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Palace and Toon ePremier League stars aim for gaming glory
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Adam Drury
Jacob Benskin is representing Crystal Palace in the ePremier League
Jacob Benskin is representing Crystal Palace in the ePremier League

Crystal Palace fan Jacob Benskin is aiming to do his boyhood club proud when he represents them at the ePremier League Finals group stage this weekend.

The event sees the country's best EA FC players appear for each top-flight team on PlayStation 5 and Xbox at Elstree Studios.

Teams of two have been drawn into four groups of five, with the winners of each pool progressing straight to Finals Day in March, when the others will also have a second chance to qualify.

And Benksin, known as NiKSNEB, is ready for another crack at the competition after playing for the Eagles in 2022.

He told LiveScore: "Palace are my club so I am always keen to represent them.

"Being so close with my dad and watching football with my family, I was always supporting them.

"I was invited to the training ground a couple of years ago. I watched the team train and then played EA FC against [defender] Nathan Ferguson.

"It's nice to feel part of it.

"Palace have been a good team to play with on EA FC over the years, too. They've had lots of skilful players — but Wilfried Zaha is probably our best ever on the game. He's a big miss."

Making it work

NiKSNEB has been practicing four hours daily to prepare for this event but putting the work in is not straightforward.

Tom Painter, who will be representing Newcastle, juggles playing alongside a full-time job after stumbling across competitions like these.

He said: "I started playing just for fun when I was growing up.

"I used to beat all my mates playing on the 2017 edition and then started taking it more seriously but didn't really know what I was doing.

"One day I got an email pop up saying I'd qualified to play in a tournament for £200,000 and I thought it was a scam to be honest.

"It didn't ask for any bank details so I went with it and suddenly I was in a real tournament in Paris.

"I play alongside work, not full-time. I've not really done much preparation for this weekend because of my job."

Tom Painter represented Leicester in the 2022 ePremier League
Tom Painter represented Leicester in the 2022 ePremier League

Route to success

Competitors are not obliged to use players from their real-life teams, instead assembling their own squads on the game's Ultimate Team function.

That means Painter will be fielding a couple of unusual names in his Toon outfit.

He said: "I don't think any specific Newcastle players are making my team, unfortunately.

"I know David Ginola used to play for them and I've got him in as a legend. 

"I'm playing with Thierry Henry a lot, too. He doesn't usually fit the way I play because he's not got five-star skill moves but it seems to be working well."

Both NiKSNEB and Painter plan to unleash a 4-3-2-1 — a favoured formation for the majority of top players.

And the Palace rep believes pace and skills are crucial to success.

He said: "I enjoy Marcus Rashford, he's got five-star skills and he's very fast.

"Kyle Walker is very good, quick and strong. Virgil van Dijk is unbelievable.

"And then Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland are always good to play with."

This weekend, football's biggest names will not be the stars of the show. Instead, all eyes will be on the gamers controlling them. 


Crystal PalaceNewcastle UnitedPremier League
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