If you can stop scouring the Scandinavian lower divisions and put on this gown the doctor will see you now. Matt Allen diagnoses a nation addicted to virtual bossing. 

Many of you will be familiar with this famous game, however for the minority of you who are uninitiated I will set the scene of this classic virtual challenge. Football Manager was a revolutionary concept that took the world by storm under its former title of Championship Manager all the way back in 1992. Two brothers, Paul and Oliver Collyer devised and wrote the original version of this masterpiece. Amazingly they had several rejections from large companies before it went on to become the highest grossing sports simulation of all time. This video game is so dangerously engrossing that is has been blamed for ruining careers and has even been cited as grounds for divorce in 35 cases to date.

It is obsessive in its detail, tactics and transfers, press conferences and arranging pre-season friendlies. You are in control of everything and you are undeniably the boss of your own virtual world. When it is pitched like that it is easy to see why the game causes so many people to become totally immersed in it for days, weeks, months and years. There is something for everyone in the design; you can control a large global powerhouse of a club where success can come fairly easily. You are able to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on players and getting to the Champions League, along with lifting trophies, are all things that become a regular occurrence. There are many other people however, I include myself in this group, that take pleasure in steering small, local clubs up through the divisions. With no budget the skill is in securing the services of hidden talents from across the lower European leagues. This often ends in begrudgingly selling them on for a profit at a later date but means that you can begin to grow your very own footballing empire.

I can recall exactly where my addiction began. It was way back in 2001 and I was manager of a struggling Brighton and Hove Albion team. I shipped out the players that just were not making the grade and secured the services of the unknown midfield dynamo Mark Kerr from the Scottish divisions. I also picked up the legendary Taribo West on a free and with him bringing much needed experience to the back four we took the league by storm. These players drove my side to promotion and I even experienced the genuine heartbreak of an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City. I was hooked and the obsession has stayed with me ever since.

So have you read this and think that you are also addicted to the game? Perhaps you are but just how badly?

If you have ever bought the latest copy but simply can’t find the time to play it as soon as you get home then don’t worry. You still have some way to go before Football Manager has a negative effect on your life. A true addict will push literally everything to one side to get the game loaded up as soon as possible. You may be flirting with the game a little at this point but be warned, the trigger for really getting carried away is close by. The first time you taste success after signing an unknown player is what really pushes people over the edge. Your young talent that cost next to nothing goes on to be scouted by major clubs and ultimately becomes the next big star. There is a deep rooted smugness in knowing that you have found a gem that others did not know about and are willing to pay millions for.

Matt looks on proudly as his Brighton side walk out for their FA Cup semi final date with destiny.

Matt looks on proudly as his Brighton side walk out for their FA Cup semi final date with destiny.

It is at this point you are taking things seriously and suddenly you can’t help comparing players in real life to what they are like in the game. It can lead to crazy decisions when choosing players for your fantasy football team or even placing bets down the bookies. A player may be having a torrid time of it on the pitch in real life, but something tells you to stick with them because in your virtual world they are smashing it week in, week out. I am convinced that the biggest example of this happened to the former Manchester United Captain Steve Bruce. There he was in charge of Wigan Athletic in the Premier League when all of a sudden he signs Julius Aghahowa from Shakhtar Donetsk. The lad was incredible in Championship Manager, getting rave reviews, scoring and assisting week in and week out. In reality however he only made 20 Premier League appearances for the Latics before being shown the exit after just 18 months. Admitting himself that the scouting done on Julius wasn’t the best before the transfer was completed leaves me in no doubt that this was a classic case of Steve Bruce confusing reality with the virtual world.

If any of this rings a bell then you are on your way to a full addiction. It won’t be long before the weekends are passing by in a haze, a dreamlike vortex of Football Manager. Your social life will start to suffer and you may even find that you are making excuses to your friends as to why you can’t join them down the pub. When these eventually run out you simply go into hiding. It won’t be long before you are a full time hermit at the weekend, making sure that the winning streak you are on does not lose vital momentum.

So your social life is now in tatters but you still have a career to think about right? Oh dear, if you have laughed to yourself at that statement then things are now starting to become really serious. It’s when you start calling into work sick that indicates that you are in big trouble. Risking keeping that roof over your head just so that you can do the unimaginable and guide Bolton Wanders into the Champions League is plain crazy, in fact if you are thinking like that then a trip to the Doctors is probably in order anyway. When you get asked what is wrong with you simply say you have fallen into a Football Manager coma. You will be amazed at how many people will completely understand you.

Follow Matt on Twitter @Mr_Mallen