13 things you think only you do when playing Football Manager
1. You get excited for the big occasions
We all know the stereotype – putting on a crisp suit for the cup final – is complete bollocks. Nobody has ever actually done that in their life, and I know this for one reason: nobody who’s that into this game would peel themselves away long enough to put one on, much less bother ironing it.
What does happen though, is equally a bit ridiculous – can of Tyskie on one side of the desk, small notepad on the other, pen squeaking miserably between your clammy little fingers. Didn’t make any notes for Hull away, did you? Didn’t need anything to calm the nerves when Portsmouth came to town?
You know you’re losing your grip slightly, but you definitely do care about winning the League Cup. Just to put a bit of morale back in the lads. Just a bit of morale. For the lads.
2. You develop an Arsene Wenger complex towards youth development
Like a child’s nightmare or a cursed vision in a Grimm’s fairy tale, you ride into town once a year, scouring every region of South America and snatching all the biggest, fastest kids away from their homes to join you in the faraway land of Norwich.
You’ll loan them out to Bremen and Zenit for six harsh years before selling them for an enormous profit, never to be heard from again, and the playgrounds of Santos and Buenos Aires will be hushed with fear and mourning for years to come.
3. You develop an Arsene Wenger complex towards expensive signings
You see City have just signed a new striker for about £50 million and you’re absolutely raging.
They’re just buying their trophies, and not even the proper way you do it, with cheap Turkish teenagers and England captain Jack Cork.
4. You fall hopelessly in love with one specific regen, and build your team around his numerous and significant flaws
Glad you asked. John ‘Big Boy’ Mellors is a full-back who looks like your weird short mate in third year who used to shout at his mam in front of you, and weighs about the same as a small car. He is very strong and very fast, and he gets sent off around ten times a season.
Despite, or perhaps because of this, he is the Supreme Bastard of Southampton and I've had him snapping ankles from Manchester to Madrid since he turned seventeen. If, through some miraculous accident of science or magic his incorporeal essence found flesh, he would be my best mate, and we would go on holidays together.
5. You obey a stricter moral code in the game than you do in your actual life
Like a soldier, broken by war and desperate for release, being seduced by the enemy, you are torn between your duty and your passion. Everything in your body screams at you to hit ‘Quit Game and Exit’ and replay the match when Burnley grab a last minute winner and you really needed the point, but you always hold back – if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.
Remember: if Marcelo Bielsa couldn’t do it, neither can you.
6. You figure out how the game’s economics work, and you become all Donald Trump about it
“What’s that you have there? 16 year old wonderkid? Worth £20 million already, is he? And you say I can’t have him?
“Here’s what we’ll do: £1 million upfront, and £80 million in future clauses that I have absolutely no intention of fulfilling. Fuck you, and fuck your club.”
You tell yourself you’re a winner for beating the system, but you know deep down you’re a liar and a cheat.
7. You become the Big Bad Bastard of Contract Renewals
Your players are your children, and you would protect them with your life. Until it’s time to renew their contracts, that is, at which point you become King Dickhead, and your 40-goal a season striker is under some very fucking serious delusions if he thinks he’s getting more than £50k-a-week.
“International Cap Bonus? I’m not paying you to play for somebody else!” you scream in your head, throwing an imaginary-but-very-scolding mug of coffee at the wall behind a terrified Luciano Vietto.
8. You set the highlights to ‘Extended’ for big games, as if you actually understand how tactics work
"Hmmm, I seem to not be 1-0 up after the first highlight like I usually am. Should I change something? Is this normal? Let’s have a look – Closing Down more? Less? Why would I close down less? What about: Direct Passing? Is that good? Should I just stick with short passing, like a coward?"
You hit the ‘Retain Possession’ setting which never works and settle back in for more of this excruciating tactical gridlock.
9. You constantly sign free agents you have absolutely no use for
You didn’t need Pablo Aimar, or his hefty wages, to bring that Europa League spot home. But you signed him anyway, because you saw him do a good free kick when you were 10.
10. You give detailed press conferences in your own head when you go to the toilet
Well, Chris, at the end of the day, me and the boys gave everything on the pitch today – Stevie was superb when he came on, we needed something different down that left flank and he’s been brilliant for us today - you can’t fault the effort and we’re looking ahead to next week to correct our mistakes before we ahh fuck there’s no toilet paper left.
11. You hand out ruthless two-week fines for every red card incurred
Appeals never work, so you have no choice but to stamp your authority on the debutant goalkeeper whose last-minute mistake – with the game already won - earned him a red by telling him he’s not cut out for this level and releasing him from his contract.
12. You start to think of actual football solely in terms of Football Manager
It starts off with a weird bit of craic at the pub – “Yannick Bolasie’s got great physical attributes, but I don’t fancy his technicals!” you declare to an array of complacent, dismissive faces.
Then it’s in the big WhatsApp group, you’ve noticed that Watford's squad consists, to a man, of “players you'd see every year but never sign in the ‘Contract Expiry 6 months’ search”, to a deafening silence, broken only by a mercifully irrelevant meme off Twitter.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) November 6, 2016
You’re not invited for Christmas any more after you showed your uncle – a man from a simpler time, a time where the only tactical requirements for a defender were ‘Big’, ‘Hard’ and ‘Bald’ – a brief summary of the mental attributes that will hold back Nathaniel Clyne from flourishing into a truly world class full-back.
13. You use the search to see which players list you as ‘favoured’
This is Football Manager’s nearest equivalent to sneaking into the player’s houses and reading their diaries.
Not quite good enough for you am I, Danny Ings? Prefer Gordon Strachan, do we? Perhaps you’ll have a change of heart while you’re rotting in the reserves for the rest of your contract.