I'll lose - you can bet on it

6th April 2001 at 01:00
Fantasy football, staffroom sweepstake, threshold assessment...Stephen Kirby is a natural loser

I could tell Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger why his defence has been less watertight than in previous years; I could also explain why Michael Owen has been out of form this year, why Francis Jeffers has sustained a long-term injury, why Sunderland's defence is going through a vulnerable stage and why Paul Scholes and Nicky Barmby have played so infrequently.

It's simple: they've all been dogged by ill fortune since being picked for my fantasy league football team, Sticky Toffees, which I plan to rename Kiss of Death.

My record should have told me I would be bound to prop up the rear of the school's league table.

When we had a sweepstake for the Grand National, my horse died two days before the race. When I dressed up as Captain Hook for a mufti day, I had to change a wheel on the way to school, much to the incredulity of passing motorists.

And guess who was one of the lucky ones to be selected for the threshold assessment recently? The staff must have won enough to retire.

So it is no wonder that several top football players are going through crises beyond their control.

Let's begin at the back. As Tim Flowers, my first choice goalkeeper, was in the red, I transferred him for Aston Villa's David James. Villa's previously niggardly defence then embarked upon a kamikaze mission that has seen them plummet down the league.

I switched James for Sunderland's Thomas Sorensen. Immediately Sunderland started doing everything in my powers to miss a place in Europe next season.

And the difference between another member of staff's fortunes and mine is that he selected an Arsenal defender who has played all the games in which Arsenal kept a clean sheet and missed the recent 6-1 drubbing by Manchester United, but Silvinho, my choice, got it the other wayround, then tried to escape to Brazil for a few weeks.

The day I picked Spurs defender Sol Campbell he dislocated his shoulder, so I dropped him for Steve Walsh of Leicester - correction, formerly of Leicester. Still, as he is no longer in the Premiership, he remains my best defender at nil points. Which is about 20 points better than Warren Barton, whose continued presence for Newcastle explains why the team has set a club record in terms of lack of clean sheets.

The other staff are so paranoid they demand to know my every transfer in advance.

I turn on the radio just in time to go over to Anfield "where Michael Owen is being stretchered off, having collided with the upright".

I turn on the television just as Lucas Radebe pulls up and is forced to leave the pitch with something or other.

And only yesterday I made the mistake of turning to the Ceefax sports headlines to be greeted with "Barmby out".

Alas, my powers reach beyond my fantasy team and no doubt explain why Everton are having such a dreadful run of injuries, pulling them into the relegation mire yet again. They're also responsible for bizarre injuries such as Duncan Ferguson's damaged hand - caused by sitting on a burglar - and why Paul Gascoigne has been out for God knows how many months since he slipped over, preparing to take a free kick.

Small comfort that Thomas Gravesen - a stoical regular of mine - has been Everton's most consistent and influential player this year, without scoring a goal.

Don't worry, Everton. Next season I'll change my tactics and pick players from those teams of a similar standing, to consign them to the drop.

Of course, by the time you read this, much could have changed. Watch out for such headlines as"Scholes cricks neck while breaking into a smile", and "Fantasy football team goes into hiding".

Stephen Kirby teaches in Somerset

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today