Football Manager 2014: The Newcastle experience

Posted by Marc Duffy

Richard Sellers/Getty ImagesHatem Ben Arfa leads the way in the dribbling and first touch categories for this season's Newcastle in Football Manager.

As a 14-year-old back in 1992, I used my pocket money to buy a game for the Amiga (Google it, kids) that instantly had me hooked. It was the very first edition of what was to become the immensely popular "Football Manager" series -- then named "Championship Manager".

- Report: Taylor may leave on loan

I dodged a family member's wedding so that I could sit in front of the screen for 12 hours straight waiting for the results to come through over the painfully slow in-game videprinter.

Like many of you, it became my computer game of choice -- from 1-1-8 formations, six goal hauls for Julian Joachim and 12-0 wins on "Football Manager Italia", to the important signings of Mark Collis and Ferah Orosco in the 93-94 editions; I could never get enough.

We have all heard the stories about managers, coaches, scouts and players using the game's vast database to check on players and to evaluate the statistical merits of opponents, so when the 2014 edition was released a few months ago I thought I'd take a close look at how the digital Newcastle United stand up to reality -- does art accurately imitate life?

First of all, being Newcastle manager has to be the easiest job on the game, right? Ludicrous long-term contracts with the only aim being a top-half finish? Simple.

The very first profile I looked at when I took over for Alan Pardew was that of the club's esteemed Director of Football, Joe Kinnear. It instantly became obvious to me why Mike Ashley awarded his close friend the job -- he has an incredible working knowledge of players from Nepal -- should come in handy.

I instantly set Kinnear to work instructing him to sign a striker. He failed to get one "over the line". So far, so realistic.

Next up, I took a close look at which players led the way in terms of specific skills (all ratings out of 20).

The best at heading is Steven Taylor (16) which is probably about right.

Alongside him, Fabricio Coloccini is rated as the best at tackling with a rating of 17. Hatem Ben Arfa has a tackling rating of three!

Two players have a strength rating of 17 in the game: Cheick Tiote (as many of you will have guessed) and Shola Ameobi. Tiote also has an aggression rating of 18. Everybody needs a nutter in the middle.

Yohan Cabaye leads the way in two of the measures: Free Kicks (15, shared with Ryan Taylor over the wall) and passing (17). Mike Williamson's passing rating is a woeful eight!

What about pace? The highest individual rating of any player goes to Gabriel Obertan with 18. Obertan has the advantage of being able to fully concentrate on his run as he frequently leaves the football behind him.

Ben Arfa is another two-time leader. He excels in dribbling (17) and first touch (16). Poor Williamson scores six for his dribbling abilities! Strangely, Papiss Cisse, a man who couldn't trap a bag of cement, has a first touch rating of 15 which is three higher than Coloccini and is the second best in the squad!

Cisse is the best finisher at the club with a rating of 17, although so far this season he'd be lucky to have a rating in double figures. The lowest? You guessed it -- poor old Williamson again with a rating of four.

The game itself is, as ever, brilliant.

If you're interested, I managed to claim a fifth-place finish in the league and delivered the first piece of domestic silverware in 59 years after winning the Capital One Cup. Despite that, Tiote, Cabaye, Cisse, Sylvain Marveaux and even Obertan asked to leave because they felt the club was underachieving!

Yoan Gouffran was my leading scorer with 24 goals for the season while Marveaux scored the highest average rating with 7.58.

Loic Remy's loan deal came to an end and Ashley agreed to pay the fee to make the transfer permanent, however, it was impossible to pay the weekly salary he is on so the deal didn't happen -- there is a very good chance the same thing might happen in reality!

If you've never tried it, give it a go. It's great. But be prepared to start acting weirdly -- interviewing yourself in the shower and an in-game defeat ruining your day!

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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