So why aren’t you managing the Spurs, then?
Anyhow how hard can it be to manage an elite football team?
Why can’t everyone get a chance to prove that deep inside them lurks a Pep Guardiola or a Jose Mourinho (above). Thousands of Football Managers out there who even now are giving their August teamsheet a baleful scan. Photograph: John Walton/PA
Years ago, when Ireland was flooded with champagne, the then Dublin football manager Tommy Lyons sat in the dressing-room in Croke Park after a particularly swashbuckling victory for the Dubs and, in a freewheeling exchange with the press, he was quizzed about other sports and teams and the whole concept of management. It was then he uttered the words which thousands of men secretly say to themselves year after years: “I’d love to give Manchester United a crack, lads”.
And even if the prospect of the United board gently suggesting to Alex Ferguson that he move upstairs because there was a new kid in town was far-fetched, it didn’t seem like the wildest idea in the world.
There was something fascinating about the idea of Tommy strolling into the Old Trafford dressing room at half-time of a lacklustre 0-0 November game against Wigan Athletic and informing a stunned Jaap Stam that he wasn’t so much defending as “arseboxing”.
This was the era when the mood of the-Irish-can-do-anything was rampant. Didn’t some Irish geezer own United anyhow? Didn’t the Irish own Claridges, for God’s sake? After all, the Dubs were regularly selling out the magnificent ‘new’ Croke Park in those summers: they brought more punters through the turnstiles than Barcelona and United.
And how hard could managing a Premier League outfit be anyhow? 4-4-2 or 3-5-1; pass or shoot, this point is moot. Keep picking van Nistelrooy up front, stay out of Roy Keane’s way and let the trophies keep coming. It was a cinch.
The Dubs, in comparison, had to deal with the extraordinary pressure of trying to win the capital’s first All-Ireland since 1995 and with the wonderful quirks which every GAA summer produces. A season in English football would be a walk in the park.
The question remains: how hard can managing an elite football team be? And why isn’t that particular jobs market more open and transparent? Why can’t everyone get a chance to prove that deep inside them lurks a Pep Guardiola or a Jose Mourinho?
This week comes the gripping news that Football Manager 2014 (out in time for the Christmas tree) will include over 1,000 new improvements, including more realistic transfers and contracts and more sophisticated board interaction and (best of all) improved interaction with players, staff and media.
This was bewildering news to those of us whose idea of a snazzy fantasy football game is limited to a set of Subbuteo figures not held together by cellotape.
But it was undoubtedly terrific news for the hundreds and thousands of Football Managers out there who even now are giving their August teamsheet a baleful scan and spending long nights thinking about that tricky home opener against the Gunners. And in a considerate improvisation, the creators of Football Manager have now made it possible for their managers to enjoy “the most authentic and immersive simulation of real world football management wherever you may be in the world.” (WTF, I hear you whisper). That may seem like a polite way of saying that you can allow this powerfully attractive computer game to completely obscure tedious distractions like work, bills and real people.
-Boss: “You told me you’d have that contact report on my desk a week ago.”
-Football Manager -“Yeah, but I just bought Bale for 80 mill.”
Verisimilitude of experience is what the brave new century is all about and you can’t be a proper manager unless you fret about your empire morning, noon and night. So there are thousands of de facto Brendan Rogerses and Arsene Wengers wandering unrecognised in our midst.