Paddy Power

FourFourTom: Why Football Manager makes me mad

by Paddy Power Admin | August 8, 2012

FourFourTom byline

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!”

Wait, what?

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.

Freddy Adu


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.

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  1. Keef said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:18 am

    I believe there’s a small, fringe, but, nevertheless,REAL football tournament going on at Old Trafford, Cardiff, Wembley, etc. – I think Cheltenham Town may have been playing in it.
    . . . or, alternatively you could just watch the GREATEST SPORTING EVENT ON THE PLANET (for info., it’s going on in East London. . . ) – tee hee.

  2. Dan said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    “real-life tactics are much more complex than…”

    I don’t understand exactly who you’re trying to address with this (and even the entire article). I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thinks FM tactics = Real life, and I doubt there’s anyone out there that exists with that mentality.

  3. Sam said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    Got to agree with Dan, I haven’t met anyone who thinks they’re capable of managing in the big league solely because they’ve played Football Manager, I play it because I thoroughly enjoy leading a team to glory, but I don’t think I can manage any football team in real life.

  4. Rory said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Agreed Dan.

  5. paul moore said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    Congratulations on pointing out the obvious on all of these points, really well done. I don’t think anyone thinks football managing in real life is that simple…

  6. Ben said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    This is easily the most pointless and boring article I have ever read. Nobody thinks FM is real life. Get a grip man.

  7. AB said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    I think one of the biggest things people seem to be unable to grasp is the finances. On the game it is often, you sell a player for 10m so you have 10m to spend on a new player, net transfer spend is the only budget you have to worry about. Obviously in real life transfer revenue could go straight into the ‘academy building budget’ or to repay debt etc.

    While these things in real life have nothing to do with the manager, their lack of significance on the game has meant people believe they know the finances of clubs and constantly moan about not spending transfer money they have received.

  8. Gary said on August 8, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    Essentially, you’ve just had a rant about stupid people.

  9. Liam Mcmillen said on August 8, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    I play Football Manager a lot and I have guided Brighton (My hometown) to champions league glory. Does that mean I think all of the above? No. Why the hell would it? You seem to be addressing every Football Manager fan, when I’m sure most of them can tell the difference between the game and REAL LIFE.

  10. That guy said on August 8, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    4 4 tom is a top cunt

  11. Tom Sargent said on August 8, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    Quite possibly the most pointless blog post I have ever read. Hey Tom, why don’t you tell us that Call of Duty isn’t life a real warzone next?

    Memorable quotes:

    “Real life footballers are actual people.”

    NO WAY! I thought they were robots?

    “The game is not real life.”

    FUCK IT! I thought my 50k a week contract managing Scunthorpe was legitimate.

    “Real life is a hell of a lot more complicated than clicking a button…”


  12. Jack said on August 8, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    I don’t understand the point of this. When has anyone ever said that Football Manager tactics are as complex as real life in a serious way? Of course people have joked about being able to manage a top team since they took their local town’s team from the bottom league to European Champions but they are not being serious.

    Get a grip.

  13. chrisquinn3 said on August 8, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

    Quite ironic that someone who sits on Twitter copying other people’s jokes has a pop at people for sitting behind a computer playing a game.

    This blog must be targeting the complete minority, whilst tarnishing the majority.

  14. Cormac said on August 8, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    Glad to see these comments. What a pointless article. To think I actually thought you had sense before this.

  15. CarmeloDGreat said on August 8, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

    Well, i must admit that i do play Football Manager alot, but that doesn’t make me believe i can Manage a top flight team straight away. Buy rather, it makes you appreciate Managers.. They only have “One Shot” at a game, u either Lose, Win or Draw, but in FM, u can Quit and start all-over again…

  16. 511jamestc said on August 8, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    This is poor. Deserves to be on your own private blog – not paddypower. Could have been an interesting piece but you’ve panicked.

    Did enjoy the opening.

    But stick to 140 characters.

  17. Paul said on August 8, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    Actually, the percentage of the transfer that goes back into the transfer budget varies depending on how confident the board are in you and how well you’ve been managing your finances. I’ve been playing for a long time and I’ve never seen it go above 90%

  18. bluesy said on August 8, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    A bit over dramatised perhaps but I get where your coming from. Most of my mates are fm obsessed, and when discussing real life football and potential signings I always hear “oh yeah! man, I’ve got him on fm, he gets amazing! would be a great signing” etc etc.
    Whenever players are mentioned this happens, and I always used to make various points about form and psychology – the things which are vitally important and cannot be accurately represented in a game where players are made of numbers, but I’ve given up trying to argue that now!
    That said, none of my mates think they could be good managers or anything like that, that not held true from my experience, it’s just the individual player stuff where they mention a player and babble on about how good they’re going to be.
    Lukaku is a decent example. He’s still young so he could still go on to be incredible but man my mates wound me up with that guy! Always saying how good he’s going to be cos thats what he does on FM etc etc and not realising he was only so highly rated on fm ’09 or whatever cos he was young and scored a few in the Belgian League.

  19. cadonee said on August 8, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

    Hello boys and girls, I’m four four tom and I’ve got bad news for you. Guiding your vitual pro player on fifa12 to stardom doesn’t mean you can kick a football, now do one.

  20. Rob Baney said on August 8, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    Can’t believe I actually read this whole article… so dull – although I shall attempt to out-dull you with my reply: I play Football Manager and would consider myself to have been rather obsessed with the game previously, hence on FM11 I proudly won the Premier League with Leyton Orient in my 11th season (2021/22.) But I don’t cheat, I mean christ after a surprise promotion (via Play-Offs) in my first season (10/11,) courtesy of Shane Smeltz’s 33 League goals, I was immediately relegated from the Championship the following year (11/12,) finishing with 22 pts in a season which included a point drought from the months of October to January. Anyway I am off topic here, the fact is I know this would never happen in real life; Leyton Orient will never win the Premier League, not for a good 20-40 years at the most optimistic/in the most extreme circumstances. Personally, I’d be surprised to see them in the Championship even 10-20 years down the line. But the great thing about the game is you can achieve the extremely unrealistic, legitimately too. Obviously you don’t just click “confirm signing” nor are you force in to delaying for a set week, you could delay for 5 hours if you wanted or do you have some mind reader assistant who knows how to please and motivate the assistant. I remember many seasons ago, actually back in the days of Championship Manager (the better game in my opinion) signing Vincent Kompany from Anderlecht as a 19 year old and a solid defensive midfielder who had a knack for scoring screamers. He did become one the best players on the game, probably peaked around now, back then, if you follow. But I did not claim to be his finder when he moved to City, nor did I believe they were playing him out of position at Centre-Back and nor did I believe he would score screamers on a regular basis if he were employed as a Defensive Midfielder.
    The game is undoubtedly fictional and simulated, but like you said it is “well-researched” and therefore has a significant element of truth towards it.
    Ultimately, Tom, I think you have too many friends/people you listen to that still play Football Manager and take fundamentalist action towards the game.

  21. DexterMorgan said on August 8, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

    Look mate, no one who’s played the game has ever thought, “oh managing a football team is so easy, because i’m doing so well on FM”! And people 99% of the people do not go on about new talents they think they know from the FM games.
    This is a stupid, pointless article.

  22. Monty Birley said on August 8, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

    everyone slating tom here needs to jam, Im pretty sure he is purposefully over exaggerating, and tbf the article is funny as well. And I know for one that so many people will converse with you about players and base their whole opinion about them on their football manager game, so everyone cut tom some slack, hes one of the best pundits on twitter.

  23. Andy said on August 8, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    Worst piece of journalism I have read in my 30 odd years on the planet. Please tell me someone isn’t paying this man to write?.. check his credentials again, i implore you.

    Tom has clearly lost the plot here, I know of no-one who has ever claimed to be up to managing a top flight team due to their FM skills.

    I challenge Tom to show me one piece of research behind this article which shows any of his claims to be true.

    Good job editor, lost another reader in me today..

  24. dsqd said on August 8, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    Thing is, players are researched in real life before they are put on the FM database, so while I obviously don’t believe that FM is always right, it’s no different to me believing your opinion, or that of the man in the pub, on the ability of some South American kid I’ve never seen play. Generally I’d rather see for myself before I make stupid proclamations about them though, as would all sensible people.

  25. BOB said on August 8, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    people have fun on Football Manager, there is not one person that believes that they can actually take Cheltenham town to the premier league in 3 years. It’s called getting the user to feel like their really involved in something. When someone says oh we should sign him, he’s good on Football Manager, i’m pretty sure their saying it in jest.

  26. Andy said on August 8, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

    This is hilarious. Is there anyone out there who actually believes that they could be a real manager based on FM success? Nobody would be stupid enough to believe such a thing.. except for the author of this blog obviously.

  27. AlmaMotherAlmaFather said on August 8, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

    I was not aware of that, thank you Tom.

  28. Zazz Hands said on August 8, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

    This is the most clichéd tripe I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

    FourFourTom won Twitter followers from tweets like “retweet if you think Thierry Henry is the greatest player of this generation”, or a mediocre Stewart Downing joke, or the fact that people thought he writes for Four Four Two.

    Now, his undeserved followership has given writing opportunities. There are others out there … not getting that. And if they do, perhaps not getting paid. Fairly clear Paddy Power has took on Tom for the hits, and not for an article that’s been written a thousand times before. Look all over the net, it’s there.

  29. Jettatura said on August 8, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Is this low-rent trolling what passes for sports journalism these days?

    Very disappointing.

  30. davidbrentz said on August 8, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    People that cheat on football manager. People like you. Absolute drivel.

  31. Carl said on August 8, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    Why the f*ck have I just wasted 120 seconds of my life reading this shit?! What a pointless article! Boring, mundane, poorly written.

  32. #1 Manager said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

    Bull crap. I won the Champions League with Yeovil and on the back of that I’ve already signed a pre-contract agreement in real life to take over from Fergie when he retires.

    So you can shove that in your bong and smoke it. It will undoubtedly serve you better than whatever the hell was in it when you thought writing this was a good idea..

  33. jermaine said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:17 pm


  34. Dave Gradt said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    What a terrible, pointless article. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone seriously mention that they should be a manager because of what they did on fm.

    Awful effort.

  35. JamesPond said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

    Classic lazy journalism, I’m assuming that Tom had a deadline to meet & needed to get a large enough word count to get his pay, it’s the only explanation for such a turgid piece of stating the bleeding obvious.

    Must be tough being a London based sports journalist/online commentator & having nothing else to write about……, just goes to prove that having a blog or twitter account doesn’t give someone the talent to be successful journalist.

  36. A.Nonomous said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

    FourFourTom is a bellend.

  37. Nick said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

    I find this blog utterly ridiculous, it’s a game, it’s popular and it’s fun. You could apply this logic to any game in the world and make every game appear pointless, but wouldn’t that be such a boring way to look at games and life? I can’t help but think… no, not think, I KNOW this was an utter waste of your time. You’ve not really established anything anyone didn’t already know.

  38. Ibs said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    The LEAST you could have done was try and make this funny. Put a comedy spin on it and give us a laugh otherwise, as many are asking, what was the point? I doubt you will find many people who take FM as seriously as you seem to be implying.

    But I guess you’ve got the hits (and probably paid) so I guess you win regardless, eh?

  39. Mikey said on August 8, 2012 @ 9:46 pm


  40. Sven 'FM Legend' Eriksson said on August 8, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

    The truth is…

    I am that guy! I believe playing football manager makes me capable of making real life decisions. Yes I believe I could manage Real Madrid better than Jose Mourinho.

    Over the countless hours playing the GAME I have discovered unbeatable tactics that I just wish were employed by managers in real life. It would be so much easier! With the squad ‘Arry had at Spurs last season I could easily have pissed the Champions League. It is simple real life managers just dont have the in depth insight into scouting and tactics I have developed over the years. /sarcasm

    Do you actually believe there are people like this in existence? This article is pointless and to be honest was an absolute waste of my time reading. Try again.

    Yours Sven

  41. SR said on August 8, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

    Please don’t let this idiot have a regular column.

  42. Isoceles said on August 8, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

    I have to say, this is a very poor article. It’s tone is incredibly patronizing, but despite that the worst thing is that it’s so over-exaggerated that the type of people portrayed in the article (those who think football management is just like Football Manager) don’t even exist. It just comes across as a bit of a holier-than-thou rant.

    So yeah, completely pointless. I expect better from Tom, though I have read some of his other work and it doesn’t show positive signs if I’m honest. I’m sure PaddyPower’s expecting better too…

  43. aunitedview said on August 9, 2012 @ 12:04 am

    A pen in your pocket doesn’t make you a writer.

    I fear for my betting offers from Paddy Power in the future. They won’t be able to afford to fund them if they keep paying you for the literary equivalent of a Diana Ross penalty.

  44. Gary said on August 9, 2012 @ 1:58 am

    Agree with most people here, very pointless article. I’m an avid fan of FM and have also NEVER met anyone who thinks football in real life transcends FM. Apart from what really must an absolutely minute proportion, I think most people who have tweeted they can manage to you have blatantly “trolled” you, like you have recently to Robbie Savage trying to seek further attention to your huge ego.

  45. Jake said on August 9, 2012 @ 2:03 am

    When has ANYONE ever said that FM is like real life football and they could be a succesful manager, take away people being sarcastic and there must be literally what? None?

  46. J said on August 9, 2012 @ 2:14 am

    “Freelance football writer”

    Go figure..

    ‘Nuff said..


  47. hublot said on August 9, 2012 @ 3:00 am

    have to say, after reading all this trash, the most ridiculous claim you made is in the last line: “FourFourTom is a football writer”

  48. Shane said on August 9, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    “I’m not saying any of this with the intention of badmouthing Football Manager”

    So you’re not badmouthing the game, just the people who play it?

  49. marcus said on August 10, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

    Love it when football manager players try to offer “tactics insight” on football message boards lol!

  50. dgov said on August 27, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    Shiver me timbers!
    Such drivel coming from the mouth of an opportunist little scamp who piggybacks on the name of a popular magazine.
    Me thinks little FourFourTom needs a good spanking.
    Either that or make him walk the plank!!!

  51. In Defence of Football Manager- FourFourToms unfair words. « THE BLOG OF TWO HALVES said on September 5, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

    […]  A few weeks ago, FourFourTom wrote a scathing article about about Football manager; saying it wasn’t realistic and that if you play it you don’t have the knowledge of a professional football manager. Here it is, read it if you haven’t already, otherwise this article won’t make sense: […]

  52. Nick said on December 22, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    Pointless piece. Desperate attempt to seem witty… just comes across as the guy who was desperate for friends in school and ended up telling a variety of awkward jokes that annoyed everybody. The fact this guy feels the need to question whether people believe a game related strongly to real life makes me think he used to be like that.

  53. Phil said on March 13, 2013 @ 1:08 am

    This guy is an idiot, does he seriously think people sit there after winning the champions league with Barnet and think ‘Coh, what’s so great about Sir Alex?’ Awful article, very patronising, would not want to hear from this idiot again. If paddy has any sense they’ll sack this little gimp and hire a decent football writer, not a whiney teenager.

  54. paul said on October 19, 2014 @ 9:18 am

    Probably the most pointless “article” I’ve read of yours to date.
    I’m sure if FM dropped you a few quid this article would be turned on its head.
    Poorly written and stupidly obvious dig at a stereotype.

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