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Football Manager 2019 Review

Monday 24th December 2018
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Please do not call me arrogant because what I say is true. I’m European champion, I’m not one out of the bottle, I think I’m a special one.

You can be a Special One too. Even better, no one will sack you if one season turns out to be less than special. For 14 years, Football Manager has epitomised fantasy sports management. The latest edition, Football Manager 19 creates a world away from the hassles of everyday life as you indulge countless hours in a pseudo-football world. Is it real? Is it just fantasy? There is no clear division between the two when it comes to this fantastic software which may change your marital status.

“No, I am not coming to bed tonight, I am on a great cup run with Plymouth Argyle!"

My father played Football Manager before the infamous split between Eidos and Sports Interactive. I would often be told the tales of his Rochdale side who went on to dominate European football through visionary signings which took the club way beyond Spotland’s reality.  Fully grown, I met countless people with their own football manager folklore to recount. Friends, people I met at university. Football Manager is a long-standing tradition for any football gamer.

Prior to this incarnation, I fondly remember spending my second year at university in the bowels of the Britannia, now referred to as the Bet365 for less romantic commercial purposes. That was the 2012 edition. I played it and the 2010 version, the hardest, until they broke and would no longer load. I thoroughly dismantled Tony Pulis' squad, bringing in complacent second-string stars from Europe, Nene from PSG in particular. Sadly, all good things come to an end. After a title challenge season, I decided I should really study. I put the game down, never playing that save again.

In addition to making my student fees worth it all, the need to keep up to date mandated investing in newer versions. The question is whether I should have bothered or, more specifically, should you spend your hard-earned Christmas bonus on FM19?

The short answer is I think so. Here's why.

Aldous Huxley

This feels like a big year in the series. You get that impression from the minute you load the game up. Sure there’s the obligatory licensing information but afterwards… wow. It’s a sleek, brand new world. The old look wasn’t bad, but incredibly dated. I hadn’t been refreshed in a long time. FM19 reinvigorates the entire experience.

Starting up a file has a fresh feeling too. Previously the induction/beginner left you in one of two states: dropped in the deep end of the pool when you don't know how to swim or wrapped in cotton wool. Zen arrives in the new edition. A delightful medium can be struck. Even an experienced player like myself [sad act], learns new points about the game's inner workings.

This came particularly useful when training. That, in addition to the tactics section, underwent the biggest overhaul. Iit is still possible to leave the grunt work entirely to the assistant manager. It will plot who does what during the week but the level of detail is awesome. I can cherry pick players, then fine-tune their training to, in theory, ensure clean sheets and 30+ goal campaigns.

The problem is the game is too authentic. As in the real thing, your time and effort can go right down the drain. Talk about being the Special One. It's entirely disheartening when the default settings prove more successful on the pitch than your tailor-made “train until you score a bicycle kick” plan. I recommend easing into your new post. Delegate more in the early doors, until you've scoped the lay of the land.

Wunderbar

FM19 welcomes official licensing from the top two Bundesliga divisions. You can now see the real badges and player faces when controlling top Deutschland sides. Ja, geh rein!

Family Tradition

So how did I get on? Not bad. As a homage to my father’s work in Greater Manchester, I opted into Spotland, aka Crown Oil Stadium for those pesky commercial purposes, taking the reigns of Rochdale. C’mon the Dale!

A pre-season of good results excited the fans. Signing Shola Ameobi on a free may have lowered expectations, yet most were impressed with the acquisition of Gedion Zelalem who played out of his skin prior to competitive games.

When league football came around, back-to-back losses made me wonder what dad was thinking. I started a new save with Real Madrid. I will go back to Rochdale. I just wanted to compare chalk-and-cheese clubs for a better journalistic license on the subject matter.

[checks to see if anyone believes him, unsure but hopeful, moves on]

Real needed a striker so I flexed some muscle. I got Christian Benteke. I didn't really want Benteke. I wanted Harry Kane but the games hyper-reality made it difficult budge any of the elite players who serve as marketing campaigns. Spurs set a price so high it wasn't feasible. This is unlike FIFA where £130,000,000 can buy you, Salah, no questions from Klopp. That kind of capital is hard to come by on this game. Even then, you’d have a myriad of clicking to get your hands on any player of Kane's ilk at their peak.

Whether you’re rebuilding a legacy club, continuing one or climbing the leagues with a lower tier side, FM19 offers an immersive gaming experience. If you don’t have the time to commit to everything I’ve detailed, you can delegate a lot to your subordinate workers and just turn up for match days. Hello, Ed Woodward. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you should manage the U21s as well to keep an eye for any players who can help the senior side. Who has the time? I'm just saying you should strike a balance. 

However committed you choose to be, Football Manager 19 is a cracking play. You'll rack up so many hours in front of the monitor, you'll make the Special One look like a Sunday League gaffer. If the notion makes you happy, get onto their website or down to the shop if you need something to do on Christmas Day. There's still time. Enjoy.

Happy Holiday!
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 


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