Book Review: The Football Manager Guide to Football Management

Stephen McGovern is the Content Manager for The Final Third podcast. He’s also a student journalist who has written this excellent review of Iain Macintosh’s new book – The Football Manager Guide to Football Management. Did it ready him for a career on the touchlines or just allow him to empathize with those who have chosen that path?  Over to Stephen.

You could be forgiven for thinking The Football Manager Guide to Football Management is a step-by-step guide to being the Pep Guardiola of the video game, Football Manager. In fact, the title seems rather incidental.

This book tackles all of the major things that concern football managers, from tactics and scouting to transfers and how to deal with the media. There’s even a chapter dedicated to the personality of the gaffer. Are you a dictator like the cheese-wielding Felix Magath? A wheeler-dealer in the mould of Harry Redknapp? Or are you an ideologue on the level of Arsene Wenger? With Iain Macintosh’s latest effort, you’ll be able to mould yourself into the next Jurgen Klinsmann.

The link to the video game seems largely to do with branding more than anything else, and really only gets into the game in the last three chapters. Perhaps a smart move, as coinciding with the release of Football Manager 16 gives both a boost in terms of publicity, while keeping it accessible to a much wider audience than a technical tome might.

This is not just a book for the section of gaming nerds among us, rather it is for anyone with even a passing interest in football. “Beauty is simplicity” is a phrase you might hear a lot in footballing circles and it is one of the reasons to love this book, although ironically Macintosh rightly makes the argument that football, and to a greater extent football management, is not the simple game it’s sometimes made out to be.

Calling a piece of work simplistic can come across quite pejoratively, but in this case it is meant as nothing but positive. Any jargon or technical elements of the sport are broken down and explained in a way that even the most novice of fans can understand. Want to know why a back three might be useful? Iain defines what it is, why you might use it, and the positives and negatives of using such an approach. Or, if like me, the false-nine position confuses you, then worry no more. It’s all explained inside.

There are a lot of schoolboy and schoolgirl football managers who could learn a thing or two by reading this. As pointed out in the book, coaches spend training sessions telling their players to play the ball to feet and hold onto it, but come match day they’re screaming “get rid, get rid!” It boggles the mind.

Some of this information will inevitably help you get better at Football Manager, of course. Having just started playing the game myself I was glad to find there is a short chapter called ‘Lessons From Football Management For Football Managers’, while throughout the book I found myself thinking “oh, that could come in handy”. Knowing the different types of pressing is certainly key when trying to implement the Barcelona style at Dundalk FC, you see.

Aside from the PC game, this book should be viewed as something of a mini-history of football management, charting the evolution of managers and head coaches from the days of Brian Clough and Bill Shankly right up to Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. As you might expect, a lot has changed. Even Sir Alex Ferguson has had to alter his hairdryer technique.

“The world has changed and so has players’ attitudes,” the former Manchester United boss said. “Some players cry now in the dressing room and someone like Bryan Robson never used to cry. I’m dealing with more fragile human being than I used to be.”

Unfortunately, with the timing of the book’s release, there is nothing on the current situation at Chelsea and Jose Mourinho. Dissecting such a fall from grace would have made for excellent reading, although you could probably write another book’s worth of material on it before the season is out (hint hint, Iain). The first hand quotes from his interview with Sean Dyche more than make up for that, giving us a different perspective of the Burnley manager.

Overall, this book is written in the classic Iain Macintosh style, if there is such a thing; funny, whimsical, light-hearted, but with tonnes of substance. A literary “West Ham way”, if you will. If I had one criticism it is that the chapters dedicated to Football Manager feel like filler to pad it out, but that is stretching for bad things to say. It is excellently written and a must for the Christmas stocking.

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