Football Manager is a ruthless killer of social lives, but we love it all the same.
Hello ladies and gentlefolk. Now, if you're like me, a combination of Championship Manager and Football Manager will have taken a fair chunk out of your life to date. I'm pretty sure that I can put down slightly disappointing exam results at school, and my failed degree to the addictiveness of watching my team get beat by a last minute goal when I had registered 131 shots on target to the opposition's two. It's happened to the best of us.
So, who better to talk to right now than friend of Roker Report - Iain Macintosh - who has a new book out next month entitled, 'Football Manager Stole My Life'. Rather than having to listen to me going on about it, why not hear from the man himself? Roker Report, once again, meets Iain Macintosh...
Hi Iain, can you tell us what to expect from the book?
Iain Macintosh: If you're a Football Manager addict and you've always wondered if you're a bit odd, then this book will say, "Yes. Yes, you are a bit odd. But you are not alone." This is an exhaustive account of the Football Manager story, the people behind the game, the people who play the game and the people who have been affected by the game. This is a book for YOU.
Sounds perfect for me. How did you come up with the idea?
IM: I actually pitched this book to a publisher back in 2008, but they weren't even slightly interested. They couldn't understand why people might want to read about a computer game. I'd all but given up on the idea until I heard that Backpage Press were producing their own version. I put a mournful message on Twitter bemoaning my ill fortune and they got in touch offering me a role in the production of the book. Naturally, I bit their arm off.
It's not just your book, it's a joint project, how did you split the workload?
IM: Neil White, one of the Backpage Press head honchos writes the central narrative, the story of the game. Then there's Kenny Millar, scouring the world for Football Manager legends and talking to them about their alternative reality lives. Then there's me with the silly bits, including the transcript of a session with a psychologist who counseled me on my addiction. Added to that are the stories from the gamers themselves, including the one who set a wastepaper bin alight to make his 'visit' to Galatasaray more atmospheric.
Between Championship and Football Manager, I've probably lost out on good GCSE, A-Levels and a degree, but how much of your own life has Football Manager actually stolen?
IM: I played the first one in 1992 and I think I've bought and played every version since then. I have wasted, and continue to waste, months of my life on it and I don't know why. I can't let go. When I think about the things that I could have achieved with my short time on this planet, I weep.
What is your personal craziest/strangest story about the game?
IM: Me and some mates took the data editor for the 97/98 version and removed Shrewsbury, replacing them with our university team. Every player had 'accurate' statistics, argued over for hours. In fact, I think we spent three times as much time debating the stats as we did actualy playing it.
It was the night that Simon Mayo tried to host Radio 1 for over 24 hours and we did our best to match him hour for hour. From 6pm until about 4am we played that game, splitting the managerial duties in a unruly, and at times violent, three-way split. It remains the most absurd waste of time in my life.
In the book, we've heard from one player who 'introduces' his team to the visiting dignitaries by shaking hands with a door knob while flicking through their player profiles. That's superb.
Within the book, can we expect to hear from any of the game's hidden gems, such as Cherno Samba?
IM: Yep, we've got Cherno, we've got my favourite Mike Duff, but most importantly we've got TonTon Zola Moukoko, the CM01-02 legend. He's actually coming over to London for the launch week in August. Apparently, we're going to play five a side football with him. I expect him to start slowly and then go on to dominate the game.
My own memories of Champ' Man' start in about 1995 (I think) when Crewe's Neil Lennon was a monster AM. When did you first fall into the CM trap?
IM: I had the very first one, without player names. Immediately it was obvious that this was a very different, very powerful game. For the first time, you revolved around the game, the game didn't revolve around you. The fact that you had to perform in order to be allowed to play, that the game could sack you at any time if it didn't rate you, that was the bit that really gripped me.
On the game, who were the players that you would sign time and time again?
IM: In CM01-02 it was Mike Duff, the £9k right-back who goes on to win title after title after title.
In FM07, my other favourite, it was Antoine Sibierski. If you played him in a 4-4-2 and directed everything to his head, he was unbeatable. Put someone quick alongside him, like Robert Earnshaw, and he'd head long goal kicks into his path three or four times a game. He was amazing. I don't get as much time for the game these days, but Joel Matip stood out as a favourite for me.
Do you have one particular 'save' that you look back most fondly on?
IM: There's the Southend United side that I took to UEFA Cup glory in CM97/98, but then there's the Sibierski Norwich side that I took up on FM07. But, I then foolishly deserted when Spurs came calling. I think I won the title with that Spurs side, but I missed my Norwich team horribly.
If you were to make a Football Manager 'Dream XI' of must haves, who would be in it?
IM: Oooh, good question. For a bargain CM01-02 side, I'd go for: Maik Taylor (GK), Mike Duff (RB), Lewis Emanuel (LB), Darren Moore (DC), Issac Okoronko (DC), Keith Gillespie (MR), Mark Kerr (CM) Stefan Selakovic (CM) Ryan Williams (ML) Johnny Allen (FC) and Stephen McPhee (FC).
Do you still get chance to play the game much with a youngster in the house?
IM: Nowhere near as much, sadly. I've dipped my toe back in the water this summer, but my days of extended exposure are over now, I fear. It's not really good form to combine fatherhood for FMhood. They frown upon that in the parenthood manuals.
And, most importantly of all, where might people be able to get hold of a copy?
IM: I'm glad you asked! It's available on Amazon (click here) as both a Proper Book and a digital download on Kindle and Apple. It's released on August 10th.
With that, I'd like to thank Mr Macintosh for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the book. If you're love of Football Manager is anything like mine (and more of the other Roker Report lads too), then I have no doubt that you'll be buying this book and reading it in about two days flat. Why not go and preorder it now, to make sure you get it as soon as possible?