In the absence of any real football, fans have been turning to eSports for their fix of live competition.
We’ve seen the Ultimate Quaranteam Cup, organised by Leyton Orient. Our own Tom Pett is taking part in the StayIntertoto Cup, a competition pitting real-life professionals against each other. Currently, his place in the next round is going to come down to a game against Southampton striker Che Adams, after he snatched a win against Brentford last night.
The rise of eSports is hard to ignore, with our own club getting involved on an increasing level. Last month a call went out for FIFA players to form a team to compete under the Lincoln City banner, whilst recently they also recruited a Football Manager player to represent the club.
Football Manager, for those who don’t know, is an institution that has cost many students top marks in their exams. Instead of studying, young people up and down the country could be found hunched over a computer screen at 1 am desperately trying to get their team promoted from League One, or in my case Division Three back in the early 90s. From its first inception as Championship Manager to the behemoth it is today, Football Manager remains incredibly popular. Just ask BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Rob Makepeace, who proudly has every season lined up on a shelf in his house (I’m told).
The player picked to represent the Imps is YouTuber Tom, from the channel Tom FM. I caught up with him this week to find out a bit more about the tournament and his Imps’ background as well. I saw a post on Twitter that questioned his Imps heritage, but it seems our new Football Manager representative has some pretty solid Imps’ roots.
“I’ve been a lifelong Lincoln City fan,” the 23-year-old told me. “My family have always been Lincoln City fans and my great great great uncle was former chairman Charlie Applewhite, so it was only natural I was going to be a Lincoln City fan.”
Like any Imps fan, Tom has some memories dear to him and one victory over a local rival stands out above the rest.
“It’s difficult to pin down favourite memory as the most treasured memories aren’t always the biggest achievements and I feel this could be a bit of a boring answer as it has personal meaning. Being at Wembley or seeing us get promoted are one of the most special and biggest achievements and they are right up there.
“Away days are always up there but more down to the whole experience and who you’re with and for those reasons a bore 2-2 draw with Nuneaton is right up there. If I had to choose one game though it would be when Hamza Bencherif scored a last-minute winner in a 3-2 victory over Grimsby. I vividly remember being at school in the day, my friends and I couldn’t stop talking about it, we all met up to go to the ground fully expecting us to lose as we hadn’t had the pleasure of beating our rivals for some time. The game was exciting, Jordan Burrows took the lead early on before Ben Tomlinson missed a penalty. They scored just before half time but we took the lead again as Sean Newton scored a penalty before celebrating by “shushing” the Grimsby fans only for them to score moments later and their fans giving it right back to us only before that beautiful man Hamza Bencherif scored late on.
“Being there to see us in our first Derby win for some time, surrounded by my friends celebrating a win putting us in touching distance of the playoffs (albeit early on in the season, we hadn’t had much the cheer about for a long time) giving us all the feeling of ‘Is this our year’ will take some beating.”
This article isn’t about his Imps history though, it’s about Football Manager and the tournament he’s been selected to take part in.
“It’s a tournament that’s been organised by the EFL and every EFL club has been asked to find a virtual manager to take part. It’s a cup-based competition which will be played on Football Manager and the draws are all random so here’s hoping we get a first-round draw with Grimsby!
“I know there was a lot of people who wanted to be the manager and I feel honored to be chosen but we’re all Imps and we want to try and go as far as possible so if anyone who put themselves forwards and wants to get involved please send me a message on Twitter with some tactics and playing styles that has really worked for you with Lincoln and they want to get involved I’d love to hear them!”
Sharing tactics and formations is part of the Football Manager fun and it’s also the basis of Tom’s channel on YouTube, which he started whilst at university.
“I first got into Football Manager back when it was known as Championship Manager. My Dad bought a copy of Championship Manager 03/04 when it came out so I’d sit down and play it with him so I have good memories of bonding with my Dad as we decided what tactics to use to best exploit the striking talents of Simon Yeo!
“My channel is all about the game Football Manager. Like most people who play it, I was sucked in and before you know it it’s 3 am, you’re scouting wonderkids from Armenia and saying to yourself “just one more game”. I’d seen some other people play the game on YouTube and essentially in a bit of downtime at university I thought I’d try recording myself play and share my stories and the rest is history!”
With more than 14,000 subscribers and in excess of 2m views, Tom could be considered something of a YouTube success, with content for clubs as varied as Lincoln United right up to the top flight.
“The main bulk of my content is a typical ‘let’s play’ style where I try to find an interesting footballing story and become manager of that club and take them to the top, developing story lines and narratives to keep people invested in my content. Of course, I had to do a series with Lincoln City but I also I challenged myself to try and get Lincoln United to the Premier League for another series!
“Currently I’m on a journey through Eastern Europe trying to learn more about football in countries and leagues not typically reported on in the UK. In terms of viewing figures each episode will get regularly get between 1500 – 3000 views. I also do one off ‘experiment’ videos whereby I edit the games data to create a set of circumstances we wouldn’t see in real life to see what would happen such as bankrupting the Premier League. Those videos can get tens of thousands of views usually because it’s much easier for people to watch that one video than keep up to date with episode 46 of a Lincoln City save for example.”