FIFA 17 has landed. It’s got amazing graphics and you can probably score a 360-backheel-volley with Paul Pogba or something.
Yeah, yeah, yeah FIFA’s great.
But it is merely standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants such as Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, Tactical Manager and The Double.
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Of course, we all loved Sensible Soccer, Kick Off and Championship Manager. But what about the runts of the litter, the games that we bought a pirate copy of, played twice and then never touched again?
With a little help from friends on Facebook and Twitter, GambleGeek’s James McMath picks out some forgotten gems …
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer
Despite having the most Welsh-sounding name in football history, Emlyn Hughes in fact was an established England international and among the first to lend his name to a computer game.
The game was released on Commodore 64 (ask your parents) in 1988 and was pretty cutting-edge. For the time, the graphics were pretty sophisticated and it was very playable.
For a start, players could pull back the joystick (remember joysticks?) to lift the ball.
After some practise, it became possible to score some satisfying screamers from near the half-way line – as long as your C64 didn’t overheat and crash.
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Premier Manager was highly successful, so had many guises. The one I remember best, though, was on the Amiga.
You had to start in the Vauxhall Conference and work your way up the football ladder. I’d usually be Kidderminster Harriers and spend about four seasons narrowly avoiding relegation before giving up.
As a 14-year-old up-and-coming manager, the best part of the game was discovering you could enter a cheat code to make the manager’s secretary make a sort-of-sexy 8-bit noise.
At least, I think this bit is true. It might have been an adolescent dream.
Ultimate Soccer Manager
Another of the early management sims. Again, I don’t remember too much about this other than recalling you, as the manager, somehow had a significant say in how your stadium was built (eat your heart out, Arsene Wenger).
Oh, and for some reason, you could only find out how your team had got on by checking teletext.
Manchester United in Europe
There was a time, before Alex Ferguson, United qualifying for Europe was so extraordinary, they thought it fitting to release a computer game about it.
Come to think of it, they might want to release another one soon.
This, on the Amiga, might have been one of the first flexes of United’s muscle as a marketing force, at least in the gaming world.
The late Les Sealey made it on to the front cover of the game, more thanks to being captured pulling a funny face than his skills as a keeper.
I vaguely recall another Amiga game that followed a few years later called Manchester United in the Premier League, or something like that.
On The Ball
This was a bizarre management sim. The graphics were amazing (for the time) but the gameplay was absurd.
Managers would have to deal with incidents such as players slipping over on a chicken wing in a hotel lobby and strikers setting fire to their houses with fireworks (actually, not that absurd then).
The icing on the cake was, whenever your team was involved in a penalty shootout, the players would say “over to you, boss” and you would have to frantically point the cursor where you thought then shot should be taken. Suffice to say, my team never won a penalty shootout.
Peter Shilton’s Handball Maradona
To be quite honest, I don’t remember much about this one. A mate of mine had it on Amstrad (I think) but my memories are sketchy at best.
The startup graphic still makes me laugh. What is going on there? It looks like Maradona, inexplicably wearing a Brazil shirt, is ejaculating from his toe. There’s not a handball in sight.
I had this on the Amiga in the early 90s but, by the looks of it, it was a long-running franchise that lasted right up to the Dreamcast era of 2000.
It was really playable and the pace of the matches were good. The best bit was free-kicks, and mastering the art of curling the ball around the wall into the net. Very satisfying.
For some reason, in the first version of the game, the centre circle was missing. The player position scanner also took up about 30 per cent of the screen.
This Spectrum classic is another I only have a sketchy memory of.
Like any good management simulator, it was an addictive, time-sapping joy.
Picking the matchday team alone could take hours. Word is, Neil Warnock still uses it to plan his training sessions.
One of the beauties was that you could save your progress, allowing for epic careers.
Of course, the save games were on cassette, with tape that had a tendency to unravel in heartbreaking fashion.
Other classic football computer games
I sent out an appeal on Twitter and Facebook for suggestions for this article and the response was great. Thanks to everyone for that.
There were many that I had never played or totally forgotten about. Here’s a handful of some of them. If you can remember the details of the games, please leave a comment and I’ll add it in.
Libero Grande (PS1)
The Boss (Spectrum)
Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes
Ally McCoist’s Director of Football
International Soccer (Commodore 64)
(This might be a non-endorsed version of the aforementioned Emlyn Hughes International Soccer)
Tracksuit Manager (Spectrum)