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Is Lambo Playing Fantasy Football?
Written by ElephantintheRoom on Sunday, 16th Jun 2019 16:18

Many older supporters who know nothing and care even less about computer-based football games have a passing interest in fantasy football.

Mine dates back a good few years to when I started a league at work. I’ve long since left work, let alone that company but that league has survived and flourished, I’m still in it and now has more members than the Football League.

It’s good fun and a good way to keep in touch. It even keeps you interested in the Premier League long after you lose interest in watching it.

I mention this because we are now in the fantasy close season. A PR-dominated period of no football, but much real or imagined transfer activity. It’s aimed at keeping us interested of course – and selling season tickets. But this season, glory be – our BIG fantasy rumour has come true very early indeed.

Because usually much rumoured hogwash focuses on a mythical 20-goal-a-season striker who will doubtless transform the team. And we’ve actually gone one better and bagged a 30-goal-a-season striker. Well, to be fair, a once-in-a-lifetime 30-goal-a-season striker, but you get my drift.

There is much to admire about James Norwood. He not only scores goals but seems level-headed, a great team player – and an agreeable PR godsend. Only his opportunistic departure from Tranmere (and those dreadful tattoos) grate a tad. BUT is he actually what Town need? The statistics say no.

Harking back to fantasy football, you soon learn what is important to be successful. And that is not goals. It’s clean sheets – and midfielders who actually contribute something. Even in real football it is far, far more important to sort your defence out early than to score goals. Keep those mythical clean sheets and more often than not, you win.

Score and you only have a 36 per cent chance of winning. So far, so very Mick McCarthy. But Mick, bless him, never seemed to quite understand the importance of midfielders who could create goals and occasionally score them. He too had clearly never played fantasy football, let alone studied the real game. I’m not even sure he realised that 1x3 could be better than 3x1 so out of touch was he with the real world.

Fantasy football also teaches you another inescapable fact. You are only as good as your weakest player. In McCarthy’s closed world of proper blokes this was an insurmountable hurdle – but even Bobby Robson never seemed to learn that fundamental truth.

I mention these inescapable FACTS because they seem to elude so, many managers in the real world.

Most people I know who study the somewhat tedious but revealing world of football stats do so because they are intent on throwing money away of football betting, rather than fantasy managers with too much time on their hands.

But how many managers actually take the time to study what players are capable of or actually do, before blithely assuming they can reproduce the same results in an alien environment? Or even modify their own team selections based on what has eluded their own eyes but has actually happened?

They often say they do – but you can actually see they don’t. And if you can’t, just look at the statistics.

Which brings me back to the transfer rumours that will swirl around Portman Road in June and July. Town already have three players capable of scoring at third division level – in Freddie Sears, Kayden Jackson and Ellis Harrison. Well, we’ll have to take Jackson on trust for now until he gets farmed out on loan somewhere, if he can be persuaded to go.

So having another one, somewhat older and totally unproven at third division level in a team with downwards momentum actually appears on closer inspection a big and somewhat unnecessary risk.

Midfield? If you list them all and fantasise about Emyr Huws being fit, it almost looks strong enough to win the Championship, let alone division three. BUT when, if ever, did Lambo get a sensible and fit midfield quartet together last season? If anything, midfield was the weakest part of a very weak team. And so far there is no sign of any impending improvement here.

Defence? The key part of a successful team – yet here too there is disarray. Lambo’s answer last season was to apply some on-loan sticking plasters with no discernible effect.

So for now we have to assume the defence will be error-prone and awful, unless Lambo has other plans. Again, this hardly bodes well.

Goalie? Big news here in every sense. I’ve had the feeling that Marcus Evans has been trying to sell Bart for years, cluelessly assuming that an overhyped goalie enjoying marginal success in a mid-table backwater is gold dust.

Alas no, although the goalie is the most important position in the team, it is usually the last one managers and rich overseas owners seek or covet.

Bart, in his heyday had no takers and Town unwisely paid good money to double down and keep him – only to see his performances and value nosedive. Now we have a couple of new goalies of unknown provenance to add to one overpaid one who has yet to be persuaded to leave. Not a recipe for a happy ship, one suspects.

Non-performers? A long list here, as always. Fantasy football teaches you it is always better to have your players on the field – an inescapable truth that has seemingly eluded Town managers over the years and something that is about to haunt Lambo in spades.

It’s one thing to come into an underperforming club and rubbish the underperforming players – quite another to manage them and get them to perform – or move them on.

And Lambo not only has our perennial injuries to contend with, he has the Paul Hurst signings, all of whom are under contract and will hang around on the best money they have ever earned – unless the club pays them to go elsewhere.

Getting rid of overpaid players who feel too good for their newly straightened circumstances is never easy. That is one expensive lesson that Town learned last time they were relegated. But who at Portman Road now remembers that chastening fact?

However, there is one aspect of fantasy football that Town ARE in a reasonably good place. Fantasy football management. Right from the off Lambo has had the charm offensive turned up to 12, let alone 11.

Never mind his utterances are often puerile and often downright amusing – it is well received if somewhat cynically intentioned. After all, the vacuum Evans created (and McCarthy widened) meant this was an open goal waiting to be scored. I’m surprised it wasn’t item one on Evans’s back-of-a-fag packet plan.

Astonishingly (or predictably, depending how cynical you are) it HAS worked. Most Town fans seemingly enjoyed our shambolic demise and are looking forward to a successful campaign, seemingly blind to Town’s rock bottom performances on the pitch.

Lambo talked a good talk after all – and although most of his short-term plasters were disastrously inept, the PR-friendly Alan Judge has become a permanent and popular crutch to aid the recovery.

Almost singlehandedly Lambo’s charm offensive has created a season ticket bubble coated with a not insignificant veneer of hope, or even expectation.

Lambo the PR man has been a huge and somewhat unexpected success. PR Lambo is in a much better place than Manager Lambo who to date seems singularly incapable of welding what he has (or cobbles together) into an effective team.

Maybe he believes his own PR. Maybe some pragmatism will emerge with the new season. Even Norwood, if statistics are to be believed, is a PR friendly signing, ignoring Town's more immediate problems.

This triumph of hope over expectation is perhaps the ultimate fantasy. We don’t know the make up of Town’s squad yet, let alone the other teams, most of whom will see moribund, possibly overconfident Town as something of a scalp.

But this hardly matters because we are now in the fantasy close season with many weeks ahead to dream (or forget). After all we already have the ultimate fantasy signing – a 30-goal-a-season striker who genuinely seems very pleased to be here. Fantasy play-offs are the minimum expectation. For now, reality can wait.

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JimmyJazz added 23:10 - Jun 16
If the fantasy league to talk of is open to new managers it would be interesting to take you (and others) on come the new season

PortmanTerrorist added 07:26 - Jun 17
Fantastic piece....and thank goodness football remains so generally unpredictable, and makes fools of so many every day. Even after reading this am still thinking about how great our next season might be. More fool me....maybe

DifferentGravy added 19:50 - Jun 17
Ive only dabbled in the World Cup fantasy football over the years but agree with a few of the comparisons.
It is vital to have players who can play week - week out. Injury prone payers are costly, disrupt continuity and score no points.. Point scoring in FF can be misleading. However, if defenders keep a clean sheet or a forward scores a goal, they are rewarded with points. I imagine Town defenders and forwards were some of the lowest FF players in the league. Calamity defending and goal shy forwards = Nil point.

I agree, Lambert has certainly said a lot of the right things and seems to have won over the hearts and minds of fans.Yet I was surprised by the empathy shown to him and our players considering the points tally barely improved from that achieved by his predecessor. However, he inherited a team that required a considerable overhaul and Evans certainly wasnt prepared to provide further funds for such a drastic salvage operation. There were a significant number of injuries to contend with. Also, the team (without Chambers) did begin to have a few half decent performances. I expect that it was this.....seeing Town, playing passing football and looking improved (up until the last third of the pitch anyway) that gave fans a release from the pent up anger and frustration of a truly awful season.
Like most fans im being optimistic about the new season. Im really hoping he resolves the spine of the team, gets another forward, a midfielder who can score and a decent centre back. For me, this will contribute to fantasy football point scoring.......cleans sheets and goals.
Im prepared to give Lambert the benefit of a pre-season , done his way and with the players he chooses. Easy for us FF players to make judgements from the sidelines!

Carberry added 15:36 - Jun 19
I worry about any player who signs for us now. It's not for the money or the wonderful training facilities and spectacular stadium (joke). It just concerns me that it is because others aren't that interested. Norwood does have much to prove.

SouperJim added 08:20 - Jun 23
You're a bundle of laughs, "doubled down" with two of the most negative blogs in the history of TWTD. Norwood a bad signing before he's even kicked a ball? Chirp off to your millet.

Dolphinblue added 19:44 - Jul 2
Poor blog...jog 🤔

Kitman added 15:06 - Jul 9
Sears? Will be out until nearly the year end won't he?
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