Tuesday, 8 February 2011
I ruddy love Football Manager. And the 2011 incarnation is the best yet. This is for a multitude of reasons, among them the new 3D game engine, fans jumping up and down on the terraces, improved realism and much-improved tactics and training. But one of the biggest leaps forward is that you can actually converse with your players now. Admittedly, this is crudely done using a multiple choice system, with your player then reacting to your desired comment based on the intricacies of their in-game personality.
I'd been trundling along nicely as manager of Lewes. Two promotions in three seasons and sitting pretty in the upper echelons of League Two. [Does League Two have echelons? Maybe that great sporting word 'reaches' would have been a better choice?] Anyway, I was loving life at Lewes but the main problem was that my puny ground sold out its 500 seats and all space on the terraces every game. I needed a bigger ground if I was going to take the club further. But the board wouldn't even consider it. Good FA Cup runs had meant away days at Manchester City and Sunderland in successive seasons - so there was plenty of money in the bank. In short, I had perhaps taken Lewes as far as I could.
I remember Chris Mann, aka '@equaliserblog', tweeting a while back that after several seasons on Football Manager with Dynamo Dresden it had "got a bit tiresome", and he'd started again with a bigger club. Or, as he succinctly put it, he decided to "go and win some stuff". Having hit a similar wall myself, I decided to have a bash with Aston Villa. Always quite liked the Villa. There's lots of reasons why: my brother supports them, so do a few mates, I like the colours, Shaun Teale played for them, Big Ron, they used to be sponsored by a yoghurt and so on. Time to turn them into a Champions League force, I thought.
Part of the plan would be to do it with a good smattering of youth. I wasted little time in snapping up some promising young players in the shape of Tom Cairney (Hull), Connor Wickham (Ipswich), Gary Deegan (Coventry), Sebastién Pocognoli (Standard Liége), Jordan Spence (West Ham) and Lee Hodson (Watford). Chuck the experienced striker Liedson (Sporting Lisbon) and CSKA Moskow keeper Igor Akinfeev into the mix and I was all set for an exciting season.
Then I asked Emile Heskey to tutor Connor Wickham.
This seemed like a fail-safe idea to me. Sure, Heskey's not the most prolific of strikers, but what budding young England prospect - dubbed on the game as "the new Alan Shearer" no less - wouldn't want to learn from Big Emile's movement and hold-up play? Clearly the Football Manager 2011 incarnation of Connor Wickham only thinks of glaring misses and terrible goal-to-game ratios when he thinks of Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey.
I've pasted the transcript of my virtual conversation with Heskey and, subsequently, Wickham below. For some reason the cold, stark frankness of the exchange made me laugh out loud. I don't know if it will tickle you to the same extent as it did me but, y'know, it's good to share these things...
Yes I think you better had, Emile.