Tag Archive: football banter

Football Manager

I was addicted to it like it was cocaine. I didn’t come out of my house. My friends would ring up and I’d ignore their calls. They’d knock at my door and I’d say I was really ill just so I could play my game and have no interruptions. I’d miss days of college to play that damn game.”

– Rapper Plan B

Sports Interactive’s Football Manager for the uninitiated is a PC game which simulates the world of football and allows you to become a manager within it. The franchise has sold over 7 million copies since 2004.

You buy/sell players, pester your board for funding, insult other managers and gradually build your team into your own capable outfit (provided the board doesn’t sack you first).

An ordinary person (generally a man) will sit down and stare at this spreadsheet of indecipherable numbers and emerge weeks later to find he’s missed work and his wife has left him. For this reason, the game has been allegedly cited in numerous divorce cases in the UK.

The game (formerly Championship Manager) is at it’s simplest, a massive database of all the worlds’ players and teams. Each of the 400,000 plus players have been scouted and rated by Sports Interactive own scouts, the expectations of your clubs board will be based on the real life expectations of your club.

In fact, Everton FC have signed a deal with Sports Interactive for full and exclusive access to the Football Manager database to give them the edge in finding talented youngsters.

Studio Director and creator Miles Jacobson was delighted: “We’ve known for a while that teams use the game to research certain players, whether to buy or to check out the opposition, but this formal recognition by a premiership team is fantastic and we are sure it will prove a fruitful one for the Everton FC.”

There is a social aspect to this game. Players feel compelled to tell each other about their solo adventures. They’ll laugh about the player they have fallen out with or boast about the league they won regardless of whether the other person is interested, almost as if recounting a dream.

One courageous manager submitted his Football Manager CV to Middlesbrough Chairman Steve Gibson in 2006. He was graciously rejected.

Researching this article I spoke with Daire, a theology graduate who had once famously worn a suit for a Football Manager cup final in his bedroom. He began listing objects he’d broken while playing the game:

Anything within reach really: Mugs, plates, lots of computer mice, a keyboard…actually I remember how I broke my keyboard!”

He then began on a story that chilled my very soul:

I had just been sacked by the board at Middlesbrough after an indifferent spell and the only job available at the time was Ross County in one of the lower Scottish leagues. I signed for them and proceeded to gradually get them promoted through the divisions.

After many [game] years, we reached the Scottish Premier league and then qualified for the Champions league.

A few seasons after that, Ross County met Barcelona in the final and were losing 2-1 going into the second half. Heroically, we brought it back to 2-2, and were soon winning 3-2 with seven minutes to go when suddenly all the lights went off and the screen went blank.

A fuse had blown in the house. Not only that, but when the power came back on it sent a surge through the old PC. It never worked again, I lost that file and never finished that game.”

To those who have never played, this may seem absurd, but that Champions League final was the culmination of perhaps 300 hours of gameplay for Daire.

It was common for players of Football Manager to break the game disks ahead of important exams or to give them to a friend for safekeeping. Now there is no need for disks at all and the game sits there on your hard drive tempting you.

The game is proud of it’s ‘addictiveness’, and when it’s loaded up it shows the amount of time you have played divided into hours, days and weeks.

Since 2004, the game greets you with a message which alters depending on that time, messages from, ‘Turning your underwear inside out saves on washing’ to ‘your relationship has now expired’

Although not formally recognised, some organisations have been set up to treat those who feel they have an unhealthy dependence on games. Online Gamers Anonymous treats it as an addiction like any other, even going so far as to produce a 12-step program to aid recovery.

Singer Robbie Williams, no stranger to addiction himself, has also struggled with a dependence on Football Manager, tweeting:

Got addicted to Football Manager AGAIN. They warned Ayda (his girlfriend Ayda Field) what would happen but I don’t think she was quite prepared for what was to come. Been on it day and night and the other day I decided to snap the disc because it all got too much. However, two days later I re-ordered it on Amazon.”

Founder of Gaming Addiction.net, Jerry Banfield battled games addiction along with alcohol abuse while working as a state police officer.

Jerry played video games while he drank ‘because drinking alone was inherently boring’ and his alcohol addiction became intertwined with his gaming.

However Football Manager creator Miles Jacobson rejects the idea that these games can be addictive.

“The game is not addictive, ‘addictive’ is an incredibly strong word, which tends to be used for things that are physically addictive.

We’re purely making an entertainment product,” he said. “People who play the game a lot play it because they really enjoy it; it’s an escape for people.

Everyone should enjoy the game responsibly, as they should enjoy everything responsibly.”

Doctor Will Meek of Vancouver agrees, stating:

This type of behavior is an impulse control disorder like pathological gambling not an “addiction” per se.”

This ‘addictiveness’ or ‘impulse control disorder’ is something that certain games boast about. The rise of Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMO) such as Everquest or Warcraft over the last 10 years has drawn most of the flack on this issue.

These MMO’s have brought worrying reports of players dying after playing for 3 days straight or horrific cases of child neglect as both parents pursue tasks in a virtual realm.

It’s a disturbing new level of immersion that, for now Football Manager cannot compete with.

Further reading: Football Manager Stole My Life by Iain Macintosh and others is published by Back Stage Press and will be released later this year.


Dear Glazers, We are in Your Debt

The final day of one of the most exciting Premier League in years is upon us with two Manchester teams competing for the trophy.

The Manchester Derby turned the title race around, Man City raced to a goal difference lead while United looked distinctly second-best.

Suddenly, the world remembers that United is owned by a family of wealth-mongers, too busy scrabbling to pay off their massive debts to sit and watch ‘soccer’ for 90 mins straight.

The Glazers have the audacity to: buy a business (legally) for profit at a stage when the club had not won the league for three years; boost that profit; increase wages and transfer spending; invest in young, talented players; back the manager to the hilt and win four titles in five years.

This greedy, American family probably don’t even bother watching as United, on course for the Premiership, lose inexplicably to Wigan Athletic, throw away a two goal lead to draw with Everton and get narrowly beaten 1-0 away to Man City in the course of a month.

If the pundits are to be believed, the rot had clearly begun with the takeover seven years ago and United were a certainty to fall short in this manner from the beginning.

David Conn (The Guardian) writes: “Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s squad of worldclass players assembled for Mancini, faced a United of veterans and promising youngsters who suddenly looked the product of the Glazers’ taking culture.”

I would take issue with the idea that Gareth Barry is a world class player but that’s off topic.

Oliver Kay (The Times) also blames the policy of signing younger players,

“United have gone from striving for excellence to accepting a lowering of standards under the Glazer family regime…the Glazernomics model prefers [David] De Gea, [Phil] Jones, Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez — players with potential, both on the pitch and on the balance sheet, rather than players to do a man’s job immediately.”

‘You can’t win anything with kids’ seems to be phrase making a return. Yet, it seems ludicrous to criticise a club for attempting to build for the future as well as the present, especially when the likes of Jones, Smalling and De Gea were bought for considerable fees and have shown real promise.

In pre-season, United were linked with a midfielder hailed to be the missing piece in the jigsaw, Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder’s form for struggling Inter Milan since may have meant it was a lucky escape. A £30 million transfer fee and £200k a week can still be a risk, Man City themselves can testify to that.

The simple truth is that the Glazers have spent consistently since they took over, including over 50 million this year. Granted they cannot compete with that invested by Man City’s billionaire owners, but this would still be the case if United were still owned by shareholders.

United are also outspent year on year by Barcelona and Real Madrid, both clubs sanction huge transfers despite their own substantial debts. Hardly a model to subscribe to.

Writers will label it a ‘regime’ but the Glazers are not evil, they saw an opportunity and took it.

David Conn waited less than 24 hours after the derby to leap for the Glazers:

“For now, United fans forking out for tickets may again begin to question forcefully the claim that £500m taken out of their club has made no difference, an argument which for seven long years has been an insult to their intelligence.”

Whatever about the ethics of leveraging debt onto a profitable concern, it should be remembered that the owners need the club to continue winning to service the debt. This is dependent on Man Utd maintaining it’s stature and winning tournaments. Thus far, they have accomplished this.

That said, this season cannot be regarded as a success, the humiliation of an early exit from Europe will have left its mark and they will almost certainly end this season trophyless for the first time since 2004-05.

A lack of control in key matches has hurt United as they uncharacteristically struggled to maintain possession or composure under pressure.

Paul Scholes retirement, persistent injuries to Tom Cleverley and Anderson, along with Darren Fletcher’s continued illness meant the midfield was short on experience and numbers.

Nemanja Vidic has been missing since early December leaving a gaping combative hole at the centre of defence in front of a 20-year-old goalkeeper who had never seen a cross until he arrived in England.

These factors have led to uncertain performances, yet United are on course to reach 89 points this season – usually enough to win the title.

If you can blame a single individual, it would be Sir Alex Ferguson who got his tactics badly wrong for both league meetings with Man City this season.

Let’s not forget that United were favourites for this title and are currently joint favourites with City for next season. Both clubs failed in Europe but for that matter so did Real Madrid and Barcelona, so money can’t be the only factor.

I’m not a fan of the Glazers or how they obtained the most successful team in England . If United were to free fall down the table and the owners refused to invest then I will change my opinion.

However, at this moment there is no reason to believe this season’s failure is a result of the takeover or the debt the club is burdened with. The Glazers are easy targets.

– You can also find this article on FootballBanterCentral.com


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