As November hits us, avid football fans prepare for the descent of the latest edition of one of the greatest games of all time, Football Manager. It is a game that helps single men remain single and men in relationships lose their girlfriends forever, unless their girlfriend also loves the thrill of taking Burton Albion to the Premiership in four consecutive seasons.
It is a game that every dedicated football fan must try out at least once. It creates tension, drama and the occasional tantrum, much like the real thing. However, after years of playing the game, many of us avid Football Manager fans (myself included) often end up forgetting the barrier between real football and virtual football.
The problem with forgetting this barrier is that often, Football Manager “nerdisms” escape into real life conversations about football.
A recent example from my own catalogue of Football Manager “nerdisms” was when Hull City signed Abel Hernandez last summer. I turned to my Dad and said, “That lad banged in twenty a season for me at Everton.” My Dad’s bamboozlement at this statement was plainly evident in the confused and almost disappointed look he gave me.
Perhaps the most obvious signal to tell you who has played too much Football Manager is when you hear the words, “I knew he would come good, I signed him on Football Manager a few years ago and he was quality for me.” Cesar Azpilicueta is one example of this type of player, I signed him from Osasuna on Football Manager 2008 and he quickly became a world beater on the game. The equivalent in College Football is when we reporters spot who the talented Freshers are and watch them tear apart the Revolution Premier Division throughout the season.
Football Manager brings out the best and worst in us all. It brings out the inner tactical beast as well as a man’s envy. I dominated English football on my most recent saved game with Fleetwood Town, taking them from League Two to the Europa League in just eight seasons.
A few years ago my brother (as much as I hate to say it) outshone me with his mighty Liverpool side that he built from scratch. He also achieved the pinnacle of the game, managing to get a bloody stadium named after him, Anfield was demolished and The Hill Stadium rose up from the rubble. It was a travesty to say the least, he still holds it over me to this day. I’ve gone close a few times but as yet I have not had a stadium in the game named after me. So much for Fleetwood Stadium or New Stamford Bridge. Thanks, but no thanks.
The big problem I find is trying to apply your Football Manager expertise into real football games. This is something I constantly battle with when I play for the mighty Vanbrugh Thirds every Sunday on 22 Acres. I’m always internally debating whether I should suggest to my captain and good friend, Rob ‘Westy’ West to replace one of our Box-To-Box Midfielders with a more attacking Trequartista, or whether we should use two strikers but have one as a Deep Lying Forward and another as a Poacher, or whether we should use Inside Forwards or Wingers. The possibilities are endless, the dilemmas are eternal.
When I captained the mighty Vanbrugh Thirds a few weeks ago in Rob ‘Westy’ West’s absence, I toyed about with the idea of playing with Complete Wing Backs instead of Full Backs. In the end, I went with my gut and put in the two Complete Wing Backs but created an Anchor Man in defensive midfield just to hold it all together and provide added defensive cover.
It worked a treat. We beat Alcuin 3-0 despite the fact that one of their defenders nearly tore one of our lad’s leg off with a horrendous tackle from the Dark Ages. Even when I can’t play for the mighty Vanbrugh Thirds, I often find myself watching them on the touchline with a big coat on, crossed arms, vigorously chewing some gum and occasionally barking orders from the side line – yes, I am ‘that guy.’
In reality, despite whatever ‘genius’ tactical plan I’ve conjured up in Football Manager, the sad truth is that it will never make a difference to a College Football third team on a Sunday morning. That is perhaps the bane of avid Football Manager fans, no matter how good we are in our comfortable, virtual world of football, we will never have the same impact in real world football.
So for me, it’s back to 2024, to the Fleetwood Stadium (not the Hill Stadium, thanks to my bloody chairman) to continue building my legacy as the greatest manager in virtual football that the Cod Army has ever seen.