Ian Football, Part 1: “Barren Spell”

Related to another Ian

A sad truth: it would, perhaps, be all too easy to pen another RPG diary. It’s all about the anecdotes, rather than discovery and learning. I’ve had an itch to start work on another mega-long feature for a while, but I’ve struggled to identify a game I’d like to do it with – I want to surprise myself, not repeat myself. So, when a Twitter shout-out brought up the presumably mickey-taking suggestion of Football Manager 2012, it actually made perfect sense. I know almost nothing about football, after all, apart from that it features an angry man called Wayne who has hair plugs and likes prostitutes. Truly, I would be a stranger in a strange land. I would learn. I would struggle. I would suffer. I might even learn a little something about feet and balls. Are you hunching uncomfortably in front of your PC? Then let us begin.

My name is Ian Football, and by an absolutely astonishing coincidence I am a football manager by trade. A first-time manager, admittedly: before that I worked at a cat sanctuary. One day, I will be a great football manager. Today is not that today – which means that, for now, I am lumbered with what some have described as “the hardest club to manage” in the entirety of English football. It’s not my fault. Here’s what happened.

As well as being inexperienced, I was born and raised in the uninspiring West Midlands, UK city of Worcester, therefore I felt a certain duty to begin my career managing Worcester City FC, even though I had in fact fled that dingy, pointless town the instant I reached adulthood and even though the club currently festered in the bottom echelons of the Blue Square Bet North league. It would be noble, and it would be beautiful. Despite this being the town of my birth, I was somehow entirely unaware of the club’s history. So, suffice it to say all colour bleached out of my face, ran down my torso and disappeared out the room at a rate of knots when I read this is in the glossy but confusing ‘welcome to Worcester City!’ brochure I was handed on my first day in the job.

Oh, piss. A 32 year barren spell. Only “semi-professional.” Semi! How are these guys even going to pay me? I fear I may have made some manner of terrible, terrible mistake before I’ve even begun. There are two ways to look at this:

1) Oh God, get out, get out, find another club to manage, no matter what.
2) Well, they’re already at rock bottom, right? At least I can’t make things any worse. Or can I? No, I don’t think so – this, surely, is a path to glory. Onward, then.

For Worcester’s part, they are blissfully unaware that, like a good TV detective, my incomparable genius and insight is accompanied by a terrible personal flaw. Cracker has his gambling, Morse has his drinking, McNulty has his drinking and womanising and disregard for authority and probably gambling too. I, alas, have a pathological fear of the colour yellow. Still, that shouldn’t be any kind of problem, I’d have thought. It’s not like I’m going to end up throwing a game because my squad is up against a team wearing yellow shirts, is it? Oh.

I start where it would only make sense for a club in this town just a stone’s throw from Birmingham to start – by hiring men called Darren and Gavin. Proud, hilariously stereotypical West Midlands names: there were more Darrens and Gavins than I could count at my Worcester school all those years ago. So I take comfort that my assistant manager Matthew Gardiner (I’m going to call him Matt ‘The Garden’ Gardiner until we’re best friends, I’ve decided) suggested these gentlemen as my first signings:

His surname’s even ‘Heeroo.’ Yes, he will be my hero. This is meant to be, surely. His ability? God only knows. We’ll find that out tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have elected to give The Garden absolutely no choice whatsoever about his nickname. I’m already feeling much more confident about by my tenure at Worcester.

The scene is thus set. Ian Football, The Garden and Davin Hero will have glory or nothing. Honestly though, I’ll be okay with nothing. It’s probably all I deserve.


  1. AmateurScience says:

    Yes! I expect great things from this.

    My only worry is that I may have a Football Manager relapse and attempt to relive the glory days of leading Montrose to Scots Prem victory way back in FM 2005.

  2. McCool says:

    This is going to be fantastic.

    It does really make total sense, as nobody on RPS knew how to manage a space sea creature empire before Neptune’s Pride and only one member of RPS had any experience of life as a Prince of Hell before the Solium Infernum.

    And really, Football Manager is a cracking game.

  3. youthful cynic says:

    It’s pretty much impossible that this isn’t going to be fantastic

    • Meat Circus says:

      Ian Football will definitely learn how to speak football. Ian Football will learn to say all of the following:

      To run your socks off
      A great advert for the game
      Gatecrash the Top 4
      You can’t win the title in August but you can certainly lose it
      A game of two halves
      To be as sick as a parrot
      Too good to go down
      There are no easy games
      It’s all to play for
      To be over the moon
      To be strong on paper
      To be at sixes and sevens
      Football is a funny old game

    • Hillbert says:

      Well, the lad’s done well to get in early doors with a feature on FM2012. He’s just gonna have to pump the feature up long, take it one article at a time and hope no one gets a swift reducer in the comments. Otherwise it’ll be literally handbags and no one wants to see that in the modern game.

      Over to you Brian.

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      @ Meat Circus
      You forgot the word ‘literally’. All sentences must contain the word literally. I.e:

      “that cross to Rooney was literally on a plate”.
      “Barca literally passed Arsenal to death”.
      “he had to cut back inside on to his left, because he literally hasn’t got a right foot”.
      “centre forwards have the ability to make time stand still. And when Chopra got the ball, it literally did just that” .
      “the fans behind the goalpost have literally gone insane”.

      Misuse of the word literally copyright Jamie Redknapp, and this Guardian article

      Good use of the literally there, son. You literally hit the nail on the head.

    • NathanH says:

      I suggest that ian Football keeps his head down and keeps working hard, because, y’know, at the end of the day its the three points that matter.

      I watched a match the other week and the commentator said “It’s like a game of chess” five seconds after kickoff. Five. Seconds.

  4. sonofsanta says:

    I was half-tempted to buy an FM game again the other day and play through a few seasons. I know nothing of modern foot-to-ball and care less than that, but I once spent about 6 months solid playing and replaying the first 3/4 of a season in a demo of Championship Italia on the Amiga. I had an encyclopaedic knowledge of mid-90’s Serie A & B football by the end.

    At the end of the day, it’s the same poison as your action RPGs and MMOs and so on – the queer pleasure of watching a series of numbers slowly get bigger, of watching a character tree/football team grow and learning the ins and outs of it.

    Starting with a crap team always seemed the better way to play, by the by – when everything is a struggle and small decision carry such import, it makes it all the sweeter to achieve anything. If you pick an AC Milan it just feels like cheating, and that any victory is a result of the numbers in your spreadsheet and not any tactical play by you.

    • starclaws says:

      Dont know about FM2012 but in FM2011 players will get homesick and you have to send them back to their country for a while or some players will demand more money and you say ‘no’ and cause a major divide in the team.

    • youthful cynic says:

      @sonofsanta I totally relate to your eventual encyclopedic knowledge of Italian football, after a few seasons of playing FM I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of most divisions down to positions, age, height, footedness, skills, etc.
      The key difference between regular RPGs and FM of course is that the things that you play out in FM have exact real-life counter parts to compare your success to; Dwarf Fortress, not so much.

    • dsch says:

      Actually, if you pick a larger team, the better AI managers will adapt their tactics against you. FM is quite a bit more complicated than watching numbers go up. The best advice I have is to read everything linked from this thread: link to community.sigames.com.

  5. McCool says:

    Oh god I just noticed that Matt ‘The Garden’ Gardiner, the man whose job it appears to be to tell you which players to sign, as a skill of 1 (the lowest) in Judging Player Ability and Judging Player Potential.

    This is gonna be one hell of a ride.

    EDIT: Oh wait, I misread that Spreadsheet. These are the kind of knife-edge issues and mistakes that can cost you as a Foot-to-Ball manager. I’m sorry for doubting you, Garden.

    • IDtenT says:

      It’s still massively important to sack your supporting staff whenever you start with a small club. There’s always someone better and cheaper out there in a big database game.

  6. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    hehe Blue Square Bet North league

    I’m pretty sure Boston Utd are in that league. Not sure if you’re club will have enough budget to fly to America for the away match

  7. sinelnic says:

    Re-phrasing the one and only Diego Maradona, I can only ask one thing: do what you will, and pay the consequences. But the ball is not to be stained.

  8. Nallen says:

    You can write about my barren spell if you like Alec. Granted it’s not 32 years but it’s feeling pretty close.

    • WombatDeath says:

      Did your last success, before the onset of your barren spell, result in a trophy?

    • The Tupper says:

      Last time, did you do too much dribbling in the box?

    • DXN says:

      Unfortunate tackle, I expect.

    • Johnny Go-Time says:

      Clearly it was an illegal hand in the box.

    • terry says:

      You can only see so many red and yellows before wondering if it’s all worth it. Funny old game..

  9. Meat Circus says:

    This is going to be a game of no halves.

    • Antsy says:

      I think it has the potential to stretch to a game of one half. If not three.

  10. jezcentral says:

    Yay for Nominative Determinism!

  11. Kleppy says:

    I still haven’t read this but just the thought of anyone from RPS playing a soccer game and writing his thoughts down made me chuckle idiotically. Do go on.

  12. Xercies says:

    I hope in this diary you kind of explain how you get around the UI and actually do anything, that was probably the only thing preventing me from getting addicted even though I don’t like football.

  13. rhizo says:

    This is certainly ambitious, I’ll grant you that. There are plenty of great stories surrounding this game but those are usually of the “rags to riches” -variety. When writing up a beginner’s diary it is almost customary to pick a game where failing can be considered fun. FM, by most assertions, is not one of those games. Good luck, I have a feeling that it might come in handy.

  14. Stardog says:

    I just bought FM 2012 because of this, and after watching this vid – link to youtube.com

    Damn you.

  15. Chris D says:

    I have no interest in actual football but I always enjoy a good tale of triumph over adversity and the colour yellow.

  16. TomA says:

    This article upsets me, been on at FM 2012 support since before Christmas and it’s not compatible with my Radeon HD 6900 so crashes my whole pc intermittently, love the game as well.

  17. Morph says:

    Hey stop knocking Worcester! I mean, I also fled that craphole but… still…

    • Morph says:

      Hang on, I just found out I went to the same school as Alec Meer, though two years younger. I was at school the same time as Alec! Truly I am blessed.

    • eZ` says:

      As someone who still currently lives in Worcester, I am disappointed and disgusted by the true things you said about it, Alec.

    • Novotny says:

      I looked up Worcester. Seems a lovely place.

  18. cptgone says:

    like the author, i’m not into football, but i’ve been wanting to play this game since the mid 90s. sadly, it’s way too expensive to my taste, and the only versions i can find in DL stores are the 2011 and 2012 ones.

    i guess i now have a reason to check out some brick and mortar shops again.

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      You can get Championship Manager 2001/2002 from Eidos for free. It’s widely reckoned to be one of the best of the non-graphical foot-to-ball management games, though personally I prefer the more modern match engine ones.
      There’s a link from this CM forum post to the download you need: link to forums.championshipmanager.co.uk

    • cptgone says:

      thank you very much, Bob!

    • IDtenT says:

      I love you Bob! CM 3 series was awesome.

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      Don’t thank me, thank the devs.

    • Llewyn says:

      FM2011 has been on sale at various download sites – usually the Steam version – for £8 or less during the last 6 months or so, which isn’t exactly extortionate. I’ve certainly never seen any recent version in a retail store for anything close to that price.

  19. Museli says:

    Good old St George’s Lane. It’s got a weird slope going on around the pitch, so the fans are standing at pitch level at one end of the ground, but they’re about crossbar-height at the other. Never seen anything like it at any other ground. It’s about the only good thing I can say about Worcester though, aside from the cathedral being rather nice.

    It’s a shame this isn’t Rugby Foot-to-ball Manager, really. You could be manager of a mediocre team then, instead of a dreadful one.

  20. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Alec, a few years ago I tried to get into Hearts of Iron 2 and I was given a stellar piece of advice: “Play as either Brazil or Argentina, you’ve only got one enemy nearby and you can do whatever you like because (sadly just as in the real life 1930s) you can pretty much do anything you like to win while learning the ropes.”

    So what I’m saying is, if you have to commit a few war crimes to take Worcester City to greatness, who’ll notice, really?

  21. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Oh god, you’re even listening to the assistant manager -_-

    So much to learn… so much pain to come.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    “At least I can’t make things any worse.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Wikipedia says, there are plenty of leagues below Blue Square Bet North…

  23. TimA says:

    By the way, British people (not sure if they ship abroad), FM2012 is £12.99 today on play.com with free delivery. It registers on to Steam.

    Which is kinda annoying since I bought it at the weekend for £20, but I’ve already put 20 hours in so not to worry.

  24. PostieDoc says:

    One thing puzzles me, why do you keep referring to football as foot-to-ball on RPS?

    • Gaytard Fondue says:

      I’m told that the hivelords aren’t exactly sports nuts.

  25. aircool says:

    I’ve recently felt the need to crack open footy manager again. Nothing to do with Wolves dropping into the relegation zone…

    • pertusaria says:

      A fellow Wolves fan! Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t…

      I really want this game. Unfortunately I only have a laptop (integrated graphics included), so it has a good chance of not working, so I have to wait until it gets really quite cheap. Ah well. If anyone’s running this on sub-par hardware successfully, do please let me know.

    • Inglourious Badger says:


      Ah, clever reference to Football Manager’s crack-like addictiveness in your first sentence there. Bravo

  26. TheLupineOne says:

    Oh, it’s going to be tough. I started at Huddersfield Town, promising promotion, and by the second half of the season we were eight games without a win, losing to bottom-table clubs, and Jordan Rhodes was performing exactly opposite to his real-life self. I was desperate to leave, so ditched Huddersfield, ending up getting a job at Exeter.

    So yeah, it’ll be hell. Then again, Ian Football, you are a Cacodemon.

  27. AdamT says:

    I would like to see more development of frightlever’s dwarf fortress / FM game concept, please.

    Footie Fortress – manage your team, build them up for the championship, and the eventual goblin seige of your venue.

    Dwarfball – manage an ascii dwarf team game. Stadium lights will grant you a large advantage against teams that have allowed themselves to become allergic to sunlight. But the pitch does become such a mess, and this causes negative thoughts among your team.

  28. dustygator says:

    “It’s clearly the greatest video game ever created. On every page, at every moment, there’s something odd or wrong, and yet the hours melt away like you’re in an anesthetic sleep. The different phases of the game each seem to light up a different part of your brain, only it’s as if the developers realized at some point that the entire human brain can be broken down into Shopping, Name Recognition, and Chess. What makes it feel real is that, within its insanely wide scope, it generates a weird, squabbly, unpredictable world, a world which — unlike in most video games — you have only a limited power to control. You tried pushing your wingers forward to steal a late goal, and the opposing left back shattered your guy’s femur? See him in seven months. You want to sign a player, but his agent hates your personality? You are out of luck, forever. The story keeps unspooling and unspooling, and because none of it’s scripted, and a lot of it doesn’t even involve you, it seems to have its own rules and not to care very much how you feel about them. It’s a database, but it wants you to think it’s a millionaire.

    The week before our grudge match against Cerrito, we crush Cerro Largo 3-1 behind two goals from Angel Silva. I spend an hour drawing up derby tactics, and tell the press I’m pretty sure we’re going to win. The Cerrito manager is complaining about our pitch, which is in terrible condition — he says his players are in danger. I call my guy at the Montevideo Football Times and tell him my counterpart should worry about his tactics, not the grass. In the locker room, I tell my guys to win one for the fans. Before I know it, the whistle blows. It’s a cold day in Uruguay, except that it isn’t, and rain is lashing down on the pitch, except that there is no pitch, and the soccer team I’m coaching, whose players don’t exist, has just given up a goal to go down 3-0 to their hated rival, whose players also don’t exist, and my heart is racing, and the curse words I’m uttering are purely and wonderfully real.”

    Sorry about the wall of text but really fantastic writing by Brian Phillips from Run of Play

    link to deadspin.com

  29. sibusisodan says:

    Oh no… I’ve managed to stay clean for so many months now. I’ve battled so hard, my therapist is really pleased with my progress. I’d even forgotten which team I was managing.

    And now…you taunt me with this easy give-it-a-try foot-to-ball light-hearted diary thing. You have no idea. No clue what you’re starting. You’ve probably never lain awake at night wondering if there’s a striker on the free transfer list you’ve missed somehow. You’ve never known the exquisite pain of the game devouring your brilliant tactics and lineup in its all-consuming maw and still encouraging you to try again.

    And now I want to play it again. Damn you, cacodemon! Damn you to he…oh.