Just like millions around the world, Martin Kelly revealed that the Palace dressing room and group chats are full of Fantasy Football chat. But who is rivaling Kelly for highest-ranked first-teamer?
Some people believe Fantasy Football is a game of luck. Some believe it is a game of footballing knowledge. Some believe it is a game about spreadsheets and, finally, others believe it is a humiliating hobby that costs them dearly due to pre-season confidence failing to avoid end of season forfeits.
If we were to guess what Martin Kelly’s opinion is on it, we’d have to go for a ‘game of skill’ given that the Palace defender is currently the highest-placed first-team player in Crystal Palace’s staff league – tied with Wayne Hennessey for bragging rights – and even though Kelly refused to offer a slight bit of rib-tickling or showcase any form of smugness at his current position in the table, the stifling of a smile was good enough for us to know it means something within the dressing room just like it does in group chats around the globe: “The start of the season everyone has their teams out, and we all chat about it on the Friday before the game.”
Insider trading may well be illegal on Wall Street but down in Beckenham at the Eagles’ south London training ground complex, it is actively encouraged when it comes to stealing a march on your Fantasy Football rivals.
One Palace man in particular has earned Kelly his standing this season, with the 28-year-old’s teammate in defence coming as a bargain buy: “Looking at how much Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] was at the start of the season, I think a lot of people at the club who knew how good he was before his first full breakthrough season would’ve had him in their team.”
Only three defenders in the whole of the Premier League have had a larger price rise this season than the Eagles’ latest south Londoner to roll from the production line, with title-chasers Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Matt Doherty marginally ahead of Palace’s right-back.
Kelly’s Palace-themed XI doesn’t just end with his 21-year-old teammate, though, with central defensive partner James Tomkins also shoring up his side at the heart of the defence. And Kelly will certainly be smiling after the duo put in two clean sheets in the space of seven days, with Kelly himself contributing to the shutout at St James’ Park last time out for Roy Hodgson’s side.
And there’s another man in red and blue helping Kelly to lead the league with the assistant manager to his squad being none other than Cheikhou Kouyate. However, Palace’s midfield enforcer doesn’t know that Kelly has opted for the team name ‘The Kouyate Kid’: “No I don’t think he does know that’s the name of my team! I just saw it and thought: ‘I’m having that’!”
But if Kelly fails to overcome Hennessey as the highest-placed first-team player Kouyate – despite being none the wiser - will be shouldering some of the blame from his teammate, no doubt.
If Kelly does emerge victorious in the home stretch of Fantasy Football against his Palace teammates it will enhance the former Liverpool man’s reputation amongst the Eagles fan base as ‘Mr Reliable’ off the pitch as well as on it.
This is just a snippet from Martin Kelly's interview for the matchday programme for the Manchester City game on Sunday. Be sure to grab your copy on the day to hear plenty more from Kelly on Fantasy Football and life in front of the camera.
Of course, if you cannot wait until Sunday, you can sign up for a digital programme below for just £1.49 and receive that 24 hours before kick-off!