Fantasy Premier League: Meet the boss who beat 4.5 million managers to top spot

Stanislas and Coutinho
The fantasy football hokey cokey; Junior Stanislas in, Philippe Coutinho out

Antonio Conte beat 19 other managers to win the Premier League. Ben Crabtree? Just the 4.5 million...

Conte was named Manager of the Year by the League Managers' Association this week after leading Chelsea to the title in his first season in charge.

The 47-year-old transformed the Blues from fallen champions to winners in just 12 months and his attention to detail was crucial.

He changed players' diets, watched every aspect of Chelsea's training, preparation and games in meticulous detail, and was obsessed with success.

Crabtree - the winner of the official Fantasy Premier League - may not have had the same sort of control over his players, but his attention to detail was certainly similar to that of Conte.

The 31-year-old Everton fan, manager of 'FC Crab Dogg', took the title on the final day of the season after a dramatic conclusion that rivalled Sergio Aguero's title-winning goal for Manchester City back in 2012.

Ben Crabtree
Crabtree (here at the 2014 World Cup) puts his victory down to "just watching a lot of football"

Crabtree, who has been playing the game for eight seasons, improved from 353rd five years ago to take the number one spot in 2016-17.

"This is probably my greatest achievement in sport," he told BBC Sport.

"As soon as I was in the top 10 it felt tangible and I started checking what the teams ahead of me and first place were doing."

Crabtree went into the final gameweek two points behind leader Uwais Ahmed - and it was two late substitutions which saw him home.

He used two free transfers to bring in Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Bournemouth midfielder Junior Stanislas - who was promoted to the starting line-up following team-mate Josh King's late withdrawal.

Stanislas scored in Bournemouth's 1-1 draw at Leicester City, earning nine points in the process as Crabtree topped the table by five points.

How does fantasy football work?

Top-scoring FPL team
You wouldn't be able to afford all of them, but these were the top-scoring players for their positions on Fantasy Premier League this season

Friday nights spent wrangling over who should be captain, Saturday afternoons spent berating that striker who failed to score - fantasy football has a habit of taking over your life.

Some 4,503,345 wannabe managers entered the Premier League's official game this season, making 135,343,773 transfers between them over the 2016-17 campaign. But how does it all work?

Fantasy bosses are given a budget of £100m to pick a squad of 15 players, whose pre-determined values alter throughout the season depending on their performances.

Each gameweek, managers select a starting XI from that squad and players score a varying number of points - double if they are chosen as captain - depending on their position for objectives such as goals, clean sheets, assists and so on.

One free transfer is allowed each gameweek, though managers get two 'wildcards' that can be used for unlimited transfers along with other in-play bonuses such as 'bench boost', 'triple captain' and 'all-out attack'.

Listed in the Fantasy Premier League database as a midfielder, Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez was the top scorer in the game this season with 264 points, thanks largely to his 24 goals.

'I've never had a Liverpool player in my team'

Harry Kane
No Kane, no gain; the Premier League golden boot winner collected 224 points this season

Crabtree's managerial style is based on meticulous preparation and endless hours watching games.

"If I've got a fantasy player in my team or someone I'm looking at, it's good to watch them live," said Crabtree.

"The greatest training is just watching a lot of football."

But, in a game which often sees managers questioning their loyalties, and becoming wrapped up in their fantasy team rather than boyhood club, Crabtree remained true to his roots.

The proud Evertonian secured the title without the services of a single Liverpool player - a decision he didn't take lightly.

"It was a little bit dodgy at the end because Philippe Coutinho seemed an obvious transfer to make on the last week but I thought I need to stick with my morals and keep them intact," he explained.

"Also, I don't pick a player if they're playing Everton unless it's someone really good. If it's someone like Sergio Aguero or Harry Kane I leave them in and hope they don't score."

After a long season, Conte and his Chelsea side have one more game to play - they face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on Saturday to win the domestic double.

But Crabtree is just looking forward to the summer break.

"I'm happy to have a rest. The whole build-up has been a lot, it'll be good to have no football for a few weeks," he said.

"But once a few transfers start happening and once the game gets released again it changes. I'll be back to defend my title."

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