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From Football Manager to Football Manager

By Kieran Guilbert



MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - APRIL 18: Steve Gibson the chairman of Middlesbrough looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Fulham at the Riverside Stadium on April 18, 2009 in Middlesbrough, England
MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - APRIL 18: Steve Gibson the chairman of Middlesbrough looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Fulham at the Riverside Stadium on April 18, 2009 in Middlesbrough, England

22nd May 2018.  9.45pm. The final whistle blows. Cameras flash frantically around Camp Nou.  A tidal wave of elation surges around the stadium from a sea of red and white. The victors assemble in the centre circle, savouring the adulation of their tens of thousands of travelling fans. Led by their 24-year-old manager, appointed at the tender age of 18, the players step up onto the podium. Presented with their medals, they lift the trophy triumphantly into the night sky, as the stadium announcer’s deep voice booms around the ground.

“The winners of the 2018 UEFA Champions League… ACCRINGTON STANLEY!”

Unfortunately for Stanley supporters, this scenario is not within the realms of reality. This is the kind of feat that can only be achieved by those with tactical expertise, man management skills, shrewd knowledge of the transfer market… and most importantly, a copy of Football Manager.

Sports Interactive’s life-consuming manager sim is adored by football fans across the world. With a comprehensive database including hundreds of leagues and tens of thousands of players, realistic match engine and ever evolving player growth and transfer market, Football Manager gives supporters an addictive taste of managerial life. For the average football fan, leading a League Two team to Champions League glory in Football Manager is the closest they will get to the world of football management.

Enter the newly appointed manager of FK Baku, 21-year-old Vugar Huseynzade- for whom the dream has become a reality.  In February, the Azerbaijani Premier League team hired the Swedish-based student in an advisory role, following his success playing Football Manager.

Last week, after just 9 months with the club, Huseynzade was promoted to first-team manager.

Some reports have even suggested that he landed the job ahead of more high-profile candidates such as former French international soccer star Jean-Pierre Papin, who won 54 caps for his national team and has managed RC Lens.

Huseynzade told the Swedish media:  “I’ve always wanted to work in football and have played Football Manager since 2002.”

Born on 22 May 1991 in Baku city, Azerbaijan , Huseynzade went on to attend secondary school in Stockholm, Sweden. From 2010-2012 he studied at Boston University in the US, where he graduated in Business Management, before joining FK Baku in February.

With FK Baku currently one place off bottom in the Azerbaijan Premier League, it may take a Football Manager-esque miracle for Huseynzade to save his side from relegation. The young coach may find that telling the players to ‘Do it for the fans!’ or ‘Show some passion!’ at half time might not be enough to turn the team’s fortunes around.

This is not the first time a Football Manager fanatic has applied for a managerial post.

In 2006, John Boileau applied for the position of manager at Middlesbrough FC, citing his skills at the game.

“I have managed clubs including Nuneaton Borough, Chievo Verona, Kalmar FF, Doncaster and even Chelsea,” he wrote. “Although my experience at Chievo was not a particularly positive one and led to my sacking (I’m sure you saw the headlines) I feel that I have brought success to all of the other clubs I have managed.”

Chairman Steve Gibson’s tongue-in-cheek response went viral.

“Many thanks for your recent application for the Managerial position at Middlesbrough Football Club,” he wrote. “You were of course the outstanding candidate but after careful consideration we decided against your appointment.

“Quite frankly we were of the opinion that your tenure with us would have been short lived, as your undoubted talent would result in one of the big European clubs seeking your services. We consider it a sign of our progress that someone of your status could consider us.”

While many may scoff at the Football Manager series, its interpretation of the footballing world should not be dismissed as being without merit. 

Everton Football Club signed a deal with Sports Interactive in 2008 to use the bulging Football Manager database to scout players and staff.

Over 1,000 scouts compile the enormous pool of data, which amounts to around 370,000 accurate descriptions from 20,000 teams in over 50 countries worldwide.

For all those Football Manager addicts, who are criticised for being nerdy, unsociable and obsessed, take heart. When the game’s Addictiveness Rating (a comical judgement based on time spent playing the game) says “I think you should put Football Manager on your CV”, it may not be so far-fetched after all…