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12th November 2014

Football Manager: More than just a game

With the upcoming release of Football Manager 15, Andrew Georgeson discusses life as a keyboard manager

I’ll say this now: if I buy Football Manager 2015 I will not get a degree, I won’t be able to do my Masters in Journalism and achieve my dream of being a professional writer, and my life will crumble around me.

Despite this, I’m still undecided over whether or not to make the purchase.

Football manager, for me, is essentially a microcosm of the battle between man and technology. Given my progress on the game, I have concluded that I would handle what happens in iRobot a lot better than Will Smith did. And I wear converse too, like Will Smith on that film, although probably look slightly less impressive whilst having a shower.

In iRobot, Mr. Smith needs to fight off a series of homicidal robots that have turned bad by having to reset their system. I, too, need to fight a similarly evil force in Tottenham Hotspur with a Newcastle Side on the cusp of Champions League football.

It’s tense, Newcastle are tailing 1–0 at 67 minutes. Sammy Ameobi is off injured, all my subs are used and Cissé couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo, yet I conclude “he has something to prove” so he gets the nod. In a moment of haste, I move Ryan Taylor from holding midfielder to left-mid, push the creative Remy Cabella up to sit behind Cissé and the newly acquired Danny Ings, with Obertan on the other wing. Basically reverting to a 4-4-2 diamond with no bottom edge.

It almost instantly works, levelling 1–1 on 72 minutes. But we’re not out of the woods, Eriksson has a free kick. I curse Steven Taylor and the day he was born for giving away the free kick, but nothing can be done, and the fateful words “surely he’s going to have a shot from here” comes up in the blue box at the bottom of the screen. He strikes it, and Tim Krul gets a big beautiful Dutch left-paw on the ball and equally beautiful Dutchman Janmaat cleans it to Orbertan.

But wait. I remember I have the ‘counter attack’ option ticked. We’re in business. It’s three-on-two, Orbatan gets the ball in the box and Cissé knocks it passed a flailing Hugo Lloris.

Scenes, absolute scenes.

Then Spurs equalise, as in the crazy world of football manager they bring on an 82nd-minute sub in the shape of Paul Pogba who tears my 10 men apart.

That is simply six minutes and one match in the life of a football manager veteran, and it is a hard lifestyle to give up.

I asked Twitter to send me their Football Manager memories, and within minutes I was inundated with tweets regaling stories of taking Dagenham and Redbridge from the Conference to Premiership in five years and leading Sheffield Wednesday from League 1 to Champions League glory.

Even mentioning the game to fellow Sports Editor Will Kelly brings out an emotional and confused side of the Manchester United fan and Football Manager die hard.

“The game’s a conspiracy against United,” he claims. “Some leaders in it [designers of the game] are City fans apparently so they always make them struggle.”

Yet I’m sure Will, like all of us, will forgive the designers of the game for the matches that looked seemingly fixed when we realise that maybe Newcastle just can’t overturn the 4–0 deficit against Real Madrid, and maybe Manchester United really are that bad in real life. After we’ve had some time to think we always return to our lover with open arms.

Yet there are some who just don’t believe.

I was sitting with my girlfriend, had FM open on my laptop, and was playing with Newcastle in an FA Cup quarter-final replay against a Brighton side that I had battered home and away, and somehow they had me in extra-time.

“I don’t get it,” she said. “You’re just clicking and watching, they aren’t even real people.”

It may seem that way, to the untrained eye, but the stats and statistics have a similar depth to all great literary works.

The Old Man and The Sea seems like a nice story about a man in a boat who catches a fish and it gets eaten, then he dies. But it’s more than that. Like old Santiago, I’m going through a dry spell here, and I must sail beyond where anyone’s sailed before, and catch that fish to prove my critics wrong. But it’s to no avail, that tactics, the scheming, my catch of a team, is ruthlessly pulled apart by Brighton just like Santiago’s fish and I am left with nothing.

The game has reached such notoriety for accuracy, predicting the rise of players such as Falcao, that clubs are using the games databases as part of scouting systems.

As I watch the copies fly of the shelves in agony, I will look forward to the Christmas break where my team of underdogs and I can fight again, against all the odds.

It’s intense, it’s infuriating and it’s wonderful. Long may it continue.

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