If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you are one of the masses who have played the hit game Football Manager or, in its early days, Championship Manager. At the very least, you will no doubt have come across this beautiful disease of a game.

To non football fans – and many disgruntled wives and girlfriends – Football Manager is viewing pages upon pages of numbers and statistics, whilst occasionally watching a few dots – or in recent generations of the game, computerized 3D players – move around on screen. But we all know it is far more complex than that.

Players get to put themselves into the shoes of those same managers they worship (or despise) and aim to prove that, given the chance, they could do a better job. From setting tactics to personalising individual training routines to negotiating transfers with other clubs and contracts with the player and his agent, Football Manager provides the closest thing to real life management a person could wish for without actually getting out of their bed and doing it.

Every single choice affects each result, and no two careers are ever the same. Be it wanting to dominate world football by splashing megabucks on superstars at Manchester City, or guiding lowly non-league side AFC Hornchurch to the Champions League, Football Manager provides all sorts of challenges.

‘Football Manager Stole My Life’ is a humorous account of just how addictive the game has been to so many people over the last two decades. Paul and Ov Collyer, the creators of the hit classic, along with Miles Jacobson – the man in charge at Sports Interactive – recall their early days of developing the game, from addictive hobby to 20million+ copies sold worldwide.

Yet the development of the game is only a fraction of the book. There are numerous stories of how Football Manager has directly affected people’s lives; from Sky Sports presenter Andy Burton and the Marketing Director of statistics website Opta, to various fan stories that have seen their lives saved (or ruined) courtesy of the game. There is also a hilarious chapter where co-author Iain Macintosh discusses his addiction to the game with a psychologist, whilst we also meet several of the top scouts from some of the major European nations who discuss their pride at unearthing some of the biggest gems in world football before they had ever dreamed of making their first team debuts.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book, however, is the opportunity to reminisce some of the greatest ‘Championship Manager Legends’. These are the players who were once touted for greatness and became ridiculous in the game, thus securing a place forever in our hearts. And yet, for one reason or another, they never quite replicated their virtual careers in real life. These players may mean nothing to the casual football fan, but to you and me, Cherno Samba, Mark Kerr and Tonton Zola Moukoko (amongst others) will always hold a place close to our heart for their supreme, outrageous in-game exploits. The authors manage to track down many of these virtual superstars and briefly interview them, discussing their status as cult heroes (though unfortunately they are unable to speak with Belarussian wonderkid Maxim Tsigalko).

If ever a book provided such nostalgia to days gone by, this is it. Regardless of our in-game motives or challenges, anyone who has played the game can vouch for the desire to always play just one more match until, after masterminding our team to a dramatic promotion, realise the clock says 3am. And we need to be up at 6. But we can’t stop now with the summer transfer window set to re-open, can we!? We’ve all done it; better crack into another can of Red Bull and pour it in to our coffee…

Whether you are simply dipping into the past as a gentle reminder of the hours once wasted dedicated to the game (I myself once surpassed 1000 hours on a previous incarnation of the game as Bristol City dominated world football with an entire team of Ballon d’Or contending academy players…), or you still cite your Champions League triumph with Havant & Waterlooville on your CV, Football Manager Stole My Life is a great read for anyone who has ever played the game. There’s even a link provided where you can download Championship Manager 2001/02 – including a modern database update of this classic version – completely for free.

Better put the kettle on; it’s gonna be a long night. Now, what team did Kennedy Bakircioglu play for again….?

‘Football Manager Stole My Life: 20 Years of Beautiful Obsession’ (RRP £12.99) is available on Amazon.

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