Why the Long Face?

The Serbian school of horse placenta massage has been inundated with visits from underperforming predictors since week 11, amid fears that a constant stream of low scores is blurring the senses and sending one or two players a wee bit doolally.

Let’s face it, anyone who resorts to having a squelchy, slab-like bit of horse rubbed over their poorly region has to be bordering on a state of mental unstability but the practice has a fair few fans among the fantasy football elite. After scaling new heights of ineptitude in recent weeks, Simon Gold, Cathryn Gregory, Sally Moon, the Roberts clan, David, Joe and Tom, Nicola Savage, Roger Taylor, Andrew Thraves, Ted Warland and Joe Zalewski have all hopped on the Predictorship-liveried minibus and headed to Belgrade for some alternative therapy, and to their number you can now add Jill Taylor, who’s at the end of her tether and desperate for some treatment. Seven days after celebrating hubby Dave’s inability to put a ‘1’ and a ‘0’ after the correct team on four separate occasions with a boisterous streak across the windswept moor, Jill becomes the fourth player in as many weeks to record an unrivalled low score, failing abysmally with her incessant twoing and nilling. The good news is that all the aforementioned predictors are on the road to recovery and in a stable condition (boom! boom!).

A quick message from Nick Watson’s best mate to all our Irish-blooded friends: France are going to the World Cup. Get over it.

Back to the matter in hand (not the ball in Henry’s), we find Ralph Hannah, fresh from a bit of horseplay and his Drummond Street staple fight with Rob Molloy, nailing a top score of 10 courtesy of eight correct results and some pinpoint accuracy with the Burnley and Chelsea fixtures. Earlier in the week, it looked odds-on that Ralph would be heading back to an eastern European rehab facility after admitting typing his predictions with only his left hand “without the referee noticing”, but the boy finally came good.

James Bradley didn’t let a holiday in Venice come between him and not submitting his predictions on time and not even an unopened Sunday newspaper could tempt him into the seedy underworld of frowned upon score-peeking. Gabe Bevilacqua, meanwhile, this week’s other latecomer, had “no idea what’s happening” while roading it “on the wrong coast of America”. With five points scored, we tend to agree. Not to be outdone in the quotable quote stakes, warehouse technician Joe Roberts, way ahead of the next best performing rookie in 7th and hitherto keeping his head well below the parapet in Monkey Sheikh City, dabbled in some idle chatter of his own this week. “I’m liking the pink!” declared Joe in reference to the rose-coloured fixture list supplied by Chairman ‘Dad’ Roberts. Three more for Belgrade …

The last seat on the minibus will be filled by Maziar Sattari, who, according to the Chairman, “e-mailed about the Predictorship but not with his scores”. Maziar even debated “the protocol of using his joker and then promptly forgot to send in his actual predictions,” added a perplexed and ever so slightly irate Hornet. Tut tut.

With Thierry’s ‘hand of God’ and an interminable amount of horseplay at the placenta of the footballing universe this week, Benfica’s Steven Dunlop is quietly going about his business and taking the opportunity to build an unassailable lead (how unassailable can a lead get after 15 weeks?) atop the league table. Finally stepping out of Janet Roberts’ chocolate-enhanced shadow for a fourth week at the summit, Steven is loftily perched 11 points clear of the next joker-clinging predictor and, arguably, his greatest threat to securing a third league title, Christine Butters, the lady with an enviable record of Predictorship success in her Manchester City locker. “It’s a relief to get back to Premier League matters after the pain and suffering induced midweek!” said Steven. What could he be referring to?

A question for you. What is the next club in this sequence? Cambridge, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Norwich, West Brom, Gillingham, Rushden & Diamonds, Brighton, Northampton, Coventry, Peterborough, Watford, Swindon, Boston, Walsall, Hereford, Gainsborough, Northwich, Hednesford, Wellingborough, Kidsgrove, Tamworth, Harrogate … Answer below the stats.

Week 15 Stats
* Top score: 10 – Ralph Hannah
* Total players: 38/42
* Total points scored: 235
* Average score: 6.18
* Total correct scores: 36, including 13 for Stoke 1 Portsmouth 0
* 3 correct scores: John Collins (Birmingham, Sunderland, Stoke), Rob Molloy (Burnley, Chelsea, Manchester United), Sally Moon (Birmingham, Sunderland, Stoke) & Pete Yoder (Birmingham, Burnley, Stoke)
* Prediction of the week: Incredibly, Simon Gold for Tottenham 9 Wigan 1***
* Prediction of the week in any other week: Dave McAleer, Steve McHugh & Joe Roberts for Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2
* Jokers: 0
* Yellow cards: 4 – 3 of them had a 100% attendance record until this week
* Red cards: 0
* Quote of the week: “My predictions – all typed with my left hand this week without the referee noticing” (Ralph Hannah)

Answer: Woking. They are the 24 clubs journeyman (and that’s putting it lightly) Trevor Benjamin has played for during his career. And he’s still only 30!

*** Almost had you fooled

Matt ‘the Stat’ Wayne