The Hedgebrew Fantasy League (Est. 2014) is, perhaps, the greatest fantasy EPL league ever to grace planet Earth a small corner of Northern Ireland.

Founded by @stupiddave and @petehuey, and later adding @inawildplace to the Admin Team, the league has run in recent seasons on Fantrax’s excellent platform, with a growing roster year-on-year of people who spend their weekends feverishly pressing ‘refresh’.

Hall of Fame

Season 1: 2014-15

Champion: David Miller

Review in Brief
The original HFL crest.

The original HFL crest.

Hosted on this very website, Season 1 used a cunning Java app to scrape player data from the official Fantasy Premier League website. Teams were selected by auction, and two transfer “windows” followed with subsequent pub-based bartering sessions.

Champions How I Met Your Mata ran away with the league early on, finishing over 200 points (about 10%) ahead of second-placed AndybXI. Although the remaining ranks remained competitive, the only real disruption was the inaugural HFL League Cup (a feature not to be repeated until Season 4). Divided into two pools of four, a round robin was followed by semi-finals and a grand final, with the shock winner, Desert Wanderers, beating the league champions in the final in an extremely low-scoring affair.

Full rankings:
Champion David Miller How I Met Your Mata
2nd Andrew Beare AndybXI
3rd John Nixon President’s Men
4th Peter Huey Desert Wanderers
5th Stephen Gibson Ballygowan Rovers
6th David Lowry The Floundering Defence
7th Robin Crockett Blaireau D’Or
Prize Ass Gary Brown Motalee Mafia

 

Season 2: 2015-16

Champion: Gary Brown (Depay Day Loans)

Review in Brief

Season 2 saw the league switch to its own Java-powered minisite. Running again with two transfer windows, the league was also more compact. However, for much of the season it was also more competitive. Early on, 50 Shades of O’Shea led for the first part; but by Christmas, Depay Day Loans had taken top spot and would stay there until the season’s finale – something that would become a trend in HFL Champions. Perhaps the season’s biggest upset was to see the Season 1 winner fall away and almost finish last; fortunately for him, the honour of accepting the official ‘Prize Ass’ trophy would fall to the league’s early leader, 50 Shades of O’Shea.

2015 Champion Dave presents 2016 Champion Gary with his new (self-purchased) trophy. 2015's Champion presents the 2016 Prize Ass with his trophy.
2015 Champion Dave presents 2016 Champion Gary with his new (self-purchased) trophy. 2015’s Champion presents the 2016 Prize Ass with his trophy.
Full rankings:
Champion Gary Brown Depay Day Loans
2nd Robin Crockett Herr Scumberto
3rd John Nixon One Trick Bonys
4th Peter Huey Bad Kompany
5th David Miller Murder Sacker
Prize Ass Stephen Gibson 50 Shades of O’Shea

Season 3: 2016-17

Champion: David Miller

Review in Brief

Season 3 marked a greater shift in format and running for the HFL, as it migrated wholly to Fantrax’s fantasy league platform.  It also marked a return to the league for Andyb15, and the debut season for Monkstown Oaklanders (memorable, as Pete didn’t actually install the app on his smartphone until Christmas).

Season 3 also cemented one or two trends as gospel lore. In the first instance, Klopp Kulture hit the heights of 1st place in Gameweek 11, and remained until GW38 – lending credence to a ‘Top By Christmas’ mentality. This was even more remarkable as the eventual 1st and 2nd place teams had come second-last and last in Season 2, with Klopp Kulture’s predecessors How I Met Your Mata having been champions in Season 1 – yo-yo behaviour at its best.

Less remarkable was a third successive fourth-place finish for Glendale Nightowls’ manager.

Moving to Fantrax brought an end to the enjoyable, but logistically-nightmarish transfer window auctions, with transfers now possible in-game. This in turn introduced a high level of competitive focus for many players, and led to a higher level of week-by-week commentary.

The title returns to two-time winner Dave for 2017. The 2016 Prize Ass presentation.
The title returns to two-time winner Dave for 2017. The 2017 Prize Ass Presentation

 

Full rankings:
Champion David Miller Klopp Kulture
2nd Stephen Gibson Dundonald Trump
3rd Gary Brown Martial Law
4th Peter Huey Glendale Nightowls
5th Andrew Beare Andyb15
6th John Nixon A Team has no Name
7th Robin Crockett Blaireau D’Or
Prize Ass Peter Gerard Monkstown Oaklanders

 

Season 4: 2017-18

Champion: Stephen Gibson

REVIEW IN BRIEF

HFL IVIn preparing for Season 4, much soul-searching went on amongst the HFL administrators. Moving to Fantrax had been judged a success, but it was felt the scoring system was in need of revision. One clear indicator of this was coined “The N’Golo Kanté rule”: in the real world, but diminutive Frenchman had, for two seasons, been considered far and away the best midfielder in the league; yet, in HFL Season 3, he scored as the 132nd best player overall. How could this be rebalanced?

The answer was to intitiate a fully-customised scoring system, rewarding every player statistic available: from passes made, to corners conceded, to chances missed. Though it left a few managers feeling a little bewildered initially, it was deemed an overwhelming success.

(Kanté, by the way, came 15th).

In the league itself, one trend did continue: that of the early season runaway. A strong showing from Stephen Gibson placed his team, No Fuchs Given, in top spot by Gameweek 4 – and there he stayed throughout, despite a drastic dip in form in the second half of the season. Once again, the importance of the draft shone through; argued that his ascendancy can be most closed tied to the season’s only inter-league transfer in Gameweek 2, when he acquired Harry Kane in exchange for David Silva.

There was no doubt that the most improved team this season were Monkstown Oaklanders, managed by Pete Gerard: Season 3’s Prize Ass winner had a storming second half to the season, eventually climbing from 9th to 4th place, and winning the revived HFL Cup (played outside of Fantrax in early February).

Elsewhere, Glendale Nightowls bucked a trend by failing to finish in 4th position for the first time ever – climbing to the heady heights of 2nd after a tight back-and-forth with Andyb15 at the end of the season. Although in the end, Glendale finished only 100  Fantasy points (out of a total of 5066) behind champions No Fuchs Given, the gap of 12 league points overall only further illustrated Gibson’s dominance. Season 3 Champion Dave languished down in 8th, whilst his fellow league admin Robin finished 7th for the second season on the trot.

The other major change for Season 4 was the league’s expansion to 10 teams. With a tradition emerging whereby new managers would improve vastly in their second season, the stage was set for a fascinating Season 5.

 

Gibbo 2018 winner Pete G HFL cup
After a frustrating runners-up spot in Season 3, Gibbo ran away with the league trophy in Season 4. Pete accepts his winnings as HFL Cup champion.

FULL RANKINGS:
Champion Stephen Gibson No Fuchs Given
2nd Peter Huey Glendale Nightowls
3rd Andrew Beare Andyb15
4th Peter Gerard Monkstown Oaklanders
5th John Nixon Show me the mané
6th Gary Brown Hakuna Morata
7th Robin Crockett Blaireau D’Or
8th David Miller Klopp Kulture
9th Alistair Mitchell Ali’s in Wonderland
Prize Ass Mark McCavery Kanté touch this

 

Season 5: 2018-19

Champion: John Nixon

REVIEW IN BRIEF

HFL Season 5 LogoSeason 5 was the first ‘settled’ season, where only a few tweaks were made following the previous year’s success. However, big changes were afoot in the outcomes.

The following two years had seen big leads opened early on, most notably with the reigning champs having gone top in Gameweek 4 and remained throughout. Not so this year: after some early dominance, a tightly-fought three-way race emerged half way through, which would run almost to the final gameweek of the season.

In the midst of chaotic opening exchanges, Peter Huey’s Glendale Nightowls landed in top spot for Gameweek 2 and would sit there for 18 consecutive weeks, maintaining a solid two or three win lead over the pack. But by the midway point at week 18, everything was about to change.

Dramatically, one of the closest rivals had been Gibson’s ‘No Fuchs Given’, as the champion seemed destined to break with precedent and challenge for back-to-back titles. But from second place in week 16, a bruising start to 2019 led to a dramatic fall from grace, sitting at the foot of the table for most of the back-end of the season, only to escape a second Prize Ass award in the final round of games.

That dubious honour instead fell to Ali Mitchell’s Sydenham Wine Team, recording just 12 wins out of 38 and the lowest Fantasy points total overall.

At the other end of the table, it was Blaireau d’Or who caught Glendale Nightowls as the former was caught after a blip in form at Christmas. Despite recovering to win seven-in-a-row by early March, Glendale’s time at the top was curtailed because a new power was rising.

At the start of December, Gameweek 15 saw John Nixon’s ‘Enter Shaqiri’ sitting 7th after a two-game losing streak. He would lose again in week 22, but had climbed to fourth; after that, Enter Shaqiri went on an unstoppable 16 week winning streak that would run all the way to the season’s climax. Ultimately, Blaireau d’Or were pushed back in to third place by Glendale Nightowls based on their head-to-head record, but Enter Shaqiri beat them both by 6 points.

A lively HFL Cup also saw Glendale and Blaireau d’Or face off in the final, with Glendale Nightowls again the victor. Perhaps most notable about that second competition were the semi-finals, where a bizarrely poor game week saw an average score of just 55.8 across a four contestants – less than half of the usual gameweek average.

John, a Champion Pete H, a Cup Winner Ali, a Prize Ass
After an amazing winning streak, John comes out on top. Pete H settles for second in the league, but wins the cup. Ali swoops in on the last day to be crowned a Prize Ass.

 

FULL RANKINGS:
Champion John Nixon Enter Shaqiri
2nd Peter Huey Glendale Nightowls
3rd Robin Crockett Blaireau d’Or
4th Mark McCavery Willian Dollar Baby
5th David Miller Klopp Kulture
6th Andrew Beare Andyb15
7th Gary Brown United Oui Paul
8th Peter Gerard Monkstown Oaklanders
9th Stephen Gibson No Fuchs Given
Prize Ass Ali Mitchell Sydenham Wine Team

 

Season 6: 2019-20

Champion: David Miller

Review in Brief

Season 6: 2019-20

HFL Logo 2019-20As was the case globally, the 2019-20 season will be primarily remembered for the dramatic suspension of play – both real and fantasy – for months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The HFL was dramatically impacted as the EPL’s ‘Project Restart’ saw a flurry of action as the final nine gameweeks were squeezed into June and July.

The previous August had seen an animated start to the season. Newcomer Steven McCollum’s Pathetico Madrid well and truly bucked the trend for debutants by getting right into the mix early on. Previous two-time winner David Miller staked a claim early on for first place, with Klopp Kulture gaining top spot twice before settling in by Gameweek 12 for a long run. Would the general pattern (only broken the previous season) of the champion being top at Christmas hold firm? It certainly seemed to be the case until lockdown hit.

Play resumed in Gameweek 30, and by 32 McCollum had finally pushed Miller into second place. The league collectively held their breath – could the rookie pull it off?

A freak collapse in Gameweek 35 said otherwise. Miller was crowned the league’s first three-time champ in Gameweek 37 – officially the latest outright win yet.

Elsewhere, a strong season from Mark McCavery in his third year saw a push into the prize spots in the final weeks of the campaign to take third. In doing so, he pushed the perennial nearly-men of Peter Huey’s Glendale Nightowls into fourth – and returning Huey to a position he had previously made his own, with a record that now stands at 4-4-4-2-2-4 for the six HFL seasons thus far.

The middle of the table was dominated by a group of veterans, with all of the HFL’s other former champs grouped together, just ahead of a disappointing result for Robin Crockett’s Blaireau D’or. Despite topping the table in Gameweek 5, reigning champion John Nixon saw the league slip away as he fell into the bottom half of the table five weeks later, never to reemerge. Whilst not quite the full seesaw from top to bottom that has befallen previous champions, the ‘curse’ of the title-holder remains alive and (un)well.

The gap to the bottom two was more of a chasm, with a gap of 10 wins separating Crockett from Peter Gerard’s Monkstown Oaklanders in 9th. At the foot of the table, Alistair Mitchell’s Sydenham Wine Team set the unenviable record as the first team ever to retain the Prize Ass award. However, Mitchell’s joy at the return of Leeds United to the EPL for 2020-21 may see the wooden-spoon holder energised to avoid the dreaded three-in-a-row.

Punctuated by lockdown, the HFL Cup ran from GW25-32. Reigning cupholder Huey was knocked out by Miller in the semi finals, but was able to take some comfort in some revenge-by-proxy as former champ Stephen Gibson denied Miller an unprecedented double by winning a narrow final 123.55-117.3.

In closing, some miscellaneous factoids: debutant Steven McCollum set the HFL’s highest ever GW points total with 215.15 FPts in GW10; John Nixon topped the ‘Andy Got Screwed’ index, with the outgoing champion losing 4 times by fewer than 5 FPts. Glendale Nightowls set a record for the highest number of successful claims at 75 (a quarter of the entire league’s business).

It wasn't the end-of-season do we wanted... but we made the best of it!

It wasn’t the end-of-season do we wanted… but we made the best of it!

FULL RANKINGS:
Champion David Miller Klopp Kulture
2nd Steven McCollum Pathetico Madrid
3rd Mark McCavery Willian Dollar Baby
4th Peter Huey Glendale Nightowls
5th Gary Brown Wan v Juan
6th Stephen Gibson No Fuchs Given
7th John Nixon Alisson Wonderland
8th Robin Crockett Blaireau d’or
9th Peter Gerard Monkstown Oaklanders
Prize Ass Ali Mitchell Sydenham Wine Team