Trying to describe why this game matters so much is like trying to explain the theory of relativity to a deaf orangutan.
‘Just one more game’
A foolishly naive thought this, much like hoping for world peace or thinking Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino is sane. Dehydration, exhaustion or a death in the family, preferably your own, usually have to occur before the laptop lid is finally closed.
‘Should I quit and restart the match?’
A cardinal sin, punishable by spending eternity locked in a cell with Iain Dowie, Mick McCarthy and Steve Kean talking about tactics. But come on, I haven’t taken Hartlepool United from the depths of League Two to a Champions League final only for Robbie Blake to miss two penalties, get sent off and be three goals down at halftime!
‘My nan could have scored that!’
FM 2009 was the worst culprit, making players have as much composure in the box as a foal on rollerblades. But after blowing most of your transfer kitty on game generated Carlos Da Silva, labelled the next Romário, and with stats including Finishing 20 and Composure 19, you’d expect from nine yards out with only the keeper to beat for him to burst the back of the net, not shank it into row Z. Cue more swearing than an Ozzy Osbourne impressionist convention and the infamous text commentary ‘Even his manager’s got his head in his hands’.
‘What do you mean you want more first team football/a new contract?’
FM 15 in particular is in the docks here, with it clearly not having heard of squad rotation policy (to Rafa Benitez’s dismay) or loyalty (to Sol Campbell’s delight). No player was immune here, from bigtime Zlatans to squad filling Tiendallis, they all wanted to be the main man. It appeared young players were taking a leaf out Raheem Sterling’s book, with the likes of Patrick Roberts, despite starting 25 games, missing two months through injury and being named young player of the year still wanting more games and an extension to their four year £50,000 a week contract they only signed last month. ‘You don’t win anything with kids’… try telling that to their agents.
‘If only he were this good in real life’
Welcomingly present in every issue of FM, these are the players who will achieve more success in the game than they will in real life. Who stood toe-to-toe with Zidane, Maldini and Messi on the virtual field. Mark Kerr, able to command the centre of park greater than Robert the Bruce could his forces at the Battle of Bannockburn, and Cherno Samba, the closest football has come to replacing Pele, were standouts. Honourable mentions to Freddy Adu, Tim Sparv, Mike Duff and Tonton Zola Moukoko. To game director Miles Jacobson they are data errors that hinder the realism of Football Manager. To us they hold a special place in our hearts. Apparently though wanting to call your son Cherno is going too far.
‘I didn’t mean to drop you to the Under 21s!’
A week is a long time in football, but it can last minutes in FM and mistakes can be made no matter how experienced the manager is. A crippling one in particular being in your haste to start training a player for a new position you accidentally drop him to the youth team. Despite grievous apologies and admittance of incompetence to said player nine times out of ten he’ll tell you to shove it, hand in a transfer request and send morale in the dressing room plummeting faster than Margaret Thatcher at a Trade Union meeting. Clearly Sports Interactive have missed a trick by not including a “I accidentally clicked on the ‘move to under 21’ option because I was in a rush and had to catch a train in ten minutes” button. Surely Cristiano Ronaldo would understand then?
A broad one here admittedly, but primarily applicable to a moment in the game which is so unrealistic you might think for a brief moment that you’re only playing a management simulator and not that your relegation six-pointer against Halifax Town will be the defining moment of your life on this cruel planet. Particular highlights on previous games include Luis Suarez becoming Manchester United’s manager, Chesterfield qualifying for the Champions League and Matthew Upson being named European Footballer of the Year.
‘Which tie should I wear?’
A decision taken by some at the start of their game but by the majority on the eve of their first cup final with their club as they get suited and booted for the occasion. Go for a tie that matches the colour of your team or stick with the lucky one you had on when you overcame that tricky replay against Sheffield Wednesday in the fourth round? Regardless, your ill-shaped M&S suit makes you think you’re Pep Guardiola in tailored Armani. Vitally important because you need to be dressed accordingly when replicating the walk from the changing rooms to the dugout by striding up the stairs to the laptop in your bedroom with encouragement from your family/housemates acting as the noise of thousands of expectant fans. Though introducing your players to your brother pretending to be Prince William is a bit of stretch only a few can say they’ve reached.
‘How am I going to fit a Regista or an Enganche into my system?’
Definitive proof you’ve been seduced by the lingo of FM having initially thought these positional roles wouldn’t have looked out of place on a menu in an exotic restaurant. Though doesn’t make placing Steve Lomas on the transfer list to make room for Pablo Aimar any easier.
‘No, it’s not just a game’
Usually what you want to say to your friends and family when they protest at your latest 18 hour stretch of being hunched over a laptop, which culminates in you deliberating whether to risk playing Ade Akinbiyi up front with El Hadji Diouf or not as you look to make a late push for the League One playoffs. Instead, this response only manifests itself as a thought as the merits of playing Matt Holland in front of the back four instead replaces your desire to engage with organic life. So what if it’s just a glorified database, that’s like saying Shakespeare’s Hamlet is just a load of words.
What other thoughts do you have playing Football Manager? Let me know below.