MEET Maggie Searle – a grandmother from Gosport, and one of the country’s leading Fantasy Football League players.
While most retirees would be content putting their feet up, Maggie has spent years alongside millions of keen footballing aficionados tracking the progress of the Premier League’s biggest superstars.
And this season the 71-year-old has been having an unexpected success – climbing into the top 20 of The Sun’s Dream Team game out of millions of players.
For the uninitiated, Fantasy Football players are invited to pick a team of 11 real-life footballers each week, and receive points if their selections perform well during Premier League matches.
The retired shop assistant, of Wych Lane, started her Fantasy League journey about 20 years ago when she joined her husband Ron’s work league, and started regularly beating the football-mad fans taking part.
She said: ‘My whole family plays it, and I thought if I don’t get involved I’d get left out. But I think I’ve been the most successful out of all of us.
I get very excited about it. Not many women of my age play it but I feel good about it.Maggie Searle
‘I watch all the games that are on television. I haven’t got any choice.
‘I haven’t really got a secret to success. I listen to the boys going on about it and pick up bits of information from them.
‘I’ll talk to them about who I should leave in or take out, but I’m my own person when it comes to making the final decision.
‘I’ll look at the matches each week, see if there are any injuries and what players I can get cheaply.’
Maggie’s family has a strong background in football, as Ron helped to run clubs in the Gosport area for several years with his wife as secretary.
The pair have regularly seen Pompey play at Fratton Park over the years, including on the day Maggie’s son Gary was due.
As well as the main competition, Maggie’s team has topped a sub-league for Manchester United fans, which has about 240,000 members.
She said: ‘My family have pulled my leg a lot in the past, they like to rub it in.
‘I get very excited about it. Not many women of my age play it but I feel good about it.
‘I’ve been texting my sons each week as my position in the leaderboard changed.’
Harry Kane (Striker - Tottenham Hotspur) - Maggie said: ‘He just always seems to be in the right place at the right time.’
David de Gea (Goalkeeper - Manchester United) - Shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or world player of the year award.
Nicholas Otamendi (Defender - Manchester City) - Maggie said: ‘He usually starts most games and will sometimes come up with a goal from the back.’
1 - Get players in who you know will be playing every week rather than in and out of the team.
2 - If you buy cheaper defenders that gives you the money to put in good forwards and midfielders.
3 - Go for midfielders that you know are going to play further up the pitch to give them a better chance of scoring.
4 - Check on the fixtures every week to see who is playing who.
5 - If you don’t get star players in early their price will go up as they do well and you may not be able to afford them later on.