance to have a look at the new season prices. I would say it’s more or less spot on and fair with not many surprises. It was obvious that last seasons top performers were always going to rise such as Ramsey, Yaya, Lallana, Sturridge, Coleman etc. I think they are fairly priced, although Sturridge at 11.5m may be a tad high. We know he did well last season, but Suarez helped him a lot, not just in assists, but in taking the defenders with him as he was the main man. Now Sturridge is the main man up front so he will have to deal with extra attention of opposing teams. Also he’s not on penalties, he is injury prone, and therefore Rodgers likes to take him off early to protect him.
I think Sanchez is an interesting one. If he shows the same form at Barcelona last season his FPL points potential will be huge. But at 10.5m I feel again it’s a tad high, especially for a FPL newcomer. As a result, there maybe a ‘wait & see’ policy in the FPL world as there are plenty of proven FPL quality midfield players for a much lower price – Ramsey, Fabregas, Ozil, Gerrard, Silva – just to name a few.
Speaking of Steven Gerrard, he’s still at 9.0m, which is a nice surprise. He was the 3rd highest FPL points scoring player in the game, behind the two FPL phenomenons, Suarez and Yaya. There is no reason in the new look Liverpool attacking team that he can’t do same again this season, especially now he can rest during International breaks after his recent retirement from International football.
Any players for you a must have as of right now for the start of the campaign? And why? Without giving too much away in you’re planning of course.
It’s difficult to think of ‘must haves’ at this stage of pre season. I think Hazard could well be a must have if he finds the from and consistency from the start. The new Bonus Point System is now rewarding successful dribbles, as well as key chances created like last season. Hazard is no stranger to these. He is also on penalties, and has an eye for a goal/assist from open play. So for me he’s probably as must have as they come at this stage of pre-season.
I think RvP, if fit, could be ‘FPL Gold’, or a must have, under Louis van Gaal. Man Utd have a good opening two months of the season as they play most of the ‘lesser teams’ during this period. Man Utd have no European football to distract them, which benefited Liverpool last season FPL wise. One game a week for RvP in a Man Utd team with added supply from new signings is a mouth watering prospect – especially for the potential captaincy option.
I think the attacking full backs may benefit this season, especially from the newly tweaked Bonus Point System which should reward them better than last season. Players such as Baines and Coleman should shine again. Maybe Shaw will shine too at Man Utd now Evra has gone. Louis van Gaal may play Shaw at times in the Daley Blind Netherlands position, which is more of a wing back attacking role. Shaw certainly has the pace, power and skill to play this role effectively.
Finally any words of wisdom for our fellow game players?
Play the game the way it is set up to play – and play it in relation to how the Premier League is.
Have a good study of the FPL scoring system, including the new Bonus Point System, and match this system not just to the players, but to also the team they play for, along with the style of play the manager likes to play, or not play. This so you can maximise your FPL points potential per player, per GW.
Also pick your own team in relation to your own FPL game plan and strategy – and stick by your final decisions. Advice is good, and we all need it at times – but each bit of advice on players you receive will be different from one person to the next, as football, along with game plans/strategies, is about styles and opinions, which differ with each individual.
Finally, have fun and enjoy it! It’s the best fantasy football game out there, and the FPL community out there is just truly amazing – we are blessed!
Thank you to FPL Chihuahua for the excellent interview questions. It was nice to reminisce and write about my past and also about my FPL title win again. It will always be a special to me to have won the FPL title. I hope you all enjoy the read and I hope some of the things I’ve written may help you achieve FPL success in the future.
All the best for the upcoming season everyone!
FPL Champion 2012/13 @spiderm4tt