“Freddy Adu on the ball. Still Adu. My word, he’s beating players for fun! Adu picks out Henri Saivet on the left. Saivet fires the ball across goal towards Lulinha… Lulinha scores! That’s why he’s the current Ballon d’Or holder! It’s 4-0 inside 60 minutes and Cheltenham Town have surely sealed their fifth consecutive Champions League trophy!”
Whilst I agree there’s something strangely fulfilling about leading your hometown to European domination in a virtual world, I’d like to bring you back to reality for a moment. Now, brace yourself, because this may shock you. Ready? Okay…
Football Manager isn’t actually the same as real life. Football Manager is an enormous database and hundreds of thousands of pixels arranged to form arbitrary images, whilst real life is, y’know, real life…
It doesn’t matter how many leagues you conquer, how many successful 16-year-old ‘wonderkids’ you unearth or how many stadiums you have named after you, you’re still just sat in your bedroom playing a computer game. The game is not real life. Somewhere in the midst of years of diluting their knowledge of actual football with virtual information, people seem to have lost the ability to distinguish between the two.
High creative freedom?
Real football management is a far cry from knocking back another gulp of Red Bull and promising yourself “just one more game” before switching it off as you go 1-0 down inside 10 minutes. Even when you do get it right, real-life tactics are much more complex than saying: “I want you to go out there tonight and play as a complete forward with the support duty, with high creative freedom and a mixed passing style.”
The thing which infuriates me the most about Football Manager is the attitude that, because you’ve managed a Premier League team in the game, you know better than an actual Premier League manager. Over the 20 years the Premier League has been in existence, only 173 men have managed at the highest level.
It takes years – sometimes decades – of training, education and experience to be a manager. It’s not as simple as slipping into an imaginary world, setting your in-game past experience to ‘world-class footballer’ and instantaneously being presented with a bounty of job offers.
I understand part of the charm of Football Manager is the possibility of finding the next ‘big thing’ lurking in the Israeli second division or somewhere equally obscure, but I have another shocking truth for you to attempt to digest — real-life football players are actual people.
They’re not the same as the virtual representation of themselves. If your star striker scores 40 goals per season on your game, that doesn’t mean he’s actually capable of scoring 40 goals per season. Real players are a lot more than a succinct list of attributes represented numerically and columned down a page for you to glance through whilst thinking: “18 for composure? Yep, this kid has what it takes.”
Fees that would make Sheikh Mansour wince
When it comes to buying one of these gems you’ve discovered, real life is a hell of a lot more complicated than clicking a button to ask your assistant manager to filter him out of your shortlist if he’s an unrealistic target. There are phone calls to be made, agents to contact, legal documents to draft up and countless other formalities which are part and parcel of multi-million pound business deals.
The Football Manager-induced mentality of the average modern day fan is ridiculous. If a signing takes longer than a day to be confirmed, all hell breaks loose on social media. Managers’ desks don’t come fitted with huge “confirm the signing of…” buttons in reality. Additionally, if a club can’t afford a transfer, they can’t afford a transfer. In the real world, money isn’t as easy to come by as clicking “add manager,” taking over a rival club and selling them a bunch of your reserves for a fee so ludicrously inflated it would make Sheikh Mansour wince.
I’m not saying any of this with the intention of badmouthing Football Manager, because it’s an incredibly well-researched and entertaining game, but please just remember that‘s all it is – a game.
FourFourTom is a football writer. Follow him on Twitter here.
After a number of negative comments we offered some of those who commented to write a blog piece of their own in response to FourFourTom. @chrisquinn3 accepted the challenge and you can read his reply here.