Football Manager, which carried on the legacy from its predecessor and subsequent competitor Championship Manager, is a game that consumes lives. Whether it’s obsessing over how to arrest a slump in form, debating how to spend a transfer budget or masterminding a victory against the odds, the simulation is utterly addictive. We all have our own stories, and they all include players, the individuals who formed the crux of our carefully crafted teams.
I formed an all-time 11 of Scottish players, who might well have enjoyed modest or obscure careers, but in a parallel virtual universe, they were the stars.
A goalkeeper is the foundation of your first eleven. He must be calm, a strong communicator, and able to collect a cross. Most important of all, he needs to be a strong shotstopper. The young Kenny Arthur was all of the above, and he was the ideal man on which to build the spine of your team. In Championship Manager, he was still a diamond in the rough but a good goalkeeping coach would bring him on to fulfil his potential and eventually become a world class goalkeeper. Arthur’s actual career has been somewhat less inspiring and, while in the game he would become the international team’s number one, he managed just a solitary cap for Scotland B in real life.
RB Peter Canero
Born in Glasgow but of Spanish descent, Canero was a must when looking to strengthen your squad. With solid defensive attributes, he was at home in the back four but also had the ability to change games with an expansive range of passing from midfield and a will to succeed. His rapid development meant that he was a strong addition for a side looking to eventually play Champions League football. Killie fans will have fond memories of Canero but his career sadly didn’t live up to the virtual hype and he finished it with a spell in the MLS with New York Red Bulls.
CB Alan Archibald
CB Mark McAusland
Paisley’s answer to Franco Baresi, Mark McAusland was a surprising stalwart in the Football Manager series. A player that aged like a fine wine, his tough tackling and ability to chip in with goals from corners meant that English Premier League teams would inevitably come calling. In reality the defender was a useful player for St Mirren but he would eventually leave the club for pastures new and now plies his trade in Iceland with Keflavik.
LB Sergei Baltacha
CM Hugh Murray
Another St Mirren player but this time a different specimen altogether. Around 1999/2000, Hugh Murray was young and relatively inexperienced but his mental statistics were unrivalled. Bravery and aggression high into the double figures meant that any technical weaknesses were compensated for by a will to win. The general would prove to be the heartbeat of your team. The midfielder’s genuine career saw him stay with St Mirren for 16 years before leaving in 2012. A loyal servant, Championship Manager got his mental attributes spot on.
CM Willie Howie
The final piece of the Partick Thistle puzzle. Howie was available for somewhere in the region of £30,000. He could pass, he could shoot and he would control games. A day would come, however, when Howie’s graceful performances meant that he would outgrow your team and look to further his career in a sunnier climate. Whether it was Zinedine Zidane or Pavel Nedved, he could compete with the best of them and more often than not he would go on to play alongside them. The transpiring reality was much different, however, as Howie struggled to make any real impression at Thistle throughout his career and left in 2005 for Glenafton Athletic. Howie currently plays in the juniors with Pollok.
If you were a proponent of flowing attacking football in a fluid 4-3-3 formation, then you had to get your midfield right. In Championship Manager 4, Mark Kerr represented the type of player who was a crucial presence at the base of midfield. Strong in the tackle, he did the dirty work and left the creative stuff to his colleagues. Falkirk wouldn’t let him go for a small fee, however, and quite often you would be expected to cough up a few hundred thousand for his services. Now back at Falkirk as his career winds down, it’s difficult not to think that Kerr’s career might have been destined for so much more.
RF John Fleck
Scotland’s answer to Wayne Rooney was the tout. Rangers supporters were mesmerised by the mature performances Fleck showed at a young age, as were the Football Manager scouts. He was a wonderkid. The ball stuck to his foot and his finishing was unrivalled. Perhaps the computer game showed how Fleck’s career should have progressed, commanding a seven-figure sum and moving to one of the EPL’s top four. The reality? Playing in League One with Sheffield United. He’s highly regarded but his career hasn’t developed as we imagined.
CF Bobby Linn
At 31 years old Bobby Linn has an impressive goals haul with current side Arbroath but it’s a far cry from the level he should be playing at. On Championship Manager, Linn was the perfect foil in a front three. He had the nous to hold the ball up, was good in the air for a small player and scored goals for fun. Linn’s performances meant that he endeared himself to the support and was a consistent Players’ and Writers’ Player of the Season award winner.
LF Joe Hamill
In Football Manager 2005, Hamill consistently put defences to the sword. Regardless of team performance, you could always count on Hamill to score an 8/10. The problem was, however, that Hearts were never willing to let go of their prized asset to a fellow Scottish side. This meant that Hamill was always destined to make a move South. This was how his career played out in real life as well, when in 2005 Craig Levein took the young player with him to Leicester City. The winger had much promise but it just didn’t work out for him and he returned North to play with Livingston and later Raith Rovers. He’s now back in Midlothian but not with the club that raised him. He plays for Bonnyrigg Rose.