It may be an odd question but it is one that isn’t just posed about Football Manager Handheld but Football Manager in general. You remember that kid you were raving about 2 years ago? Yes the one that is now being tipped for glory after signing for Inter Milan. Was he worth £10m, in your eyes yes but why? While you may be an avid fan of Dinamo Zagreb in the world renowned Croatian league it is more than likely you have snapped him up for only a few thousand on Football Manager only for him to turn out to be a stunning playmaker with the best passing ability the world has ever seen.
“So what it is one player?” I hear you ask, but is it? Romelu Lukaku appeared in the game back in 2010 and immediately grew to be a rival for the golden boot in every league you could get him on and then he signed for Chelsea making Champions League appearances as well as a lot more money per week, he’s currently lighting up West Brom’s squad on loan with his goals. Onto the future and Ganso is still in Brazil but is constantly tipped with Arsenal despite leaving Santos for Sao Paulo last summer, the playmaker was being undermined by superstar Neymar yet still crazy money is being thrown around in the newspapers that Arsenal are going to pay for this supposed wonderkid but is he? Football Manager says yes and any Arsenal fan who plays the game will be able to sit in the stands one Saturday afternoon at The Emirates Stadium and tell his fellow fans all about what he will bring to the squad like he has watched him 100 times. Newcastle fans all but know about how it is like to sign unknown players that turn out amazing, just listen to how they praise Cabaye yet how many had heard about the French midfielder before? Well if you played Football Manager odds are you have. He was solid in midfield with a passing range that matches Alonso he was a cheap version to Schweinstieger back in 2008-2010.
While it is true not every player who has been tipped for greatness on the game has seen it happen; yes I am looking at you Freddy Adu, Kerlon and Lulinha, but the success ratio of this great game has not only inspired the next set of managers and meant clubs use the database but is having an effect on regular players too. It is testament to the great staff team at Sports Interactive and in particular the scouts that now Everton have an official deal with the company to use the database in their scouting system. With all this it is hard to say that a Football Manager fan doesn’t have an advantage over a regular football fan, thousands of hours go into the scouting and shaping of the database and that is just for one or two leagues, the wide range of players available with a near perfect analysis of each one had led to many giants being predicted way before their time to shine. This in my opinion leads to a massive advantage of playing Football Manager, the attributes allows you to analyse a player’s abilities like you’ve seen him so much over the past few years when really you are reading the results of someone who has.
Yet it doesn’t end there, oh no. While I have proved that yes, the average Football Manager player is perhaps a smarter football fan in terms of scouting, this isn’t the end. What about clubs and leagues? How many understand the MLS draft system? Different leagues have many different formats and while standing on the sidelines (pun intended) watching everyone else deal with it may be fun for a while it isn’t as productive as actually being involved in it and having to make the draft picks or being involved in a league with special rules and systems. Not only does it allow you as the player to understand them by being involved but also seeing the pros and cons and exploring a new region with different styles and players than what you may be used to your country.
Has your team ever played another and you’ve been able to name their key threats despite never seeing a game of theirs? I know I have when Corinthians played Chelsea in the Club World Cup final, this cannot be a coincidence it is subconscious state of learning by playing Football Manager.
So yet again Football Manager creates a smarter fan in this aspect with pundits included in this due to sheer lack of research on their part a lot of the British media and Television commentators lack any depth in opinion when it comes to the Champions League and Europa League games when the teams are not well known like Barcelona and this was indicated in the commentary given against Basel when they lacked any facts beyond a quick Google and knew none of the players’ abilities beyond the odd mention that Degen used to play for Liverpool. This just shows how Football Manager can help create a better and wider field of view leading fans to talk and follow more unknown leagues due to their enhanced knowledge that they probably wouldn’t have acquired if they didn’t go “let’s play in Switzerland.”
Now while I have highlighted the research and general football side of things Football Manager is very different to FIFA or any other game where you control the team. With Football Manager it is a lot more in depth and you have to think like a manager constructing a squad and arranging them, you get to know what makes a team tick and this requires more knowledge than passing, shooting and tackling that most football games require. Without Football Manager would you be able to realise how teams are put together and recognise certain shapes and styles of a team and a player. Many football fans think that their manager could improve and they’re always the first to point the blame for one thing or another such as a bad result, but do they really know what they are talking about? Would that inclusion of Ryan Giggs in the 70th minute really have helped the defence? You know he isn’t a box to box midfielder but Mr Know It All down the pub doesn’t even know what a box to box midfielder is! The aim of Football Manager is to be realistic and this has been proved with the success story of Andre Villas-Boas who claims he learnt all he could about football management from the game. Ole Gunnar Soljskaer also claimed he spent months on the game before his first managerial job and he lifted the title at the end of his first season! This just proves further the validity of Football Manager as not only a fun game but also it helps shape a new breed of football fans, a smarter breed that can hold their own in a football debate but also take it to the next level all down to one game with hours of dedication invested into it.