Jamie Pacheco will be penning his Monday ‘Diary of a doomed Fantasy FPL’ throughout the 2020-21 season. In his first entry he recalls the time he thought bringing up his Fantasy Football exploits in a job interview was a good idea…

I’m sitting in an interview for a job at a well-known betting company. It’s been two weeks since I handed in my resignation at a well-known Swedish betting giant. There I felt the (so-called) company culture had been established over a beer and written on a cocktail napkin, where the management seemed like they’d had ten beers every lunchtime if their policies were anything to go by, where the work I had to do was dull and repetitive and in a final nail to the coffin, where the girls were instructed by HR to not go overboard in terms of wearing overly-revealing outfits. I didn’t even like the coffee they had.

FPL as a great achievement

For this new job, I have the experience, the profile, salary expectations are well aligned, and I’ve done a good job of answering the questions they threw at me so far. If this were a F1 race, I’m Lewis Hamilton, I’m a good three seconds ahead of second place, I’m entering the last lap, I have enough fuel, my tires are fine and that chequered flag is almost within touching distance. Or is it?

For their final question, they ask me to name, in order from least to most, the three greatest achievements in my life. I start with the obvious: I got a 2: 1 Law Degree from a highly prestigious English University. The interview panel is made up of their amiable and highly professional female HR manager, a no-nonsense male Director of Marketing and a slightly younger guy with a Superdry t-shirt and designer haircut. I think his name was Sven but that might just be an educated guess; most Swedes are called Sven, I’ve learnt. The panel liked my answer, nodding in approvement.

FPL worldwide position: 137th

For my second, I nominate my career progress in the industry, going from an entry-level job in Operations to becoming an accomplished copywriter and later Content Manager in a short space of time. They like that as well. I have visions of them deciding already where it’s best for me to sit in the office.

‘And for my greatest achievement of all, I’d say it was the fact that during the 2011-12 season I finished 137th in the world for Premier League Fantasy Football and perhaps even more satisfyingly, Number 1 in the whole of Malta’, I continue gleefully.

Very different reaction this time round from the first two, but curiously, Sven looks intrigued.

‘James, do you think this interview is some kind of joke?’ asks the HR Manager.

Fantasy League skills in real life

I go on to explain that’s not the case at all. I decide to try to pinpoint how that achievement reflects a great number of transferrable skills, many of which would be invaluable in this role:

‘Getting my transfers done in time every week shows good timekeeping and planning. Keeping it going a whole season shows persistence and dedication. Planning my team weeks in advance demonstrates strategy and forward thinking. Choosing a good captain every week shows good decision-making.’

(This last one was crucial to my success that year. Robin Van Persie had an outstanding season at Arsenal and many was the time I captained him in away games, even when Wayne Rooney was at home to lesser opponents. It paid off. The proof is in the pudding).

‘Knowing when to let performing players go when their transfer value was high demonstrates good budgeting and…”

Dominating an island in FPL

By their faces, I think they’d heard enough. So, I tried a different approach.

‘I also think there’s something to be said for finishing first out of over 15,000 people (the number who played it in Malta that year) whatever the competition is. It could be Tiddlywinks, archery, downing shots of Tequila or eating the most sausage rolls in the space of an hour. I was first in the whole of Malta! I dominated an island!”

This last sentence may have come out a little louder and desperate than I intended and in hindsight, the bit about conquering the island probably wasn’t up there with achievements like Fidel Castro successfully ruling Cuba for almost half a century. But if you’re a Fantasy Football manager, rationality and awareness aren’t always necessarily part of the job description.

Fifth FPL midfielder with value

A week later, I got an extremely polite e-mail from that nice HR woman informing me that I’d performed very well in the interview but that in a 2-1 split vote, they’d decided to go with another candidate. In the end it all worked out for the best. I never worked in an office again, haven’t drank bad coffee since and forged a somewhat successful, rewarding career as a freelance writer.

Far more intriguing was an e-mail I got a week after that one.

“Hi James. It was very nice to meet you and I was extremely disappointed that you didn’t get the role. This is off the record, but I voted for you and felt that you were the ideal candidate for the job. I wish you all the best in your future ventures. PS. Any thoughts on who’s a value fifth midfielder for
next season? Kind regards, Sven.”