In the second entry in his ‘Diary of a Doomed FPL’, Jamie Pacheco talks virtual Wayne Rooney headbutts, vodka on your cornflakes and why you can only get so addicted to Fantasy Football.

In a bad-tempered Champions League final, I’d beaten AC Milan 2-1. Paolo Maldini, the archetypal tall, housewives’ favourite Italian who was one of the cleanest defenders I’ve ever seen, let alone by Italian standards, had gotten involved in an altercation with a teenage Wayne Rooney (no surprise there) and they’d both been given their marching orders. 

Not so secretly

It was the key moment in the game and secretly, or not so secretly seeing as I later told anyone who would listen, I was quite thankful for Rooney’s thuggish headbutt that resulted in Maldini, quite understandably, swinging a left hook at his left eye in retaliation. At least that’s what the game’s running commentary told me had happened. 

A decade later, almost to the day, when Joey Barton (another Scouser, coincidence?) assaulted or attempted to assault four different Man City players  within the space of thirty seconds in that famous ‘Agueroooooooo’ game against QPR, he later said something along the lines of ‘I’d already been shown red, so I tried to take a couple of them with me’. 

At least I think that’s what he said because words coming from his mouth in that accent are slightly different to words coming out of, say, Jeremy Irons’ mouth, with his accent.  

My last game of Football Manager

Those thirty seconds or so of madness cost Barton. He was banned for 12 games, fined 75,000GBP by the FA and another 500,000GBP by his own club. It was to be his last-ever appearance in the Premier League.  

I wondered if Rooney, a great thinker way ahead of his time, had seen things the same way as Barton, because I felt that Maldini’s loss to Milan was far greater than Rooney’s to my Everton. 

As a result, I even resisted the temptation to fine him the standard two weeks’ wages or tell the Media that whereas I didn’t want him to lose his aggressive edge, red cards like that were unacceptable, especially in a game like that. And that despite having just sat his GCSEs, it was high time he became more accountable for his actions. I really can’t remember now, but I may even have given him a payrise once we’d returned from Munich and were back in Liverpool. 

I say I can’t remember because this was back in 2002 and the relevance of the match is that it was the very last game I ever played of Football Manager.  

Retirement from Football Manager

I told my friends that I’d wanted to retire at the very top, Cantona-style, and that in a season where with the Toffees I’d won the Premier League, the League Cup and the Champions League (I was knocked out of the FA Cup on a dark, rainy night in Leeds) I felt there was no real need to go on and that my hunger for trophies just wasn’t what it used to be. It was time to step aside and Ferguson-style, I’d even volunteered to help Chairman and owner Sir Bill Kenwright in appointing my successor.

The truth was somewhat different. That game had done its absolute best to ruin my life. I wasn’t quite up there with the guy who wore a suit each time he played a Cup final on the game, but I wasn’t far off.   

Awake at night plotting my next move in the transfer market, falling behind at work because I was daydreaming about an upcoming game and at the lowest point of all, leaving a date that was quickly heading towards ‘coming in for coffee’ territory to go home and play the second leg of a UEFA Cup semi-final away at Villarreal. 

I think the fact that I genuinely thought Rooney had gone out of his way to get Maldini sent off rather than it being a random outcome produced by an algorithm, tells its own story.  That’s how deep I was in.

FPL a good alternative 

The point of this all? If you like football and want to manage a team in some capacity, Fantasy Football provides a far healthier way of getting your fix. If Fantasy Football is having a beer with your colleagues after work, then Football Manager is full on putting vodka on your cornflakes and being half-cut before you’ve left the house in the morning. 

Think about it. With Fantasy once you’ve made your transfer for the week, decided which four to leave out and settled on a captain, there’s really not much else you can do before the weekend. Even the geekiest amongst us geeks can’t really spend more than five hours a week on preparing our teams, with the exception of when you’re using a Wildcard. 

Even if you were to watch the five or six televised games every weekend, that’s still seven or eight hours as opposed to well…there really is no limit. I had ‘careers’ in charge of one team or another where in the hours spent on them, relationships of friends of mine had come and gone in that time and full-length films had been made, from pre-production to final cut. 

Then there’s the social element to it. Sure, it looks odd when you’re cheering and clapping in the pub because Tyrone Mings’ Villa conceded in the last minute away at Palace to deny the chap his four points for a clean sheet and a couple of bonus points, the glee coming from the fact that one of your rivals has Mings in his team. 

Pub, beers and FPL 

But hey, at least you’re in the pub watching football with your mates. Occasionally you may even take your eyes off the screen to look your mate in the eye and point out that KBD could at least have the decency to come up with an assist, given he’s at home to Newcastle. 

Playing Football Manager is a lonely, unsociable existence and the worst of it is that it never ends. Tragically, the more you play it, the better you get and the less likely you are to face the sack. 

So, it really is up to you to decide when enough is enough and some just can’t do it. I had my moment of clarity those 18 years ago and though I miss it, I know I can’t go back. 

Instead, I’m intent on being the best FF manager I can be and taking as much money off my mates as I possibly can every season, come May. The way it should be.