Leading Manchester City To European Glory And My Finest Football Manager Moments featuring Tottenham & Real Madrid...
Hi, my name is Ben and I’m a recovering Football Manager addict. In the past, I’ve spent weekends holed up in my room playing the game as the world passes me by. I’ve openly discussed tactics my friends and my brother, talking about potential signings, youth-team products, training schedules; anything you can think of, it has been conversed.
My first year at university was primarily dedicated to ensuring I was the greatest manager in my own warped mind as I continued to press for glory on a club and international level. Ex-girlfriends became infuriated with my continued persistence on the game; luckily, I was never involved in one of the 35 divorce cases Football Manager has been cited for.
Nevertheless, it goes to show the incredible pulling power of the game as fans sweep mundane day-to-day tasks to one side in the pursuit to become the most dignified manager on the game. I was one of those addicted to Football Manager and its predecessor Championship Manager. Games have come and gone, but there are ones that will forever live in the memory of this previous hardcore gamer.
I did what Mancini couldn’t do
The last game I ever played on Football Manager before laying it to rest. I was on holiday in Australia at the time, which says it all really, with a very good university friend of mine. We went to Noosa, the sunshine coast, on the east side of the country for around three weeks. While out there, we met a further two friends, who were travelling the country at the time and you would’ve thought the last thing on my mind was Football Manager.
I’ve openly discussed tactics my friends and my brother, talking about potential signings, youth-team products, training schedules
Initially, it was. We ended up on the beach by day and drinking at night. However, the level of alcohol consumption didn’t prevent the unprecedented levels of jet lag I went on to encounter. I would pass out at around 9pm and be wide awake at 5am the following morning. Pitch black darkness and severe levels of boredom meant I did something I didn’t think I would; pressed the fabled ‘Start New Game’ button.
At the time, I was halfway through my third year of uni, meaning my dissertation and other reports were supposed to be taking priority. Don’t get me wrong, I completed the work, but only when I grew weary of Football Manager after losing the FA Cup final to Manchester City’s biggest rivals.
Yes, I was Manchester City. I wanted the money and the power to sign anyone and everyone. I craved the domination of world football and after some serious hardcore gaming, I succeeded. I was the one who convinced Daniele De Rossi to leave AS Roma and the Italian was instantly appointed captain at the expense of Vincent Kompany, a big two fingers to Mancini who failed to land the Italian.
He was the lynchpin in my three-man midfield, providing the steel in the middle of the park so Diego Buonanotte could flex his creative muscles as the Trequartista in my 4-3-1-2 formation. The pint sized Argentine provided the ammunition for the striking duo of Goran Pandev and Sergio Aguero, who I managed to snare on a free, a year before the real City brought him to the Etihad Stadium for £38m.
Pitch black darkness and severe levels of boredom meant I did something I didn’t think I would; pressed the fabled ‘Start New Game’ button
However, it was the latter half of my holiday that the game really kicked off. For those that have been, the weather in Noosa is highly unpredictable; the first week we were there, it was blue skies day-in, day-out, meaning extended hours relaxing on the beach. Yet, the second week, with a trip to Melbourne and Sydney sandwiched in-between, saw us condemned to the great indoors for much of the time.
While my friend remained fixated on Elder Scrolls, I was happy to plough through year after year on Football Manager. Hours of silence followed; he focused on defeating the ghosts and ghouls of a made-up world, I determined to lead City to glory in mine. It would start in the early hours of the morning, a quick break for a trip into town for lunch, usually Subway, before resuming our respective games.
Yes, I was on holiday in Australia, but rarely left the house to play Football Manager. I couldn’t drag myself away from my laptop, mainly due to the cyclonic rain-storms that continued to pound the east coast. It didn’t take me long, but I eventually led Manchester City to Champions League glory, but it wasn’t enough; I wanted more, as any good gamer will tell you.
England were next, before I secured World Cup glory in 2014. Was it enough to stop? Was it fuck. I kept going. Re-gen players became regular starters. Current performers became legends, cast into folklore for their exploits at both club and national level. Eventually, the holiday came to an end and it was time to fly back to England. I knew I couldn’t keep the game up with an important second half to my third year upcoming. I reluctantly deleted that Manchester City game, uninstalled Football Manager altogether and I’ve managed to hold back on re-booting since.
He focused on defeating the ghosts and ghouls of a made-up world, I determined to lead City to glory in mine
Tottenham Hotspur – Champions 2038
Ah, my favourite game in the history of Football Manager. FM 07 it was and the one I refused to let up. It started off so innocently; all I wanted to do was win the title with Tottenham Hotspur, hopefully relegate Arsenal before starting again on a new game; nothing more, nothing less. This was the first hurdle; Arsenal were better than Spurs at the time.
It took longer than I anticipated to pick up the coveted Premier League title, a good four seasons to be precise. But once I had tasted glory, I needed more. Like a dictator that had just invaded a neighbouring country; I craved the power. And so it began; the longest running game in my personal history of Football Manager.
My girlfriend at the time grew weary of my exploits, but she just didn’t understand. My journey was just the beginning, both in life (I was just about to start my first year at university) and on the game itself. I still remember the feeling when my tutor at the time announced that being a fresher was merely a practise for the proceeding years that were to come. Alarm bells started ringing; I could get more out of this Football Manager game than I initially expected.
The missus lived at home and would visit once a week for two days, which only meant one thing; five solid days of playing, with some work, football , Pro Evo and lectures on the side. I would spend hours in my living room on my laptop plotting tactics for upcoming fixtures, knowing full well that I had the time to do so.
Like a dictator that had just invaded a neighbouring country; I craved the power
It got silly; year after year I couldn’t stop playing. I was a full blown addict, once or twice skipping a night out just to finish a season, which, as a fresher, is basically sacrilege. But I couldn’t get enough. I had a feeling that this game was to be like no other and believe me; it wasn’t.
I continued to recruit the finest players on the game, largely on the Bosman. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Bojan Krkic formed a dynamic strike partnership, again in a 4-3-1-2, as I took Spurs to domestic and continental glory. With each passing season my transfer budget continued to grow. When the time finally arrived, I snared the greatest player on the game from right under the noses of Arsenal; Carlos Vela, now of Real Sociedad, for a record £150m.
Yes, he was that good and worth every penny. He came and went, eventually to be replaced by the impressive Gonzalo Fernandes; a re-gen with a heading ability of 20, finishing 20, fitness 20....you get the point; he was incredible. Real life players began to retire and, unsurprisingly, my team consisted predominantly of re-gens from the year 2030.
Wait, what? 2030?! Have I really spent that long on the game? I lost count on the years in the gaming world that had gone by. I would spend weekends in bed playing the game with MTV Dance in the background. I couldn’t help myself, only stopping for food, toilet breaks and the odd day at work. Unsurprisingly, I was also single at the time and that didn’t change during that summer.
I snared the greatest player on the game from right under the noses of Arsenal; Carlos Vela, now of Real Sociedad, for a record £150m
By the time the 2037/38 championship had gone by, my coaching staff consisted of the likes of Patrick Vieira, Craig Gordon and Raul Gonzalez. My yearly transfer budget was well over £1bn and I was signing players who had a good game against me, primarily so they couldn’t again in the future. Monopolising the league became weary, so I took my talents to the international stage.
I led Scotland to World Cup glory. I defeated England on the way to a Copa America win with Brazil in 2018. Yes, you read that right; a glitch in the game meant a major continental shift saw England entered into the South American tournament for one summer. My aim in the end was to become fluent in as many languages as possible. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech...you name it, I was fluent in it.
After that, I realised it was enough. I knew I had to stop. The massive transfer budget, the 125 game unbeaten record spanning four seasons and the 110,000 seater stadium, aptly titled ‘McAleer Park’, had to come to an end. My only regret of the game? I never did relegate Arsenal...
Taking the Christmas Tree to Spain
Away from the laptop, and moving back in years to the Championship Manager days, I possessed the game on my X-Box. This is from my time at secondary school. Now, back in the day I was slightly overweight, 15 stone to be precise, meaning that girls were out of the question. It saw my interest in football simulators rise considerably and despite the fun of Pro Evo, I craved more depth to the game.
My only regret of the game? I never did relegate Arsenal...
So imagine my excitement when I unwrapped a present on my birthday from my parents with Championship Manager 02/03 on the inside. Every other gift became irrelevant. I only wanted this. I left the other presents to one side and awkwardly waddled upstairs to fire up my X-Box. Who was I to be you ask? Real Madrid, of course.
Los Blancos were at the height of their Galactico era and the opportunity to play Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo behind Ronaldo, El Fenomeno, not the Portuguese one, was too hard to turn down. Inspired by Terry Venebles, there was only one formation for me; the 4-3-2-1, or patented ‘Christmas Tree’ formation.
Fortunately, this was before Fernando Hierro made his move to Bolton Wanderers and it was he, alongside Ivan Helguera, that formed the back-bone in my defensive back-line. I treated Claude Makelele with the respect he deserved, trying him down to a long-term contract to ward off interest from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona.
I fully utilised the players at my disposal and rather than sign the next best player to improve shirt sales, I endorsed the team full of ‘Zidane y Pavon’, fully integrating the youth team players with the current superstars. Unlike in real life, it worked a treat. I dominated Europe with minimal effort, I mean, it wasn’t even hard with the players at my disposal.
I left the other presents to one side and awkwardly waddled upstairs to fire up my X-Box
However, it had to come an eventful end. Just like in real-life, Makelele was sold to Chelsea, against my will as well. I was angry, nay, furious. Like when Roy Keane encountered Alf-Inge Haaland again in 2001; I saw red. I threw that controller against the wall as hard as I could. Do you remember the old X-Box controllers? They could kill a small child. Bear in mind I was 14 years of age at the time, my parents took the game and console away from me. I cried, kicked, screamed and pleaded to have it back, but they wouldn’t budge and that was the end of that one; not with a whimper, but a rather large bang and dent in the wall
Since that game with Manchester City back in 2010, I have only tried to buy Football Manager once. It didn’t work on my laptop, which is probably a good thing; the game telling me I should stop. I do often flutter with the idea of returning to the other realm, but I do my best to banish the thought into the catacombs of my mind, never to be re-opened, not yet anyway.
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