Xbox Game Pass regularly receives an influx of high-quality new games. In some instances, it’s a bit like that one Christmas I got a bag full of pirated PlayStation games. The amount of goodness there was almost too much for my child brain to cope with. I’d flick between games faster than I’d consume Coca Cola (which was pretty rapid), desperate to get a taste of them all. Then I settled on Brian Lara Cricket and was hooked. I played it for months. Football Manager 2023 and Football Manager 2023 Console are the Game Pass equivalent of my pirated copy of Brian Lara Cricket on the PlayStation. The other games might as well not exist.
I have a long, rich history with Football Manager, and Championship Manager before it… and Premier Manager before that – Premier Manager, a game I played when I was so young I was dumb enough to wipe the data from the floppy disks it came on. Thankfully, my Mum was able to convince the shop that they’d been provided blank. Thanks Mum!
Championship Manager was really my gateway into the dark world (I’d often play into the night and not turn the light on) of football management sims. It was the precursor to Football Manager, and I played it for the first time at a friend of the family’s house. My parents were round there doing what parents do (buffets, talking), so my brother and I were upstairs on the computer. Time flew by as we tinkered with formations and attempted to sign players Tottenham were never going to be able to afford.
Soon after this we bought Championship Manager for our home PC and that was that. My life was forever changed. I’d go on to spend hundreds (maybe thousands?) of hours trying to get my beloved Spurs some trophies. Inevitably I’d end up leaving Spurs to try my hand somewhere else, but it was never the same and always resulted in regret. Life imitates art, and all that.
I even ventured into the world of the ill-fated Football Manager Live, the online version of the game that was only played against real people with an entirely made-up database of players and teams. What an immense time this was, and a great community too, built up around admiration for the best managers and certain star players on each server. Absolutely wonderful, but it never reached the heights it deserved and sadly petered out much the same way Poch did at Spurs.
Football Manager 2023 is the latest iteration on what is undoubtedly one of the most immersive games ever to be created. It’s just absolutely amazing if you like football and have the time to while away hours managing a virtual team. The fact you can just play the full-fat PC version or the nicely streamlined console version as part of your Game Pass sub is pretty outrageous. It’s just a shame the other games won’t get much of a look-in.
My most memorable Football Manager moment? Probably sat on the sofa at my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve, laptop on, Spurs in the final of Champions League. I’d re-found my love of the game thanks to an inspired decision to play for 30 minutes a day during my lunch break, so that Christmas I was fully invested in the team. I hope this happens to other FM players, but at various points in my time with the game I’d be so “in” the world that I’d conflate game happenings with real life ones. So I’d be genuinely bemused that Spurs weren’t top of the league and didn’t have Messi.
Essentially, it’s easy to get sucked into the world of Football Manager, and so I was that cold winter night. The room kind of melted away as the match progressed.
I was winning, 1-1 as the match entered injury time and Extra Time seemed all but guaranteed. Then, horror of horrors, Barcelona scored.
“Fucking shit!” I shouted. “Fucking fuck’s sake!” I added as a chaser: “FUCKER!”
My mother-in-law’s neck snapped back as she turned away from Call the Midwife, panic on her face. “Are you OK, Tom?” she asked.
“Yes, all good. Sorry. Sorry. No bother. Neymar just scored in the 92nd minute. That’s all.”
“Oh,” she said.
Christmas felt a bit different after that.