It’s the moment all football supporters dream of, taking over a team they have cheered on from the stands since childhood. After all, those years of shouting advice shouted from the stands and the conversations had at the pub with fellow supporters about how you would get the best out of your start striker, how you would organise the defence and how you would sign that talented winger, Football Manager presents you with the chance to succeed with your lifelong team.
As the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for”, managing the team you love, even in a simulation, is never all it’s cracked up to be! There is no doubt that you want to be the best manager your club has ever had.
However, it is never as enjoyable as it seems to manage the team you actually support. From my experience playing Football Manager over the past 10 years, I’ve always failed as Crystal Palace manager and everything, every loss, every player revolt, every relegation, feels a bit more personal.
When managing the team you support, the losses are felt more and if the wins are hard to come by like they are in the Premier League, the feeling of failure is ten times worse than it would be elsewhere.
This was particularly the case with my recent save as Palace boss. After a decent pre-season where things looked promising after a good run of results and clean sheets, we really suffered when the competitive games started, leading to an awful patch of form with one win in my time as manager.
Again, when things are going badly, the players you actually watch on the pitch in real life week in week out begin to turn against you. This feels particularly down heartening as your real-life heroes begin to hate you and unite to get your out of the club. The same feeling of disappointment wouldn’t occur if I’d chosen to manage an unknown Romanian division two side that’s for sure!
Following my disgraceful performance at Selhurst Park, I enjoyed a brief spell at Southend, keeping them in League One before departing for Halifax in the National League, leaving Southend bottom of League One.
It appears I found my level as a manager here, leading Halifax to the play-offs in my first full season, and cementing our place here in the current season and it is much more enjoyable than managing the team I support.
It feels a bit bitter succeeding somewhere else when you wanted to achieve something with a team you love. However, the feeling of bitterness keeps me motivated to get Halifax up far enough up the leagues to beat Palace to get one over them – something I would hate in real-life football!
But, there’s also a feeling of disappointment looking back on those days at Palace, a feeling you would only ever get from managing a football club you have an affinity for.
Although I’ve vowed never again to start a save with Crystal Palace, I’m sure something will draw me to make the same mistake in the future.