Having steered clear of the overly complex editions of Football Manager since around 2005 when they took over where the iconic Championship Manager left off, it was with trepidation, and after several recommendations, that I succumbed to paying the £6.99 required to download the new iPhone app.
Thankfully, it is everything that I hoped it would be - i.e. a slightly updated version of the 2001-02 version that I love so much. Firstly, the graphics have been pared down to take into account the smaller screen of the iPhone and it has lost much of the extraordinary depth that the main PC version has. You can still drop players into the reserves, but if you are looking to develop a kid through the ranks then you may be disappointed.
Still, an admirable level of detail has been paid to the game's players, with the likes of Neymar, Mario Gotze and Stefan Jovetic given their places as stars of the future and the stats on show are remarkably accurate (as you would expect from the extensive Football Manager scouting network). There are plenty of competitions to choose from across 16 countries - including all the big European leagues as well as Australia, Brazil, Scotland and Wales - and one of the best additions has been that of the 'Challenge Mode' which gives you a few mid-season scenarios to overcome like avoiding relegation or going the season unbeaten.
The interface is very user-friendly and you can pick up news and play matches at a good pace, meaning you won't get bored and can complete a full season in a few hours if you don't spend all the time looking for new players. Behind the scenes, there is a full rundown of your club's finances, as well as plenty of tools to keep a track of your progress and popularity.
Transfers are easier as well, given that the guesswork is taken out of negotiations. Enter a bid and, more often than not, the player's coach will return with a denial that kindly tells you the figure that would tempt him into a sale. Pay it and he's yours.
The downsides to the game are obviously the depth that you can go into. While there are plenty of leagues to keep you occupied, hardcore gamers will not get much out of the experience (although they would probably be carrying their laptop/iPad with them wherever they go anyway). Players get unhappy very easily if they don't play and, while you can raise their spirits with a personal chat, you cannot conduct a teamtalk to the same effect. Indeed, it is quite hard to motivate your side when you are down, making it virtually impossible to stage a comeback.
Tactics are generally good (I found favour with a 3-1-2-1-2-1), but the ability to change them midway through a game is limited. You can choose a set tactic from the list, but as far as customising your side, you have to wait until the match is over. That said, when you do get to customise, the drag-and-drop interface plays right into the iPhone's hands and works wonderfully well alongside the 'swipe' menus that have become commonplace with smartphones.
Ultimately, if you do not expect too much from the handheld version, you will be pleasantly surprised. Battery life on the iPhone is not destroyed, which is a major plus for the moving gamer and there are plenty of little quirks that can keep you occupied. Any lover of the Football Manager franchise will find this another great addition to their portfolio, although it does mean that now your management career has the potential to completely take over your life.