Fantasy Premier League – Tips From a Winner

In 2013 Matthew Martyniak won the biggest game of them all, Fantasy Premier League, beating 2.6 million people to the most sought after crown in fantasy football. Two years down the line we caught up with Matt to see how winning the biggest comp of them all has affected him, what tips he has for budding FPLer’s and how he has fared in the game since…

 

Follow Matt on Twitter here @spiderm4tt

 

FFS: Hey Matt, welcome to FantasyFootballStrategist, we’re honoured to have; essentially, a fantasy football legend with us! Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
MM: Hi, thank you for having me. I am 39 years old from Preston, Lancashire, England. I currently live in a small village that is sandwiched in between the famous rugby league towns of St Helens and Wigan. I am a chartered physiotherapist specialising in musculoskeletal conditions. I work for the National Health Service and for a Premier League football club academy. I like to play football when I get the chance, although I mainly watch football now as my playing days are sadly coming to an end at my age. I do like a round of golf when I get the time, and when the weather gets better! I also like to play a little bit of fantasy football!

FFS: Tell us about Matt the football fan. Who do you follow? Any favourite players or games that stick out?
MM: Growing up as a child in Preston with my house being within a mile away from Preston North End Football Club, I inevitably grew up following them. However, my family roots supported Liverpool Football Club, so at an early age I followed them too. Today I still follow both clubs. Some people say to me that you cannot support two teams – well I do, and I’m very proud of them both!
I have many favourite football players from past to present, but some favourite players who stick out in my mind are all mainly from when I was growing up as a child. Players such as Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes, and Diego Maradona, were great to watch. Brian Mooney was great to watch too. He was a Preston North End legend when we were struggling in the lower tiers of English football.
I’ve been to lots of games with Preston North End and Liverpool both home and away, but the game that stands out most, and will probably never be surpassed, is the Champions League Final 2005 in Istanbul against A.C. Milan. I was right behind the goal that night, and at half time being 0-3 down it wasn’t a great place to be! But during half time a fellow supporter who was just a few rows in front of me stood up and started singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ with great passion and belief. Before you knew it all the Liverpool fans around the stadium joined in singing. The noise and the passion was incredible. Liverpool then came out for the 2nd half, they got three goals back very quickly, and the rest is history. It was an amazing game, an amazing night!

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FFS: So you won Fantasy Premier League in 2012/13, beating 2.6m other managers, can you tell us how it feels to win the most popular fantasy football game in the world and beating that many other players?
MM: It was a great feeling that final Sunday of the the 2012/13 Premier League season when I realised that I was the overall winner of the Fantasy Premier League (FPL). What I didn’t realise though after winning it was how big the FPL game actually was – and worldwide too.
At times during the season though it felt like there were only about 10 to 20 players playing it, not 2.6m. This is because I reached the overall top twenty around Christmas time, and the following five months of the season I was mainly in the worlds top five. So it felt like I was playing in a little mini-league really, which was probably a good thing as I could stay focused on the opponents teams that were close around me.
I only thought about beating 2.6m players well after the season was over. To come out on top of this many players still feels a bit surreal. Today when I think about it, it’s still a nice feeling to have won the FPL, as it is such a special and huge thing to win – and it is my favourite fantasy football game too.

FFS: Your team was called ‘Divine Mercy’ – can you tell us the meaning behind the team name?
MM: Yes my FPL team was, and still is, called ‘Divine Mercy’.
The Divine Mercy is a Christian devotion to the endless love of God towards all people. One of my favourite Saints, Faustina Kowalska, had a series of apparitions, visions, and conversations, with Jesus Christ. She wrote a diary of all that happened of her time with Jesus. The main messages that came out of this are; To ask for and obtain the mercy of God, to trust in Christ completely and His abundant mercy, and to show mercy to others.
I actually discovered the Divine Mercy halfway through my FPL title winning season, so that FPL season meant a lot more to me than just winning fantasy football. It completely transformed me and changed my life for the better in so many ways, as it has done for many others.

FFS: In the end you won by just 2 points with a total of 2,472 points, such a fine margin, what emotions were you feeling on that last day and can you tell us how it unfolded? What players were involved in achieving your win at the finale?
MM: Yes just 2 points. Such small margins can mean such big things in life, and in FPL too!
I was actually quite calm and relaxed on that last day of the Premier League season. I put it largely down due to that I was away from the hustle & bustle of the ‘FPL world’. I was away with my family and friends on a pilgrimage in a place called Medjugorje, which is in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I didn’t really have much internet access. Thankfully I got on to the Internet on that final Sunday to check the team news, select my final team tactics, and make my final transfer, which was to get in the in-form Coutinho for his nice home game to QPR.
Coutinho went on to score the winning goal that final day in a 1-0 win to Liverpool. He also collected two bonus points, which turned out to be very significant in the end. However, I did not find out until later on that evening to what had actually happened as I was having a joyful and peaceful day in Medjugorje with my family, friends, and church. I was completely away from it all and was unaware from all that was happening in FPL that day, thankfully!
Other key players involved in achieving my win at the finale were; Jose Enrique, who not only got clean sheets points against QPR, but he also picked up the three maximum bonus points. Robin van Persie and Ricky Lambert continued their great season goalscoring form by each scoring again. Gareth Bale too continued his special season form by scoring a last minute goal. This goal and the bonus points that followed were very significant as he was my captain that day, which gave me double his points.

FFS: Can you give our readers a few FPL specific tips? A few things that may help the casual player win his or hers works/pub league… (goalkeeper rotation, captain picking, subs, team balance, transfers – points hits etc)
MM: Yes sure!

My number one tip to start with is to play the fantasy football game the way it is set up to play, and play it in relation to the Premier League itself. This is because there are many fantasy football games out there, and they each have their own rules and ways to get points. In FPL, for example, you do not only get points for players who score goals, get assists, or keep clean sheets. You also get bonus points, which can be crucial in the end!

Some players will not only be better goal scorers, or better assisters, or have better chances of a clean sheet, but some players also attract bonus points more than others. For example, there are players who are better than others at completing successful dribbles, getting shots on target, getting crosses into the area, creating big goal scoring chances, making successful tackles, and making saves (from goalkeepers). It is important to see what players in the Premier League best suit the FPL game, and vice versa. Therefore it’s best to get as many of these players as possible into your team.

I mainly like to pick players who are on set pieces, corners, free kicks, and penalty kicks. These players are helpful to get a foundation of consistent points on a weekly basis.

Avoid rotational and risky players. Instead pick guaranteed starters (including your substitutes) who are most likely to feature each game from the start, and also to last at least 70-90 minutes. This is simply because the longer your players are on the pitch, the greater the chance they have of getting points. Also if any of your players miss a game, then your substitute players can fill in if needed.

It is useful to avoid out of form players, injury prone players, and players who like to pick up bookings/red cards. Otherwise you will find yourself with players not playing, and then you will end up with less players, wasting transfers, and spending unnecessary points on extra transfers.

Picking a good solid, reliable, and quality, captain each week is a tactic I have found useful in creeping up the rankings. There is no need to gamble a captain pick really unless you had a lot of catching up to do. This is because a captain is not just to gain ground on your opponents, but it is also not to lose ground on your opponents. So if your popular good solid captain pick does not fair too well that particular week, then it is all relevant as most of your rivals will most probably have the same captain. If your gamble captain pick did not come off, and the popular solid captain pick did well, you will see a significant drop down the rankings that week.

I like to set up my team balance with around seven high ownership players, and four good quality lower ownership players (or differentials). I am unsure if this is the optimum ratio, but this ratio, or thereabouts, has been working best for me this past three seasons in FPL. The tactic is similar to my captain tactic, in that it’s all relevant to whether my high ownership players score well or not. This is because most FPL managers will own some, or most, of the high ownership players. This way if the main big ownership players do well I will not get left behind in the rankings – I can ‘stay in the pack’.

I then like to let my lower ownership players, or differentials, ‘do the work’. If these players do well then I usually get a significant green arrow and jump up the rankings. If these players do poorly I can get a rare red arrow, but it is usually a not too damaging red arrow, and I usually only drop a little down the rankings. I call this my ‘creep formation’ tactic – It helps me to creep forwards, in formation, up the rankings most weeks than not.

Regarding making transfers – it is usually best to leave them until as late as possible, preferably until after the team news comes out on the Friday before the weekend round of games. This is because a week is a long time in football, and a week is a long time in FPL too! If you make early transfers you may then have to make another one or two transfers once the Friday team news is out, as players can get injured/dropped/rested/rotated/suspended, during the week.

Transfer points hits is a tricky one. A good hit can work out well if you get it right, if not in the short term, but in the mid to long term. However, a bad hit may not work out at all. Personally I like to limit points hits where possible as points are hard earned. I only take good points hits when and where necessary to benefit my team, tactics, overall strategy and plan. I try to avoid the bad hits, thankfully! I find with good planning and preparation you can avoid taking unnecessary points hits as you can get most of your players in and out of your team via the weekly free transfer route, especially if you can roll over your free transfer as soon as possible so it gives you two free transfers each or most weeks.

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FFS: Some great tips there Matt! Thanks! You won a trip to Hong Kong to watch the Barclays Asia Trophy, how was it?
MM: Yes Hong Kong was fantastic. It was a holiday of a lifetime and a place I never imagined I would ever get to. The place itself is great and the people there are very nice and welcoming. The Premier League really really looked after us there. We had a nice hotel, great food, chauffeur driven cars everywhere, and hospitality tickets to watch the Barclays Asia Trophy, which was a great event. I would like to go back there someday, and hopefully to watch the Barclays Asia Trophy again maybe. I will have to win the FPL again I think!

FFS: Since winning how have you fared? And how did you get on last season?
MM: In the 2013/14 season in my FPL title defence I fared ok I think. I finished 995th overall. Although I was happy with this finish as a title defence, I was actually a bit disappointed in the end. This is because I was 175th position overall in March and not too far from the leaders. Although I could not get closer to the leaders as the weeks went by, I was safely in the top 500. However, I finished poorly with four straight red arrows, but thankfully I managed to hold on to a top 1,000 finish. Have to admit that season’s top 1,000 finish felt almost tougher than winning it in a way. I wasn’t in my own bubble anymore like the previous season, and therefore I lost a bit of focus at times.
Last season I did ok again using my same tactics. I’m still dreaming of getting back into the top 5!

FFS: A serious question… how has winning FPL affected you? Has it made you a fantasy football celebrity on the FF circuit so to speak?
MM: I think I would not be telling the truth if I said that winning the FPL has not affected me. I would like to think though that overall it has affected me in a good positive way more than a negative way. I have had my ‘down moments’ to the point where I have felt like retiring from the game. This is because FPL in my title winning season, and even more so since winning it, was taking a lot of my time and efforts. It was unfortunately becoming a priority in my life, which was the effecting my main priorities in life, such as spending time with my family, friends, church, and my work.
Thankfully I realise that FPL is only a game, and that means I can take it or leave it and just enjoy it for what it is, which I do now. Thankfully I now have a good balance in my life. FPL is a significant part of it yes, and I still enjoy it, but it is not a priority anymore. My main priorities in life will always come before FPL now.
Ha I’m not sure I am a fantasy football celebrity! Although I have to admit since winning the FPL almost two years ago the interest has been huge, which I didn’t see coming really. I have done many pleasant interviews for websites, magazines, and also for BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast show! All this has surprised me a little I have to admit – but it has all been good.
Also the feedback from people all around the world, whether it be in person face to face, or via people on the internet in fantasy football forums and on Twitter, has been nothing short of amazing. Everyone has been great with me. I am really humbled by it all, and extremely thankful. The FPL community out there from all corners of the globe is very special – it is like one big happy family that all get along well with each other, which is the way the world should be really.

MM: I would just like to finish by saying thank you to FanatasyFootballStrategist for this pleasant interview – hope my answers can match your great questions! If any FPL managers out there need any help or advice then please feel free to ask me and I will try my best to help out. You can usually catch me on my Twitter @spiderm4tt mainly on a Friday night for some ‘Friday Night Team Talk’!

Also If you wish to challenge me at FPL this season, whilst raising money for Save the Children charity, you can enter my FPL Charity League. It is free to enter and all are welcome. All the details on how to enter and donate to my charity league are on my Twitter.

Best wishes to all FPL’ers!

FFS: Cheers Matt! Some amazing and insightful answers there! We wish you all the best in your future FPL career!

Follow Matt on Twitter here @spiderm4tt

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