Book Review: Football Manager Stole My Life

Published: 2012

Football Manager is more than just a game, it’s an obsession that occupies far too much time of those who have succumbed to its orgy of statistics, realism and ‘just one more game’ mentality. I am among the fallen, having played more entries in the series than I can count and spent more human months than I care to remember.

Sport Interactive’s legendary series of football management games has spawned a subculture that has attracted millions of members, each with their own in-game and real life stories to share.

Football Manager Stole My Life is a celebration of this community and aggregates these tales into a collection that every fan of the series can relate to, even if it falls short of completely explaining the phenomenon.

More Than Just A Game

Written by three fanatics with an unhealthy appetite for the game, there is no overarching theme, to the book but is instead divided into a number of chapters that examine different aspects of Football Manager.

The authors track down players that different iterations of the game predicted would be global superstars, only for their careers to take slightly different trajectories. Just about every player of a certain age will recognise the illustrious names of Cherno Samba, Tonton Zola Moukoko and, one of my favourites, Ryan Williams.

The fabled Football Manager scouting network is detailed, offering fascinating insight into how the statistics are compiled, while another chapter documents players’ accounts of how the game has impacted their life – positively or negatively. Celebrities and public figures experiences with the series are also featured, demonstrating just how diverse the Football Manager fanbase is.

There is an entire chapter on one of the author’s ten year campaign in Championship Manager 01-02, while the book concludes with an interesting mini-novelisation of a Football Manager scenario.

A Missed Opportunity?

The most interesting content however, is a series of interviews with the Collyer brothers, the creators of the original Championship Manager, and current studio director Miles Jacobson. These reveal some of the history behind the series’ evolution, problems that the developers encountered and other anecdotes, but they feel disjointed and it would have been better if they were turned into a more serious narrative.

I recall reading a feature on the now-defunct Tiscali website in which the Collyers described the origins of Championship Manager, including how the sole copy of the game would have been stolen during burglary at one of the brothers’ university halls, but for a premonition to hide the hard-disk in a wardrobe.

In this book there are no such revelations and the messy divorce between Sports Interactive and Eidos is rarely touched upon, although this is almost certainly due to legal reasons that prevent it from being discussed.

As such, FM Stole My Life feels like a series of extended magazine features than a proper in-depth analysis or history of Football Manager, yet, due to the authors’ research skills and creativity it remains essential reading for amateur managers.

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