The popularity of the Premier League’s official Fantasy Football game has grown exponentially over the past decade.
This year, a staggering 4,503,345 teams were entered by Premier League fans across the globe, and they made a whopping 135,343,773 transfers between them.
The 2016-17 season is now over and a winner has been crowned: 31-year-old Ben Crabtree - manager of ‘FC Crab Dogg’ - who claimed the FPL title in dramatic fashion on the final day of the campaign.
Ben, a passionate Everton fan, went into the final Gameweek (GW) two points behind leader Uwais Ahmed.
Ahmed - manager of ‘Fahad’s XI’ - picked up 94 points from Sunday’s 10 matches. He also made two substitutions prior to GW38, which cost him four precious points.
Junior Stanislas was the hero for FC Crab Dogg
Crabtree used his two free transfers on Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Bournemouth midfielder Junio Stanislas, who was promoted to the starting line-up following Josh King’s late withdrawal and bagged nine invaluable points for FC Crab Dogg.
Ben racked up 97 points and subsequently finished five points clear at the top of the ‘Overall’ table.
A truly magnificent feat.
"This is probably my greatest achievement in sport," he told BBC Sport. "As soon as I was in the top 10 it felt tangible and I started checking what the teams ahead of me and first place were doing."
The tactic that makes Ben's victory even more incredible
What makes Ben’s victory even more remarkable is the fact he didn’t use a single Liverpool player over the course of the season. Not one.
He’s such a proud Evertonian that he couldn’t bring himself to draft in Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino or any other of Jurgen Klopp’s players.
"It was a little bit dodgy at the end because Philippe Coutinho seemed an obvious transfer to make on the last week but I thought I need to stick with my morals and keep them intact," Ben continued.
"Also, I don't pick a player if they're playing Everton unless it's someone really good. If it's someone like Sergio Aguero or Harry Kane I leave them in and hope they don't score."
How amazing is that? Liverpool finished the season in fourth place, so to avoid every one of their players and still become FPL champion is seriously impressive.
What does the FPL winner actually win?
So, what do you win for finishing first out of four-and-a-half-million managers? Well, surprisingly, the prize for winning isn’t actually that brilliant. It’s decent, but not life-changing.
- VIP hospitality at two Premier League 2017/18 matches of the winner’s choice, including travel and 2 nights’ accommodation
- A week’s worth of experiences in the UK courtesy of Visit Britain, including travel and 7 nights’ accommodation
- TAG Heuer connected watch
- Copy of FIFA and a games console
- Nike manager jacket
- FPL goody bag consisting of a rucksack, t-shirt, mug, water bottle, stress ball, pen, pad and key ring.
Any tips, Ben?
Ben insists the only tip he can give aspiring FPL champions is to watch as much Premier League football as possible.
"If I've got a fantasy player in my team or someone I'm looking at, it's good to watch them live," he added. "The greatest training is just watching a lot of football."
He'll be back next season
But will he be back next season? After all, it won’t get any better than this.
"I'm happy to have a rest,” Ben said. “The whole build-up has been a lot, it'll be good to have no football for a few weeks.
"But once a few transfers start happening and once the game gets released again it changes. I'll be back to defend my title."
Clearly, FPL is not just something you can walk away from.
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