Football Manager is a game series spanning twenty years, with an unparalleled ability to suck you in and take over your life. Essentially you are, as the title hints, the manager of a football club, and have the ability to sign players, hire and fire, set your tactics and training, then watch the outcome on the pitch. There’s so much depth to the game that it is notorious for ruining everything from GCSE revision to entire marriages.
Football Manager Stole My Life is a new book by Iain Macintosh, Kenny Millar and Neil White. Actually, I say “book”, but it reads more like a conversational collection of magazine features, with a real reluctance to edit ANYTHING out. You get the benefit of every single minute of their research and conversations leading up to publication.
I read it in pretty much one sitting, and upsettingly the premise is far, far better than the execution.
The first chapter is an interview with the guys who first created the game. This should be really interesting, but a desire to not cut a single word out and include every banal bit of irrelevant chat leads to weird extended bits like this:
Paul: “I think we’ve still got the cover here, somewhere. Can you have a look for it?”
Oliver: “I’ll have a look over here, but I don’t know if it’s there”
There’s nuggets of interest in there, like how they created the first databases and the development of their scouting network, but that’s as in-depth or interesting as the book gets. Football Manager notoriously employs over 1,000 scouts from around the world to produce a database so detailed that even Everton FC have licensed a copy.
Then there’s interviews with the chief scouts of loads (and bloody loads) of different countries, which all follow the same pattern – The chief scout in Portugal was a big fan of the game, watched Deco in an U15s match and correctly predicted that he’d be huge. The chief scout in Belgium was a big fan of the game, watched Vincent Kompany in an U15s match and correctly predicted that he’d be huge. And so it continues into chapter-skipping infuriation.
Then there’s interviews with players who are described as “FM Legends”. Basically, the scouting team have to predict how good a player will be, and when they fuck it up by making Johnny Dogshit a world-beater, the game’s fans will take him to heart.
Repetition is again the name of this chapter – the interviews are all exactly the same, and there’s hundreds of them. Most had no idea that Football Manager even existed until they joined Twitter, and some obsessive nerds (who’d have thought that the Venn Diagram of “FM players” and “Twitter users” would have so much crossover?) told them about it.
For some horrible, book-padding reason, a whole chapter is devoted to a piece of – I don’t know what it is, fan fiction? – with an extended account of an alternate, fictional 2001-2011. Now, there’s nothing more boring than hearing a long-winded account of someone else’s dream, but hearing about fictional game history is almost up there. Who cares? Even slightly?
Message board posts are copy and pasted (including their username, “registered on” date, and all that guff you get attached to posts). Two nerds go and see a Dutch club that got promoted to the Eerste Division, because they were vaguely fond of them in game. This is drawn out for page after page.
I don’t want to call them ALL Billy Bullshitters, but every single post starts by discussing how they won the Champions League with Bishop’s Stortford, 19 times in a row. Once again, the chapter is incessantly repetitive, banging on and on and on with barely believable and even less interesting stories.
The final chapter, and almost 20% of the book, is another piece of fiction that nobody has any reason to read, ever.
There’s precious little about the history of FM, no great stories, and tedious, repetitive interviews. I ended up getting bored with every single chapter and skipping to the end, and read through the entire thing in about an hour. The editing is dogshit, the tone is funny in the same way that Mock the Week is funny, and the readers’ stories all sound like utter bollocks. Nobody ever mentions spending half a weekend faffing about in pre-season only to lose humiliatingly in the first match of the season. Against Wolves.
There’s literally no reason to buy this book, it’s a waste of a cracking opportunity. At £7 for the barely-formatted Kindle edition, a real disappointment.