A whole lotto fun

Jay, the resident blogger at Design Football, is a regular sparring partner of ours – there are times where we wonder if he’s our equivalent of Tyler Durden from Fight Club, if truth be told. He approached us about doing a guest blog related to numbers and we were happy to accommodate that. You can follow him on Twitter @jay29ers. Take it away, Jay:

Once a year, on average, the EuroMillions hits the news in a big way.  The Europe-wide lottery can, on occasion, offer staggeringly large jackpots based on a system of repeatedly “rolling over” when no one’s ticket matches the draw numbers from the five main balls and the two “Lucky Stars”.

Those Lucky Stars are a curious feature.  Until recently, I believed the balls were marked with numbers ranging between 1 and 14 inclusive, which would bring to mind the footballing traditions of a starting lineup and substitutes (including replacement goalkeeper).  In fact, the range is 1-11, so it’s even more resonant.

So, with the EuroMillions jackpot having rolled over several times, and now at well over £100 million, I set myself a challenge.  In the style of A Numbers Game, I decided that, firstly, the Lucky Stars chosen on a Lucky Dip (randomly generated) ticket would provide me with my two strikers/forwards in a 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-1-3-2 or similar formation, with the task set to place the remaining traditional first team numbers in positions, with accompanying justification.  The only way I would be allowed to use a number greater than 11 would be if #1 was allocated to a forward in the initiation step: the goalkeeper could carry a higher squad number to avoid wearing a outfielder’s.

I accordingly bought myself a ticket – you really do have to be in it to win it – and checked my Lucky Stars.  I’m not sure I thanked them, as I was provided with, naturally, #1, and more excitingly, #10.

First things first, #29 (my favourite squad number, much to Denis Hurley’s disbelief/chagrin) was allocated to the goalkeeper.  I also elected to play a 4-4-1-1 formation, with #10 in the hole and #1 up top.  If you’re reading this blog I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining the #10’s position, but Number 1 as the centre-forward, though seldom seen, seems to have a ring to it (the “main man”).  Scottish striker Derek Riordan carrying “01” on his return to Hibernian, as his favoured #10 was taken, is probably the most notable example.

Of course, I would need to substitute out one of the 1-11 to allow the entry of #29.  As you may have guessed, the number 9 fits the bill perfectly, as it allows all the other numbers to nicely slot into their generally recognised – in my corner of Europe – positions.  So a back four of 2-5-6-3 and a midfield of 7-4-8-11 joins the forwards.  Simples.

So to Friday’s draw, and, first things first, I GOT A LUCKY STAR!  I’ll have to check on the implications of this, but #10 came through for me.  The other “LS” was 8, so immediately, as a Liverpool fan, my mind is taken back the days of Heskey and Owen.

However, this also means that #9 has been shunted back.  Into defence, perhaps, like Khalid Boulahrouz, but more likely as an attacking midfielder, such as Michael Laudrup or Paul Merson.  In fact, the idea of playing the #9 “in the hole” allows a little fun with the formation, which I think should take the form of an attacking 4-1-3-2, with the standard back four of 2-5-6-3, a defensive midfielder of 4, and the more attack-minded trio of 7, 9 and 11 to supplement my Heskey and Owen.  Using Liverpool as an example, could Paul Merson have slotted in nicely behind the strikers, had he been signed when resurgent at Aston Villa?  And how would this have impacted on the development of Steven Gerrard?

Lots to think about.  Have a go yourself this Tuesday.  As you can see, there are literally MINUTES of fun to be had.

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My squad-number beefs

As this blog will (hopefully) have a long lifespan, with admirers waiting eagerly for updates, it’s important at this early stage to lay out what we like and don’t like, starting with the latter but going beyond the blatant stuff like a striker wearing 5 or a first-team regular having number 44. It should be pointed out that this is almost certainly an inexhaustive list, and other irrational hatreds will make themselves known as time goes on.

1. Having two or more of the numbers 4, 5 and 6 worn by midfielders is wrong

When looking at a teamsheet, we like to work out who’d be wearing what if the team were wearing 1-11. A lot of the time, it’s easy to process this, but take Barcelona’s squad this season – new signing Ivan Rakitić is 4, Sergio Busquets has taken 5 and Xavi is still 6. If Barça were, for some reason, forced to forgo squad numbers and all three of those were in the team, then two of 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11 would have to be in a four-man defence.

2. A two-man strikeforce should never be allowed to wear 10 and 11

Number 9 in midfield is actually a guilty pleasure of ours, once it’s not worn a defensive midfielder – Paul Ince at Middlesbrough, we haven’t forgotten you and your crimes. If 9 is a midfielder, though, then the two strikers must be 8 and 10 (for example, Michael Laudrup in the hole at Barcelona behind Hristo Stoichkov and Romario). What is a complete no-no is 10 and 11 playing up front together, with extra marks deducted if 9 is the left-midfielder (we did say these were irrational).

This affliction likely comes from a complete phobia of having a team numbered in order from left to right, defence 2-5, midfield 6-9 and strikers 10 and 11 – something our manager at U13 level persisted with. Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord’s rarely-effective partnership probably contributes too (mainly due to Wiltord, it must be said).

3. Captains wearing numbers higher than 11

This stems from a hope that clubs would still number players in a method some way related to having the best players in the lowest numbers, and the players keen to wear numbers in the first 11. We accept that it is a forlorn one by this stage, but nevertheless seeing a captain in a high number still jars. That the most visible exponent of this is John Terry is probably not a coincidence.

4. Players switching from a 1-11 number to a higher one

A young player being given a number in the teens having worn 34 in his debut season is a clear sign that he will feature more in the coming campaign. It’s a sign of progress, so therefore a player’s number going in the opposite direction – without being expressly put on the transfer list – can surely only be taken to be the opposite? He mightn’t be a first-teamer anymore, but at least afford him the dignity of allowing him to keep his number rather than making clear to everyone that you’re helping his career down the tubes. At Middlesbrough, Gary O’Neil went from 4 to 16 to 18 (the latter completely needless), while Oldham’s Genseric Kusunga can’t have been too happy to see his number 5 swapped for 21. Apparently, Alvaro Albeloa chose of his own accord to change from 2 to 17 while at Liverpool, while Joe Hart’s move from 1 to 25 at Man City (when Shay Given took 1) was eventually reversed.

One exception that we’ll allow is Abou Diaby changing from 2 to 24, as 2 was a mental number for a central midfielder. It says much about his injury record that a lot of people thought that his move took place this summer when he actually switched at the start of the 2013-14 season.