The ups and downs of football management are like nothing else. Following an eight match unbeaten run, which saw my Spurs side rise to third in the Premier League, came a series of seven league matches without a win - my once free scoring team managed only two goals and three points and slipped to ninth. The pressure was beginning to pile up both from the board of directors and fans, injuries to top players hit the team badly and I was left wondering what to do next. The answer was simply to keep playing. Keep playing for another five hours. We were going through dark times, but nothing could keep me from micro-managing every aspect of the club.
Sports Interactive has been releasing a new edition of its hugely successful football management simulation for as long as I can remember, each year giving the legions of fans a bit more control and added realism in the day-to-day management of a football club. The big additions in this year's edition are a new 3D match engine, an increased role for the assistant manager, improved manager interaction with the press and what Sports Interactive states is a completely rebuilt transfer system. But more on those later. First back to my time at Spurs.
I took charge in the summer of 2008 and was given £27 million to spend to strengthen the squad. It's worth pointing out that although the game picks up before the start of the 2008/2009 season, all player transfers are up-to-date, meaning Spurs deserters Keane and Berbatov had packed their bags for Liverpool and Manchester respectively. Before I had the chance to dabble in the transfer market a press conference was called for the club to formally announce my role as manager.
Entirely text-based, the new press conference system gives players the ability to develop a stronger managerial character than in previous FM instalments. I wasn't about to turn my back on a rich history of attacking football so confidently claimed that under my leadership Spurs would play the kind of football to make even Arsenal fans stand up and applaud. I also made it clear that I had funds available to bring in a few new faces where I felt the current squad was particularly weak. The conference over, I was told that the players had responded well to my appointment.
Press conferences soon become a regular part of your life as manager, speaking to the press before and after each match. What you say can make a real difference too, with positive comments on the match to come or praise of a good performance likely to give your players a morale boost. However, I found that once the initial thrill of seeing my name in numerous press reports wore off, I had no interest in taking part in the further press conferences. Instead I handed all such duties over to Gus Poyet, my assistant manager.
It was then time to tinker with the transfer system. I'd identified a weakness in the middle of the park and also felt the team lacked the attacking flair once offered by the Berbatov and Keane partnership. My first signing came as a result of a rumour linking the club to Sampdoria's midfield General Angelo Palombo. The Italian hadn't even been on my radar, but further investigation and staff feedback led me to believe he was just the player to shore up my weak midfield. Such a highly regarded player wasn't going to come cheap though and after several rounds of negotiations I secured his services for £14 million. New signings that followed included AC Milan's Massimo Ambrosini for £6.75 million and youth striker Robert Lewandowski for £1 million from Lech.
With the best part of £24 million spent it left me very little to play with, but that didn't prevent me from making an offer for long-time Tottenham target Andrei Arshavin. Again, after much negotiation which saw Zenit's asking price drop from £22 million to £12 million (rising to £16 million on appearances) I managed to strike a deal and after some sweating over a work permit the Russian was mine. Well, he would have been had I remembered to raise some cash by shipping out the dead wood. I had to delay the transfer and frantically began faxing clubs with lists of players available to buy. After several weeks I'd managed to offload Jenas, O'hara, Zokora and Huddlestone raising £16 million. Arshavin was mine and my team looked like real title contenders.