For years it’s held me in its firm grip although I did escape for a three year period until it reeled me back in.
‘What’s the worst that could happen?‘ I reasoned, completely convinced that I had the willpower to evade its slippery reach and seductive charm.
But it slowly crept back into my life again until we picked up again like old friends and my habit was soon stronger than ever.
I’m talking about the addiction that is cited as the reason for 30-40 divorces in the U.K. each year. Relatively speaking, not a huge number but it has indirectly caused countless sleepless nights, worry, stress, health issues, fractured relationships and stolen many ‘leisure’ hours.
I’m talking about the beast that is Football Manager.
I was struck down with the bug in the mid ’90’s when I joined the expanding cult who made their foray into the football management simulation game. For the uninitiated, the game doesn’t rely on graphics or visuals like most of today’s games. Instead, its tried and tested news and statistical formula draws football fans all over the world who are eager to cut their teeth and control the fortunes of a team of their choosing guiding them through the incredibly detailed world of life as a football manager.
The sheer scope and minutiae of detail that you can use to shape your career in the game is legendary. The scouting system is so immense that it is currently used to identify up and coming talent in lower leagues from England to Botswana.
For plebs like myself who will never get a chance in the real world to manage Manchester United, the realism of the modern game with all the pressure, awards and competitiveness are beautifully captured in the game.
No stone is left unturned and because you’re the Boss, you ultimately can control every little detail whether it be canvassing for talent abroad, handling contract disputes with your top stars and their money hungry agents, or revamping your training policy.
There is nothing off limits and because of the degree of influence you can exert it makes defeat all the more painful. Statistics heavy, it is a dream for number crunching eggheads like myself who sift through the details for emerging patterns to buck a trend of consecutive defeats or knee deep in a relegation battle.
The ‘Game’ is a strange one. Because you invest so much time in the simulation, anything other than immediate success is failure. No other game I know of makes me feel more miserable for long periods of time. In fact, during University it would dominate my thoughts to the point where I’d curtail my weekend fun and high jinks and reach for the laptop instead.
Eager to mend my broken defence I’d scour developing nations for hours hoping to find an elixir for my barren scoring run, perhaps some 17 year old Swedish hotshot who matched the exact attributes that I was missing in my attack. On the flip side, a giant killing of a Premiership side by your minnow club makes all the stress disappear hitting a state of bliss that stays for days afterward such is the power of the game.
Taking over a top Premiership side isn’t appealing to me. I prefer to think long-term and take charge of a side on the brink of relegation in the Vanarama North/South lower leagues, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy with an aim to completely transform their fortunes and guide them to National and European success.
Boston United will never win the Champions League, but in Football Manager, the impossible is possible and while I’m at the helm and have the fans backing, I’ll continue to strive to bring them through the hierarchy of leagues until the mission is accomplished.
The competitive element is fierce especially between friends. Guiding the same team on parallel universes it’s easy to compare and contrast who is the better manager, or reader and processor of the detail.
It’s the kind of game you can get lost in. The latest Football Manager game will be released next month with brand new updated features and a growing pool of staff and players, hidden among them the next Lionel Messi. The race is on to find the needle in the haystack and forever change the destiny of Boston Utd.
In 10 years time Man Utd won’t know what’s hit them as a new superpower emerges!