Football Manager: One of Gaming and Sport’s Greatest Success Stories

An alternate universe, one of the most addictive games I have ever played, cited in at least 35 divorce cases, Football Manager is an institution. It’s almost a cult, but on a huge scale.

It’s played by the average Joe who wants to pretend to be a football manager and even famous people, such as comedians like Kevin Bridges and Jason Manford, musicians like Robbie Williams and Jon McClure from Reverend and the Makers, people in the footballing world like BBC commentator Guy Mowbray, Spurs winger Andros Townsend and ex-Manchester United forward Ole Gunnar Solksjaer (who based his tactics in real life management at Molde in Norway on his in-game tactics).

Created in 1992 under the Championship Manager name, by Paul and Oliver ‘Ov’ Collyer, the Football Manager franchise has grown from strength to strength over the years, giving people the opportunity to make themselves legends in their own minds and create brilliant stories, like that time I took Hull City from Division 3 to the Premiership and to the Champions league in Championship Manager 03/04, thanks – in part – to the goals of Football Manager legends Cherno Samba and Anatoli Todorov.

“Thank you to everyone who ever worked on that game. You are all genius and I love you all.” James Corden
“Thank you to everyone who ever worked on that game. You are all genius and I love you all.” James Corden

Every player has stories to share. So much so that there has been a book written, Football Manager Stole My Life by Iain MacIntosh, and even a recent documentary: An Alternate Reality. It’s also been encompassed into many stand up routines, including it’s own sold out Edinburgh show by FM obsessive Tony Jameson, where he talks about his experiences playing the simulation, including his 35 year stay as Blyth Spartans manager taking the club from the Northern League to Champions league glory.

There are some incredible stories about people who have played the game. Macintosh himself once wore a suit and played Abide With Me through Spotify before managing a team in an FA Cup final and there have been stories of people going even further, for example there was one lad who was shaking hands with the doorknob before a cup final pretending it was Princess Michael of Kent and he was introducing the team and another one who before a European match in Istanbul, opened the window and set his bin on fire to recreate the hostile Turkish atmosphere.

“I got addicted to Football Manager AGAIN. They warned Ayda what would happen but I don’t think she was quite prepared for what was to come.” Robbie Williams.
“I got addicted to Football Manager AGAIN. They warned Ayda what would happen but I don’t think she was quite prepared for what was to come.” Robbie Williams

One young Swedish student even took his experience outside the game when he was given the chance to manage Azerbaijani side FC Baku’s ‘A’ team (the equivalent to their reserves) based exclusively on his Football Manager experience.

It’s the scouting network though that catapults the game from just another football simulation into the juggernaut that it is. They have researchers at every single club in England, as well as lots of others worldwide, 1300 in total. Actual clubs, such as Everton, in recent times have used the scouting network to help find players in real life for their teams. This is because the FM database has become an important part of Pro-Zone which actual clubs use in order to scout possible signings.

The game itself has correctly predicted the rise of several real life superstars including Mario Mandzukic, Neymar, Hatem Ben-Arfa and Vincent Kompany. But probably the most famous one in real life begins with former Rangers manager Alex McCleish’s son, who told his dad in 2002 that a very young kid, Lionel Messi, would end up being the best player in the world. 2 or 3 years later Rangers tried to sign Messi on loan which was met by a resounding no, however they were close to signing another Barca youngster on loan, Andres Iniesta, until he played once for their first team then the rest was history.

In game however there were some legendary players that everyone who’s ever played the game will remember, most of which were cult heroes who didn’t quite make the grade in real life. Tonton Zola Moukoko is probably the most famous, an absolute beast of a striker who’d score a hatful of goals for any team he was in. Other heroes include Nii Lamptey, Mark Kerr and Freddy Adu.
There is a new version out now, and it’s once again been improved and revamped with some brilliant additions. For the first time, the match engine has benefited from the use of motion capture technology making it more realistic than ever before. The side bar has been brought back and the general layout seems easier to use. There is more of a focus on diverse management styles and many more options for conversations with both your team and journalists, building up more of a realistic picture of the in game world as a whole.

As well as the general spit and polish updates to the previous game and the annual stats update, one of the real differences in Football Manager 2015 is the new scouting network. Based more on real life, your scouts need to follow certain players for a while in order to build up a better picture of a certain player. You may not be able to even see how a person is feeling at their own club unless you scout them, for example. However the reports are considerably more accurate than in previous incarnations, stating how they would fit in with your club, and a layout of all the pros and cons that the player possesses. Here is an example: I instructed my scouts to follow a young Austrian player, who I’m tipping to be a wonderkid on this game, called Sascha Horvath, for 3 months in order to get a full, comprehensive picture if he was right for my club.

For all you other FM players, don’t worry he starts off at Austria Wien, not at Bayern, so it’s not impossible to sign.

The sky is the limit for this once little game, started as an idea by two brothers, with a seemingly increasing influence over the real life game, millions of sales, books, a film and thousands of addicted followers, Football Manager has become a juggernaut of a franchise that has no signs of letting up. After all, as one of the creators Miles Jacobson says; “It’s not a game – It’s a second job.”

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.