Joey Barton had more reason to thank Charlie Austin than most for his hat-trick heroics against West Brom after making the QPR striker captain of his fantasy football team.
The fiery midfielder has been tipped to make the step into management by Hoops boss Harry Redknapp and he pulled off a masterstroke by giving his team-mate the armband.
Austin’s three goals turned the tables on the Baggies on Saturday and saw him rack up 28 points in the online game this week to boost Barton’s total.
Barton said: “He's a great lad. I've got on with Chaz since the day he walked in. Actually the second day he walked in – I didn't recognise who he was the first day, as he keeps constantly reminding me.
“We've got a great relationship, we're really close, I'm delighted for him. I made him captain of my fantasy football team before this weekend so that relationship's got a bit tighter. I was telling him after every goal it was more points for my fantasy football team. I fancied him to score.
“I've had faith in him even when he missed the pen (against Hull City) – I didn't have him in my team then but I brought him in. He's good value for money and he's rewarding me to be fair to the lad!
“I don't think I win much – I think you win about £20 if you win the top of it – but all those points are important come the end of the season. We haven't got a fantasy league in the dressing room, I play with a group of mates – Everton and Liverpool fans from back home.
“They all think they're football managers. It's interesting to see how much they get panicked over fantasy football – just imagine if they were actually doing it with 20 or 30,000 people breathing down your neck.
Joey Barton's fantasy football team...
“Everyone of us I think is a manager – everyone in the stadium thinks they can do it better at times. It's just a bit of fun. I was third then I had a bad month last month, made a few changes and they didn't work out.
“I brought Sakho in and Hull have had a stinker since then. I had a load of Southampton players – they've got a clean sheet today. I did my wildcard early doors. I've never played it before – it's my first year doing it.”
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and Stewart Downing make up Barton’s midfield, with the QPR midfielder opting not to include himself in his fantasy XI.
Barton continued: ““I'm not in my team – I've got some good players in there! I should have put myself in. I haven't got that many points but I didn't put myself in because usually I get five or six bookings and you lose two points for them so I left myself out because I didn't trust my own discipline. But I've only had one booking all season!”
QPR travel to Sanchez’s Arsenal on Boxing Day and Barton is yet to decide whether he will keep Austin in place as his skipper for the trip to the Emirates.
He added: “I don't know about sticking with Charlie as captain for Arsenal – I'll have to speak with my backroom staff during the week!
“I've used up all my money on the team – on the bench Greeny's there. I haven't put him in. The only game I've put him in was Sunderland and I think he kept a clean sheet.
“We all put a tenner in every month, there's about 20 lads. There's a monthly prize. I won it in September or October so that's paid my entry fee for the whole year so I'm on a freebie now!”