Many of us have played fantasy football for years – maybe even decades – without ever glimpsing the top of the Dream Team leaderboard.
Just ask David Gordon, a lifelong Southend United supporter and regular Dream Team player, who hadn’t even been in the top 5,000 in previous seasons – before walking away with the main jackpot at the end of a whirlwind 2019/20 campaign.
“I’ve played fantasy football for years, I’m addicted to it,” David said after sweeping up the £75,000 prize.
“I’ve never really come close. I’ve played other fantasy football games and once got as high as second place going into the final week, but that was as good as it got!”
In many ways, this will perhaps go down as the toughest Dream Team campaign on record, as the lockdown – brought about by the spread of Covid-19 across the globe – threatened to curtail the Premier League season in the middle of March.
The pandemic had a devastating impact on David, whose stepfather died of the virus in the same hospital in which he works as a frontline hero.
David said: “It’s been a bit of a tough year for me, really.
“I lost my step-dad to Coronavirus this year and he died in the same hospital where I work.
“It’s ironic because it was always a running joke in the family that he used to say to me: ‘David I’ve got a funny feeling you’re going to come into some big money one day’, and he was right!
“I was on what they call the ‘Covid team’ for four months from the beginning of March, and it was difficult at times but when you work for the NHS you just get on with it.”
David hasn’t quite decided what he wanted to spend his £75,000 winnings on, but did admit to treating his mates to a few drinks at the pub and some extra rounds of golf.
Dream Team managers were still able to use their three allotted transfers every month and some – like David – used this time to prepare their team for the possibility of the season resuming.
“I had a few Liverpool players in my team, but seeing as they only had the league to play for [once football resumed], I decided to gradually swap them out in place of Man City and Man United players,” David added.
The turning point for David was when Sergio Aguero picked up a season-ending injury in the second game back after the restart, which gave him a huge dilemma to fix in his team’s attacking ranks.
“I basically had to flip a coin to decide on who to replace him with,” he said.
“It was between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Anthony Martial. Luckily, I went for Aubameyang and it was a masterstroke!”
The Arsenal hitman netted twice against Man City in the FA Cup semi-final, and then repeated the feat in Arsenal’s final Premier League game of the season against Watford before hitting another double – including the winner – in their FA Cup final victory over Chelsea.
In fact, the Gabonese striker’s brilliant end-of-season run saw him sneak into the Dream Team best XI of the season, notably ahead of Martial.
David, whose biological father was legendary BBC Radio Five Live football results reader James Alexander Gordon, knew a thing or two about building a competitive team within the constraints of Dream Team’s £50million budget, but even he admits he was surprised by the early-season form of one of his bargain buys.
“Tammy Abraham really surprised me,” he says.
“When I first made my team, I had about £2.0m left over and decided to just go for him. I really didn’t want him from the beginning, but I couldn’t afford anyone else so it was a bit of a gamble.
“But he ended up having a phenomenal start to the season, picking up lots of points. He did so well for me, and I think you need to find two or three bargain players and unearth some gems to do well.”
Tammy was indeed an inspired choice, with the Chelsea youngster topping the Premier League scoring list with eight goals after the first eight games.
His early season form was a surprise to many and made him a firm favourite among Dream Team gaffers – although few could claim they picked him from the offset.
Dream Team kicks off again very soon, with the start of the new Premier League season less than one month away.
Our traditional Season game, as well Draft, will be available to play once again alongside our exciting new Dream Team Coach subscription service.