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Football Manager Handheld 2014 iOS Review

As I arrive at the ground for the first time, I imagine seeing the news lit up on the big yellow ticker on Sky Sports News. It is exciting. Jim White is, as always, over-excited and Natalie Sawyer is smiling happily as she reads the autocue. I like to think she is smiling because I joined Leyton Orient – but it is Leyton Orient after all, and there is no reason to smile about that.

Breaking News: McDermott slams own club moments after joining. Will he be the next manager to exit? Bookies are shortening odds already! Wow, what a great start!

With the cameras gone, and Jim White settling down (slightly), but with Natalie Sawyer still smiling, it is time to get to work. My team is strong – at least that is what I tell them to their face, but I think we need more power up front.

I do not want to spend too much money – we do not have it to spend to be honest – so I look to the lower divisions. I find Dan Fitchett at Salisbury for £20,000 and Andre Gray at Luton for £30,000. I use some of my funds to nab those two attack minded players, and for a total of £50,000 (along with a decent wage packet) both choose to join. I look at Sky Sports News to see are my transfer dealings making waves, but not even Jim White is excited. For shame!

Now for some training, this should be a great season… wait, what’s this… Oh god no!

I guess I will have to soldier on without one of my big signings, I still have Andre Gray though, and I am sure he will have my back… won’t he?

Moments Like these – setbacks in this case – are what Football Manager is all about. As you play, there is a whole world happening around you and your chosen team. Managers are getting hired and fired, and players are getting bought and sold. Manchester City and Real Madrid are spending the big bucks, whereas some are spending a few £1,000 to try and survive – if they are lucky. It does not matter that most of the time you are just looking at what could be classed as a glorified, albeit colourful, Excel spreadsheet, because the game manages to build an interesting enough world around its walls of text to to keep you immersed – and other than for a few moments when the illusion is broken (Alan Pardew winning Manager of the Month – seriously?), it works.

I’m a few matches into the season now, and we are in the middle of September. Someone is all healed up! Time to put my two man strike force into action together for the first time. I’m excited.

Wow, everything went better than expected!

As someone who was just a farmer a few short weeks ago, but could now walk into the management job of Barcelona if he wanted to, it’s clear the Football Manager series is all about wish fulfillment, and it is deep enough for you to dream as big (or a small) as you want – and still (hopefully) have a great story to tell come the end.

I too am dreaming big, and time has flown by. It’s the start of a new year, and things are looking good for The O’s. Dundalk recently got relegated over in Ireland (hard luck lads!), so I decide to splash my money and pick up a defender. With the Transfer Window open (and Jim White beside himself with happiness) Dundalk’s Brian Gartland looks a decent player to me, so that’s another £40,000 spent. Lets hope he helps my defence, as I have been letting in a few too many goals this past few months. I am currently in 6th place and in with a chance of success. This could still be a great season!

Of course, the iOS release of the game is not on-par with the all-singing-all-dancing PC release – but I am happy to pay that price to have a true portable version. The PC offers much  more to delve into. There are charts, even better looking spreadsheets, graphs, agents (damn them!), and even more charts and graphs with options all over them if you need it. And you can dig super deep into each and every one of those menus to see even more stats for days. The PC release would have to be classed as the best version of the game to play, and is certainly the more in-depth,  but what the iOS version gives feels like enough for the platform it is on. Any more information would unnecessarily complicate things. Right now, there is just enough there to get lost in, without ever feeling like you are getting lost taking it all in. Whilst playing, I always felt like I had enough going on to keep things fun without adding a layer of unneeded minutiae atop it all.

Since we last talked, we progressed to April. Orient are 5th in the league now. I am still in with a chance of nabbing a promotion playoff spot, but I think winning the league is now too big of an ask.  Wolves are running away with it, but my dream of someday reaching the Premiership and having Natalie Sawyer pay attention to me keeps me focused. For now though, at least the board love me, and that’s the most important thing. Screw the fans – keep the board on side.

Note: Do not tell the fans this to their face, or else there will be some real Breaking News.

Football Manager, regardless of the year that follows its title, or the platform you play it on, is all about believing you can do better than that supposed idiot that is running your club in real life. Unless SI Games screw up spectacularly, they are not going to ruin that appeal, and they’ve kept things well on track with this release. Scouting the lands looking for footballs next Wonderkid when taking a dump is a feeling that is hard to beat.

The season is now over, and what a season it was! In the end, I made it to the playoffs (barely), and fought my way through them. The playoff games were some of the tightest matches of the whole year, and it took a red card and a disallowed goal to see me through, but I made it. Leyton Orient are promoted!

I now have £3 million in the coffers ready for life in The Championship – reputed to be the hardest league in the world. It was a hard season, but I feel like my choices made the difference – after all, look who scored that all important goal in the Playoff final.

Thank you Andre Gray, you’re magnificent!

8 out of 10