The Joys and Despair of Football Manager

Every person who has played Football Manager (or Championship Manager as it used to be known) has a favourite. For me, it was Football Manager 2007. It has both ease of use and enough detail to make you think hard about tactics and transfers.

FM07 was so good that I did not play another version until I bought FM15 whilst bored in South Korea. It took me a long time to get into FM15, I found it hard to navigate and organise at first, as a couple of disastrous games with Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday testified.

Finally, I cracked it with AC Milan. Italy has always been good to me on Football Manager, and my stint as AC Milan allenatore has been an amazing success.

I took over a depressed AC Milan side who had finished eighth in the league under Max Allegri and Clarence Seedorf in 2013/14. I replaced Pippo Inzaghi, who had been in the job for just thirty days, thirty days too long for most Milan fans.

I wanted to develop an attacking 4-3-3 formation, but that was quickly exposed by brutal defeats to Parma and Cagliari. I retreated from my 4-3-3 to a more conservative 4-4-1-1, which featured some of the dourest football imaginable. Eventually, I came second in the my first season, ten points behind champions Roma, scoring a miserly 61 goals in 38 games.

In the second season though, we took off. We began a run of six successive league titles, most of which were won with embarrassing ease. In the 2017/18 season, for example, we were undefeated, winning thirty two and drawing six, whilst conceding just fourteen goals. In 2019/20, we broke the record for most points in a single season with 105, winning lo Scudetto by a whopping twenty eight points.

Europe though, was a much tougher ask. Our first three seasons in the Champions League saw us exit the group stage twice and lose in the round of 16 to PSG. I swore that if we did not reach the semi finals in 2018/2019 I would leave, instead I went all the way to the final in Cardiff.

It was not to be however, as my AC Milan side suffered heartbreak as Manchester City triumphed 1-0 in a poor game. Worst of all, I had a 93rd minute equaliser ruled offside, my explosion of joy turned to angry despair quicker than Sean Spicer telling a lie.

A change of philosophy was needed by 2019. My 4-4-1-1 was fine in Italy, but it had not translated onto the European stage. Instead of trying to nullify good teams strengths, it was time to impose my own, it was time for the return of 4-3 fucking 3.

It worked a treat, as I romped to the treble in 2020. At Old Trafford, where Milan won the Champions League in 2003 we triumphed again, beating PSG 3-1 in extra time thanks to a hat trick from my superstar Domenico Berardi.

In six years I have taken Milan from a major nadir to European success. Back in 2014, Milan fans wondered who this English coach who did not know Italian was, now they rank me alongside Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Gianni Rivera.

I have decided that the 2020/21 season should be my last with AC Milan, as there is nothing left to achieve. We won the Club World Cup, beating Sao Paolo on penalties, whilst cantering to the league title and a fifth Coppa Italian final in seven years. There was trauma in the Champions League though, as Bayern Munich overturned a 3-0 deficit to beat me 4-3 on aggregate in the semi finals, similar to what Deportivo La Coruna famously did to Milan in 2004.

Football Manager is one of those games that consumes your life. I hope that I am not the only one who daydreams about interviews with hostile journalists, or thinks up victory speeches when I have won a new trophy for my rejuvenated Rossoneri. The game cannot be played casually, it requires great dedication and perseverance to slog through pre-season, motivate your players, create the right tactics, sign good players and try and keep all of your squad happy. It is almost like being a real football manager.

Football Manager has brought equal amounts of pleasure and agony to me and millions of other people, long may it continue.

P.S – I wrote this because my girlfriend, bizarrely, refuses to listen to me talk about my game, strange woman.

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