“I never saw him play but we were the best of friends for years” - The pseudo-social relationships of Football Manager

07/11/2014  -  1.15

Dr Richard Medcalf and Dr Gerald Griggs

As the latest version of the ultimate football management simulation, Football Manager 2015, hits the streets two University of Wolverhampton academics share their love of the series which even led them to research the relationships gamers struck up with the virtual football world and its players.

In their paper “I never saw him play but we were the best of friends for years” Dr Richard Medcalf and Dr Gerald Griggs explore the pseudo-social relationships that Football Manager participants strike up and why they strike up a loyalty to certain players through various versions of the game.


“As authors we felt it important to place this study within our own personal context, in regards to our relationship with the game (and its actors) over a good number of years. The paper has, subconsciously, been 15 years in the making. Time spent writing has been time lost in the never ending strive for Championship Manager/Football Manager supremacy; we hope our players will forgive us, and that readers will excuse us for sharing such indulgent memories.”


Dr Richard Medcalf, Principal Lecturer in Sport and Leisure


“I’ve experienced a chequered relationship with the CM/FM series, epitomised by an addiction which has resulted in the irreversible loss of two playing discs in the past – deliberately snapped in half at times of high intensity work in the ‘real world’, and later purchased for a second time in celebration once I had navigated such obstacles. Without wanting to show my age here, I have fond memories of simpler times during school days when holiday periods were spent playing the game alongside friends (in a physical sense, something which you can now of course do online) for hours and days at a time.


These initial memories come from a time when the game was only accessible through MS-DOS (only accessible to those ‘skilful’ enough to type [run://CM] into their PC). From these times, I hold memories of deep and meaningful relationships with players who I wouldn’t recognise if they were to pass me in the street; journeymen who I always turned to in times of need, including infamous names such as Ibrahima Bakayoko, Sean Devine and Mike Basham.


More recently, Adam Lallana followed me from Southampton to Valencia and then Inter Milan – the hero from the South coast who was winning Champions League titles in the world of FM, at the same time as playing Championship football in the ‘real’ world. When such a relationship becomes recognised by the player themselves, through being cited as one of their ‘Favourite Personnel’, and when managerial rivals cite that they think that ‘the two of you could become friends’, it is easy to see how reality can very easy become blurred.


Unfortunately Lallana’s loyalty to me failed when, upon asking him to join me in starting a revolution at my home club of League Two Swindon Town, he flatly rejected my advances. It turns out that the strength of our pseudosocial relationship couldn’t overcome the reality of a £100k p/w pay cut.


It’s now 2024 (in FM land), and Swindon Town are in their second season in the Premiership and are proudly challenging for honours. I suppose this in some way demonstrates how the game remains as close to reality as I and many others will come to the world of football managership, whilst also being as far removed from the truth as even the biggest fan of Swindon might realistically expect.


Dr Gerald Griggs, Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sports Studies


“My all-time favourite CM/FM player is Ibrahim Kargbo. My scouts found him on the 01/02 version of the game when short of cash I needed a reliable central defender to shore up my leaky defence. Playing in an obscure league, the young Sierra Leone defender could be signed for a meagre sum and would give faultless performances week after week. His versatility was also an asset, for as our on screen relationship developed I soon learned that he was equally adept in any position across my back four. In each of the versions I subsequently bought Kargbo has always been my first signing, right up to the present day.


Of later iterations such as 08/09 I have preferred him as defensive midfielder but I know he is always capable of putting in a defensive shift if required. What is more, even at the highest level such as the Champions League, he is never out of his depth. In real life I have recently learned he is playing for a team called Baku in the Azerbaijan League but despite moving into football backwaters at league level, he has become captain of his country. I have never seen him play and to avoid disappointment I probably never will.”