So you think you’ve got what it takes to walk alongside the Mourinhos, Wengers and Fergusons in the new season? Don’t be just another Rafa Benitez this season, read this guide and win the league – it’s as simple as that. Follow this 10-step guide to winning your Fantasy Football League and separate yourself from all of the other ‘nearly-was’ managers of the past.

1. Buy Cristiano Ronaldo.
This doesn’t literally mean buy Cristiano Ronaldo and you will win the league (although this was true in the 07/08 season). There will be a Ronaldo for all seasons, you just need to work out who it will be when you buy your players. Every season in Fantasy Football a player will be bought by almost every, if not all, participating teams. This may seem the boring way of gaining points but it is also a great way of not losing ground on your opponents. You may think it’s brave to ignore the trend but it generally ends in sadness and floods of tears – you have been warned.

2. Read the rules.
Every Fantasy Football League is different and each has its own set of rules. Points are scored in a variety of ways across many different leagues and so make yourself aware of the rules you are playing by. If there are transfers, formations, substitutes or captains – you must use this to your best ability or risk losing out to your bitter rivals.

3. Avoid high-profile substitutes.
Don’t break the bank bringing in the latest big signing from one of the ‘Big Four’ if he is going to warm the bench for half the season. Often expensive players at the bigger clubs will score dramatically less than a first-team regular at one of the mid-table teams or even a relegation-battler. An example of this could be the signing of Chelsea’s Florent Malouda when Simon Davies at Fulham contributed a much greater points total.

4. Midfield goalscorers.
In my opinion these are even more valuable than the prolific centre forward scoring 20 goals a season. In many fantasy leagues, midfielders will receive more points for scoring than a forward so don’t miss out on these valuable assets. Take a gamble on penalty-takers and corner-takers that play in midfield and relax on your sun lounger as the points just keep on rolling in.

5. Take advantage of positional errors.
Players can often be categorised in the wrong position so don’t ignore these precious finds. An example would likely be a forward registered as a midfielder or midfielder named as a defender. As they play in a more advanced position than their category suggests, there will sometimes be the chance of more goals/assists being attributed to your player. This is not going to change the world, but the extra points that you can gain could mean the difference between 1st and 2nd, and no-one remembers the Fantasy Football runners-up.

6. Don’t let your heart rule your head.
If you are playing Fantasy Football it is likely that you will have some sort of allegiance or favouritism towards a certain team (this may also extend to a hatred of another team). In my championship winning success of 07/08, a close rival continuously refused to purchase Cristiano Ronaldo as he felt it betrayed his beloved Arsenal. Sadly, he relented somewhat belatedly and fell short in the title run-in. On the other side of the coin is the ‘loyal supporter’ that perseveres with signing players from their own team despite them festering at the bottom of the league. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them as much if you don’t want to buy a goalie that concedes four of five goals a game. It’s a serious business.

7. Don’t panic buy.
If there is a transfer or team selection deadline try not to jump in and make rash decisions losing you valuable points. Beware of mid-week fixtures such as European games or Internationals that could cause injuries to your key performers. Avoid making changes before the weekend if your players will be occupied with FA Cup games – check the fixtures for the ‘gameweek’ and adjust your team accordingly.

8. Plan ahead.
Many internet-based fantasy football leagues will offer the transfer system for teams to trade one player per week without a points deduction. Use this transfer wisely and you can benefit massively from such a small piece of forward-thinking. If you notice that Man Utd are playing bottom of the league next week, transfer in a player from Man Utd for the two weeks before to ensure you gain maximum potential from this fixture. I won my Fantasy Football League on the strength of one such transfer when i brought in Frank Lampard the week before a home game against Derby County – he went on to score four goals.

9. Remain focussed.
So you are top of the league with a few games to play – don’t take your foot off the gas. Titles are won and lost in the closing stages, so don’t let the title slip through your fingers by losing concentration at the last minute. Treat every game as a cup final and pay close attention to detail to maximise your points haul. You are nearly champions so don’t take your eye of the ball.

10. Beware the end of season circus.
This is the final stumbling block for the potential Fantasy Football champion. Every year there will be a series of shock team selections and ridiculous results to incense every football fan, bookmaker and fantasy football manager across the country. Don’t be surprised when Rafa Benitez drops Torres and Gerrard or when the Premier League’s whipping boys pull out a fantastic victory to beat relegation. At the end of the long, hard Premier League season you must learn to expect the unexpected.

So, good luck my fantasy football friends and listen to my advice… glory could be yours.

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