We all have strong remembrances surrounding an array of important firsts, right? First family vacation. First crush. First kiss. First car. First beer. First job. First residence off on our own. First colorectal exam.
Perhaps even more sentimentally than any of those deeply ingrained memories, surely we all look back upon our first Premier League fantasy title with a greater sense of happiness, don't we? I began playing fantasy in a 2007-08 Yahoo co-workers, friends and family league. In my first season, I was pretty putrid. In my second, I improved to mediocre. In my third, thanks to a combination of skill and luck, I managed to win my first title, infusing me with confidence and know-how that carried over to future years. In deference, I owed it almost entirely to the other-worldly exploits of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba.
While I cannot claim to remember the exact particulars when assembling my initial roster, I do definitively recall choosing between Drogba and teammate Nicolas Anelka up front, in large part because the Blues' opening fixture featured a visit to Stamford Bridge from Hull City, which had barely avoided regulation and had allowed the second-most goals the prior campaign. While Drogba was coming off a season in which he scored only five goals in 24 games, Anelka had poached 19 times in 37 matches. Of course, that left Anelka's price higher than I was willing to spend, so I settled for the much more affordable Drogba, who was somewhere in the 10-11 unit price range in a total budget of 100 for the 11 players.
In the opener against the visiting Tigers, Drogba tied things up at 1-1 with a set piece goal late in the first half before winning the game in extra time with a deft floater from near the touch line.
Drogba was held scoreless in the second game, but after that he went on an impressive run, as the rejuvenated striker notched at least one goal in eight of the team's first 11 contests. At that point, Chelsea sat in first place at 9 wins and 2 losses. The high-flying side had 28 goals and the deadly Drogba was responsible for scoring nine of them.
Did Drogba fall off? I think you know the answer to that. While he was held scoreless in the 1-0 week 12 win over Manchester United and the subsequent 4-0 result over Wolverhampton, Drogba notched a brace in winning 3-0 over Arsenal to put him at 11 goals in 14 games.
He notched another brace in week 16's 3-3 draw with and finished up the calendar year with a goal in the 2-1 win in week 20 against Fulham. Accordingly, his price kept rising and rising. 10...12...14...16...18...20 and higher. Nobody else in my league bought him, feeling that his cost was inflated and they were better off searching for value elsewhere since I already had him at his basement price.
Another reason was the impending Africa Cup of Nations. When that tournament came around in the winter, I had a decision to make. My co-workers kept asking, "Are you going to drop Drogba or keep him?" After all, without a bench in Yahoo, keeping him meant over 10% of my budget in dead money. As well, what if he got injured at the competition? Where would I be then? I know, he wasn't with Arsenal or anything, but it was still a concern.
In the end, it was a pretty easy decision. Drop him for a few games and replace him with someone who can be expected to score about half his points, or go with up to four or five games with a zero, then have 15 or so games with the biggest scorer in fantasy at a huge discount? Let's take door number two, Monty!
As it turned out, Ivory Coast won its group but lost in the knock-out stage to Algeria, allowing Chelsea's finest to return after missing only three club games in January. In the early February 1-1 draw with Hull, Drogba got right back to action, scoring the only goal. The deadly sniper followed that up with a remarkable four braces in the next seven games, on his way to an even stronger second half than the first. Over the final 16 games, he netted 15 times, including a hat trick on the final day, a 8-0 thrashing of helpless Wigan.
For his abbreviated season as a whole, Drogba finished with 29 goals (winning the Golden Boot) along with 10 assists, leading Chelsea to the Premier League crown narrowly over Manchester United and following that up by taking the F.A. Cup with the sole goal in a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth. While he sadly lost out on the PFA Player of the Year award to Wayne Rooney, Drogba was definitely my MVP. I was not then and have never been a Chelsea fan; in fact, I tend toward the opposite stance.
An important lesson we all learn is that you have to separate your personal rooting allegiance with your fantasy interests. Drogba drove that point home, big time, for me in 2009-10. I thought he was merely a good first game match-up, but he ended up being a phenomenal season-long bargain. I found myself rooting for Drogba like I have for no other single player ever and he kept delivering joy, rousing me out of my seat, game after game, rewarding me with a first fantasy title for my previously floundering team.
Does anybody else fondly remember Drogba carrying them to fantasy glory that year? Or instead do you have a soft spot for another player delivering you a fantasy league title in a different season?