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26th Aug 2015

Meet the journalist embarking on the toughest of Football Manager challenges

Tom Victor

Those of you who have a real obsession with Football Manager have likely encountered Iain Macintosh before.

He literally wrote the book on the game, penning Football Manager Stole My Life with Kenny Millar and Neil White, and his new venture The Set Pieces has urged fans to undertake challenges related to the game and its predecessor Championship Manager.

The site has played host to a Moneyball-style series, but Macintosh’s latest challenge – returning a financially-handicapped Everton side to their glory days on Championship Manager 2001/02 – shows just how tough a time of it David Moyes had on Merseyside.

JOE caught up with Macintosh to discuss how it’s been going so far.


You’ve covered Football Manager in great detail on The Set Pieces, why do you think it’s been so enduring while other games haven’t enjoyed the same longevity?

There’s something weird about these games; they give so much information and detail and yet it’s your imagination that always takes over and runs riot. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the new ones or one of the old ones, I always end up holding press conferences in my head.

I always find myself wandering round supermarkets giving extended interviews to imaginary broadsheet journalists to map out my five year strategy for the club. I know it’s only a computer game, but I never felt this way about Crash Bandicoot.

Why did you opt for the 01/02 version for this challenge? Is there a level of nostalgia for that game that’s lacking in earlier or later versions?

It’s always been my secret favourite. When I first came to London in 2000, I…erm…embraced the social side a little too willingly and shortly afterwards it became apparent that I had to either spend a considerable period of time not spending money or start selling off organs to placate the bailiffs. And, in this game, I had the perfect incentive to stay in.

The new games are certainly better, they’re far more detailed and immersive, but there’s a certain charm to this one. It’s all so simple and straightforward, you can push through a season in two sessions. And, of course, you have the cast of characters: Cherno Samba; Mike Duff, Taribo West, Mark Kerr. All the greats.


What led you to Everton specifically?

Well, because I know the game so well, it’s not really much of a challenge with any other team. I’d just start it up, splash out a couple of million on players that I know will be world beaters and then wait for the trophies to flood in. But Everton start the game with £30m of debt and a transfer embargo, so you have to make do and mend with a really poor squad.

At some point, new owners *should* come in and balance the books, but by that point all the talent will have been snapped up. So it’s essentially me giving the computer a head start. And in the meantime, I have to use every tactical trick in the book to try and pick up points with Mark Pembridge and Alessandro Pistone.


How has the challenge been going so far? Have there been points where you’ve considered packing it all in?

It’s been pretty dispiriting. These players are spectacularly bad. Because I’m using the 3.9.68 patch (to ensure that the game doesn’t crash), it’s 2002/03 data. So I’ve got a 15 year old Wayne Rooney, but he’s too young to be effective and I don’t want the other clubs to notice him. I’ve got Tomas Radzinski, a perpetually injured Duncan Ferguson, Kevin Campbell and Joe Max Moore.

6 Jan 2001: Joe-Max Moore of Everton is sent off during the AXA FA Cup 3rd round match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road,Watford. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT

Not a world class front line, that. We’re making the best of it and I’m certainly not going to get relegated, but it’s hard to keep your chin up when you can’t replace your rubbish. Some of the updates read less like online articles and more like a cry for a help.

Do you have another retro challenges lined up for when you’ve finished this one?

We’ll run this for as long as the viewing figures tell us people are interested, but we’re looking ahead to Football Manager 2016 now. Alex Stewart wrote a magnificent ‘FM meets Moneyball’ series for us last season and we’ll be looking for a new challenge to inaugurate that game.

Read Iain’s Championship Manager 01/02 challenge here.