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Letters from Wiltshire #01
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 5th Sep 2020 14:41

Here we are then, at the start of a new season, curiously this time already well into September. I plan to continue (time permitting) writing blogs for each matchday, but with the season already considerably compressed, and matches as a result coming thick and fast, my apologies in advance if I don’t make it for every single game.

This season, as well as continuing the Matches of Yesteryear concept, I hope to mix things up a bit with other articles, perhaps related to notable fixtures against opponents, or notable matches on that date, plus anything else that springs to mind. I already have a cracker lined up courtesy of PWK, and know exactly when I plan to publish that. Any other thoughts and observations from you all on content, ideas etc. will be gratefully received.

For today, here’s a look back over the history of the U’sual Champions League, with some stats and observations.

A Brief History of Time

The U’sual Champions League competition began back in 2011, and if memory serves I think the original concept was Pete’s? As always, qualifiers are drawn from the top scoring competitors in the domestic Prediction League at the end of each calendar year. The original format back in 2011 was somewhat different, with just 8 taking part (our founder members are MFB, Gate, Ethics, myself, Durham, TheNet, Tropical_U’s and Daniel) split into two groups, though there was an optional Group C for anyone who wanted to take part for the fun of it (Thrillseeker, BFG and Pete decided to do so).

I’ve been running the competition from the outset, but following some tense off-air discussions after the 2011 group round, the final technically became ‘unofficial’. However, as the alternative ending has never been ratified, it remains the official record of the first competition. Our worthy first champion was MFB, beating Gate in a closely fought final. Thereafter, the competition has pretty much followed the exact same format, albeit coronavirus did enforce some tweaks this year.

Are you on the list?

Over the ten years that I’ve been running this competition, there have been 36 different qualifiers, with Gate and MFB joint top of the leaderboard on 8 appearances each, closely followed by BFG (7) and Tropical_U’s, GSY and Thrillseeker (6 each). I say 36, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that participants have re-registered on the U’sual under different usernames (but I’m pretty sure I have a handle on the various manifestations of both Haps and Pete over the years).

Following a stewards enquiry post-2012, from 2014 onwards the qualifiers have automatically included the previous champion, these days known as the Noah Amendment. Noah also courted controversy when withdrawing from the competition back in 2018, but Gate wasn’t complaining, qualifying as the 13th man as a result.

Single appearances as a qualifier include Lewis this year, Ghughes and Oxfcolu last year, but the remainder (GoonerDes, Brightspurs, Hellasblue and BluenWight) appear to have disappeared off the radar in recent years. Of the regulars who haven’t drifted away, Tropical_Us and myself have probably gone the longest without qualifying, both last appearing in the competition back in 2017.

Scores on the Doors

Across all rounds of the competition, the highest scoring year was back in 2014, with a whopping 232pts scored by all competitors, and the lowest point haul of just 130 back in 2016 – surprisingly lower even than the original format competition in 2011, when there were considerably fewer competitors and scoring opportunities.

Not surprisingly, given how often they have featured in the competition, MFB tops the overall scoring table with 169pts, with Gate just two behind on 167pts. No one has failed to score any points at all, but Burnsie and ColuKev came close on just 1pt each back in 2016.

The highest individual scorer in any one year is Thrillseeker, who earned a massive 40pts just this year, followed closely by BFG with 37pts back in 2012, and Gerry with 35pts in that free-scoring year of 2014. Remarkable, despite scoring so heavily, neither BFG nor Gerry won the competition those years.

Highest scorers at each stage are as follows:

Round of 16: In the previous format, Gate (23pts in 2011) still holds the record. In the current format, it’s a tie between Ethics (20pts in 2014 and 2017) and Thrillseeker (20pts this year).

Quarter-final: Basher (13pts in 2019)

Semi-final: a tie between Burnsie and MFB (both with 8pts in 2017)

Final: BFG (9pts in 2019)

Marching on Together

The usual suspects dominate the list of those who manage to get through from the initial Round of 16, though even giants MFB (once) and Gate (twice) have fallen at the first hurdle on occasion. The list of those who have never failed to get through the Round of 16 is inevitably dominated by many who have only appeared once or twice in the competition, but hats off to BFG who has progressed through the Round of 16 on each of the seven times he has taken part in the competition.

Special mention also goes to GSY, who has done likewise for each of the six times he’s taken part. GSY’s record on progress is fascinating, because thereafter he hasn’t gone any further than the quarter-finals. On the few occasions I’ve qualified for the competition (four), my record in the Round of 16 is pretty poor, failing to get through on two occasions, and even when I did, I’ve never got past the semi-finals.

There a few other bridesmaids and never the bride like me. I’ve already mention GSY’s six quarter-final appearances, and there are some other big hitters in that group too, including Ethics, Sevebalo, Tropical_U’s, MrHappy and Durham. Not surprisingly, the select few that manage to get through to the final are dominated by MFB, BFG, Noah and Gate, with 8 final appearances amongst them.

We are the Champions

MFB and BFG have both won the competition twice, BFG in back-to-back seasons 2018 and 2019, MFB in the inaugural competition, and again in 2013 (surely long-overdue another one?). The closest final? Well, with scoring usually fairly low, these are often very close, but none closer than both 2016 and 2017, when the tie-break was required – Jonestones (2016) and Burnsie (2017) prevailing on those occasions. For real tension, and end-to-end stuff, surely nothing matches the 2012 ding-dong between Noah and BFG, which Noah eventually won 8-7. The biggest landslide has to be Gate’s 7-1 demolition of TheNet back in 2015.

The roll of honour for all seasons is as follows

2011: MFB (runner-up Gate)

2012: Noah (runner-up BFG)

2013: MFB (runner-up Thrillseeker)

2014: Pete (runner-up Gerry)

2015: Gate (runner-up TheNet)

2016: Jonestones (runner-up Concordman)

2017: Burnsie (runner-up MFB)

2018: BFG (runner-up RS)

2019: BFG (runner-up Noah)

2020: Thrillseeker (runner-up Blueeagle)

Yesterday’s Jam

These things are very temporal, one season you’re a champ, then next a chump, but if you held a gun to my head and forced me to declare, I’d say our current Champion of Champions has to be mfb_cufc – and the stats back this up: equal most appearances, twice champion, once runner-up, record point scorer of all time. However, there are plenty of regulars on his shoulder, with Prediction League giants and former champions BFG, Gate, Thrillseeker and Noah looking for their opportunity to move ahead – let’s see what this season brings…

Up the U’s







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Letters from Wiltshire #09 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by - https://twitter.com/SophyRidgeSky/status/1313874336118341632
Letters from Wiltshire #07 by wessex_exile
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