R is for Football Manager in Real Life by @is_he_christoff

Football Manager allows you to create an entire parallel universe in which to immerse yourself, totally separated from the trials and tribulations of real life. The opening and closing of a laptop screen is normally all that is required to keep these two world sperate, but ever so occasionally, crossover happens.

Let me set the scene.

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m sitting on a bench in a school hall. There are 10 or 15 young kids excitedly kicking small, orange footballs around whilst waiting for a coaching session to start. Standing across from me, two dads are engaged in conversation. I know both men.

I’m livid with the pair of them—my blood boils. The arrogance they show by having this conversation in public, and in front of me no less, is staggering. The conversation pauses. Their eyes scan the room. They catch my gaze momentarily and then return to their chat.

I am disappointed with the smaller of the pair. I didn’t have an issue with him coming to me, but my reasoning was sound. He was illogical. We were on to a good thing, and I wanted him around. The other was much bigger and seated on the left; why the hell did he get involved? Things hadn’t exactly gone according to plan between us, but they had remained professional. I’d never doubted his character. But his actions have well and truly thrown me under the bus. Neither of will be here in 3 months at this rate.

This entire situation—a Mexican Standoff in a local sports hall—had unfolded in the preceding hour.

It’s early April, and I find myself in England’s 9th tier, managing my local team, Deeping Rangers. We are sitting third in the league, a single point behind Ansty Nomads and Skegness Town. We have a game in-hand. They have to play each other. We’ve gradually built the squad through the season, trialling players released by professional academies and snapping up those willing to play for £100 per week.

We will be going up and should do so as champions.

Inbox: 1 New Message

Littlehampton have made an offer for Matt Sparrow, an original member of the squad. I’ve moved on a lot of players this season, but Sparrow has over 30 goals and assists so far. He can play on either wing and would certainly command a place in the squad next season.

Littlehampton’s offer was also £0, non-negotiable and required Deeping to continue paying a percentage of the players wages…


Move on.

Prepare for tomorrow’s game against the bottom of the table, Loughborough Students.

Inbox: 1 New Message

Matt Sparrow would like to know why you rejected Littlehampton’s approach for him. Fair enough. Conversation starts…

I want to know why you rejected their offer.

The finances on the deal weren’t right.

I want to play at a higher level.

I am looking for us to achieve promotion this season.

I can’t wait that long.

The atmosphere is great here – would you want to leave that behind?

I can’t believe how you are treating me.

Look. I’ve made up my mind. You aren’t going anywhere.

I am not happy with how you have handled this…

Perhaps he has a point.

Could I have handled that differently?

Should I have promised to let him go in the summer?

Would that have gotten us to the end of the season?

There’ll be an overhaul of the squad come July anyway.

Inbox: 1 New Message

Captain Spencer Tinkler would like to speak to you about your treatment of Matt Sparrow.

I want to know why you didn’t let Matt Sparrow leave…

At this point, I’ve scrolled through the scripted responses, looking for the following response:

Listen Spencer, the deal was terrible. We would be paying to see our most creative player leave! He won’t be at a higher level either; they’re already down. We will be playing at that level next season. Also, Littlehampton is a 4-hour drive from here; how is he getting down there for training after he finishes work?

No such option exists. I have another ridiculous argument and can’t help but feel like Tinkler’s stirring the pot. Despite wearing the armband, he’s been a bit of a part player this season and will be considering his options in the summer.

Before long, Tinkler’s influence in the dressing room has turned numerous players against me and caused morale to collapse throughout the young and impressionable squad. The icing on the cake sees the club’s first-choice striker, Owen Derrant, a non-contract player, forego his £250 appearance fee and leave the club due to the poor atmosphere.

A gutless display results in a 2-0 loss to Loughborough and winning the title is no longer in our hands. Thanks guys. I really appreciate what you’ve done here.

Back in the real world, I’m obviously looking over at Matt Sparrow and Spencer Tinkler as they discuss their plans for that afternoon’s game while their kids enjoy some Tiny Tykes football.

Both are just normal blokes, perfectly pleasant in real life, but on that morning, for reasons I can never explain to them, they’d conspired to ruin me.

For previous A-Z entries, please visit: The A-Z of Football Manager.