Long time listener Joe Bloom (@JoeBloomy) has given himself the task of documenting his Togga Draft experience week-by-week. What a Bloomin' marvellous fella... get it? Bloomin', and that...
Look at his little face...
It was a summers July eve, and I rocked on up to the Double Bill Cafe, a central London events space above the PimpShuei bar, before the evening's proceedings were to commence. It was the TheGafferTapes Gafferazzi Togga Draft night.
I had a spring in my step galloping in to be greeted by the ever sarcastically cheerful fellow Gafferazzi member Chuck, formerly of PimpShei United and currently some other place, as well as the sexiest man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting; the Doncaster general, James Doncaster.
I decided not to waste any time by proclaiming I knew fudge all about how a Togga Draft worked.
“Togga” as it is known, officially as PlayTogga.com is a fantasy football draft game that allows a bunch of absolute lads to come together and pick their full squad one player at a time, to then battle it out head-to-head over the next thirty-eight gameweeks of footballing madness. This, amongst many other rules, I had yet to learn.
As was the norm, Chuck bombarded me with factoids, stats, and information in regards to our draft league and this new system of complicatedness. Previously we were all more used to the traditional official Fantasy Premier League game (fantasy.premierleague.com), which is mostly a game of picking players that land A) clean sheets and B) goals and assists. The new Togga draft system was far more detailed, as Chuck explained, scoring points for accomplishments like passes completed, tackles completed, key passes and the like as well as losing points for more such as being dispossessed like a pillock, scoring an own goal like a right lemon, and the usual carded debacles.
This was not a casual game of hashtag balls any longer, this was a pull up your big boy pants game, clearly, for real men.
As the other Gafferazzi squad arrived, I chased around the room picking up tidbits of advice and knowledge from Togga aficionados and virgins alike. I discovered the answers to questions like When should I pick a goalkeeper? (A: When there’s no outfield players left probably), How and when do transfers happen? (A: Tuesdays and Thursdays), What’s a waiver and how is that different to a free-agent? (A: Waivers are set on players who have been previously owned by another manager, or have already played in that GW before a transfer, which puts them into a waiver pool allowing all managers to attempt to go for them… the order of which is decided based on the waiver order… as you see it’s very complicated, big boy stuff).
By the time the Gaffers arrived, and I had calmed my excitement of being in their presence, I had now a head full of dreams, knowledge, and tips and in my hands I had a venue-provided piece of paper and pen with random names of both actual targets and pretend ones just incase anyone was trying to steal some tips. I felt clever, I felt smart, I felt empowered.
The draft order was set, I was to go 9th. I knew from research that this wasn’t the worst, because being in the top 10 of first picks was usually very important as there is usually only 10 players in a season who hit a certain height of points potential. Failure to pick one of these important players could mean disaster for the season, missing out on a crucial signing that guarantees big points. As the rounds went on, the big names began to disappear; Kane, Lukaku, Aguero. Alas, in a haze of excitement, pressure, and lack of research I picked the top point scoring player of last season, that is Alexis Sanchez as my first choice. A questionable choice.
The rounds rolled on, and I picked similarly questionable choices. Coutinho, Sterling, Barkley - all in the first 4 rounds!
If I had only spent some time checking the latest gossip in the Premier League, I would have had the knowledge that Sanchez was currently “injured” and there had been gossip about a possible departure from the gunners. Similarly Coutinho too was “injured” with word that the almighty Barcelona had showed interest and offered heaps of cash to bring him to Camp Nou, the word on the street was that he wanted to take that move and he wouldn’t be in the premiership for much longer. The same was true with Barkley, again “injured”, with word that he is spending his time twiddling his thumbs whilst he tries to force a step up to the successful Spurs. Sterling’s first-team time at Man City was in doubt, with new signings and the rise of Jesus leaving very limited spots in that primary squad.
Clearly, the pressure had got to me. I felt an increasing rush of doubt in my abilities as new manager of the Que Sera Salah. I didn’t even pick Salah as my first choice when I could have, and he’s in my bloody team name!
But nevermind I thought, push on Bloomhead, you got this. After various backhanders, shady deals, and multiplied access to free beers I ended up with my squad:
- Barkley (inj - waiting a move to Spurs)
- Sanchez (inj - possibly leaving PL)
- Coutinho (inj - probably leaving PL)
Despite some grave errors from me, we all had a smashing time.
Fast forward a few weeks later, and it’s Friday 11th August 2017, the day the Premier League is back! I hadn’t looked at my team (as well as my FPL teams) at all until this day I thought I should probably make sure it’s up to scratch.
Bantering with the Gafferazzi via WhatsApp, and searching around to try and find replacements to be able to put out a decent first 11, I learned much about the Togga way. I quickly discovered that I could hunt on the Free Agents market in search of some under-the-radar players that might give me the match starters I needed in my otherwise troubled and injured squad.
I still seriously lacked quality forwards, and panicked, offering my questionable signings to the rest of the market in desperate hope of locking down a decent quality forward. At this stage all I had was Crouch, Origi and Sterling who were not injured but were most definitely not likely to be starters.
By weekend’s end I’d decided that I would stand better odds of keeping a top points player, in Sanchez, Coutinho, or Barkley, by hanging on to them all and not trading them away. I didn’t want to trade away Barkley for a lesser player and only see him sign for Spurs, I didn’t want to trade Coutinho away and see him stay at my beloved Reds (Liverpool) for another year, and I didn’t want to trade Sanchez away, the highest points scorer in Togga last season, only to see him stay around too. No, I thought, my odds are better if I stubbornly cling to them all like a toddler clings to a mother’s teat.
The Premier League kicked off with Arsenal v Leicester. This game didn’t affect me, having only Sanchez at Arsenal as the only player in that matchup but he was injured and on my bench anyway. It was around this time I learned that your first team lineup can be rearranged (and transferred in/out) as much as you like, including during a gameweek, up until the point at which that player’s team starts playing. So for example, if I had left Sanchez in my first team as a forward and the Arsenal v Leicester match kicked off then he would be stuck there giving me zero points and unable to move him out.
The Gafferazzi draft gods (Ash Kernsworth) decided that auto subs were to be OFF in our league, meaning that non-starters wouldn’t magically be switched with someone who does play. From this alone I knew it meant that if I wanted to compete in this league, I was going to have to step up my involvement and keep my thumb, four fingers, and toes firmly on the button.
This meant I needed to be sure about the lineups for every game that was relevant to my squad. I devised a method for assuring this attention to detail, I downloaded the BBC Sport app and set notifications ON for every single team in the Premier League but only for lineup announcements. So that each time a manager announced the squad, my phone would buzz at me reminding me to check the lineup of that team and if I needed to make any changes. It’s also good to be on top of, to see which players are starting as an indicator for future signings that might still be available out there on the free agent or waiver markets.
With all these learnings, and swapping players in and out constantly, I was finally sort-of ready for my first matchup: Que Sera Salah (Bloomhead AKA me) vs TheGafferTapes Ash (Ash Kernsworth).
I knew it would be a tough matchup for my first GW, with Ash previously being proclaimed an FPL expert once upon a time. Ash had some good picks in his squad, big names and sure starters, such as Kevin De Bruyne, Willian, Matic, Salah (grr) and backup options too.
With all switches taken into account due to line-up announcements, my team was ready:
- (GK) Schmeichel
- (D) Vertonghen
- (D) Dawson
- (D) Williams
- (D) J. Stones
- (M) Kante
- (M) Fernandinho
- (M) Henderson
- (M) Dembele
- (F) Origi
- (F) A. Perez
(Bench: Sanchez (inj), Coutinho (“inj”), Sterling, Barkley (“inj”), J. Holebas)
I did my best to put out a fully starting squad to maximise my points potential. Unfortunately there was some letdowns with Origi only coming on in the dying embers of the Watford v Liverpool match and getting a whopping 0 points, and A. Perez not able to put any past Spurs in the Newcastle v Tottenham match resulting just 1 point. A grave error was also made in leaving J. Holebas on the bench, who despite conceding 3 goals bagged himself 13 juicy points from an assist.
At weekend’s end, the result was Que Sera Salah 80.75, TheGafferTapes Ash 129.25. Ash had secured 3 points for his well prepared team, leaving the Que Sera Salah’s in the dust.
I can’t remember the last time I have been so enthralled in every single match in the premier league, with every single lineup, assist, goal, and form of each player so critical to observe to try and get any advantage on your fellow Gafferazzi. I feel like this level of fantasy draft football is the future, with only every other fantasy game out there playing catchup.
Join me next week, when Que Sera Salah take on the mighty german Max and his team Naked German’s Team with the likes of Ozil, Rooney, Walcott, and Cahill to name just a few.
If you fancy trying a Togga draft of your own, sign up at www.playtogga.com
- and follow Joe on twitter: @JoeBloomy