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LMA Manager 2003

“I know what is around the corner, I just don’t know where the corner is”- Kevin Keegan

Every Saturday afternoon, billions of people worldwide are glued to tv screens and fill stadia to watch their teams play ‘the beautiful game’. Every Saturday evening at around 6pm fans on the losing side turn into pundits whilst drowning their sorrows with a pint of Tetley’s finest. “He should play 4-4-2”, “drop Heskey, play Baros” and “we need more width” can be heard from those old blokes in the corner with a cloud of smoke hanging over them. “Too right, and when will we see our new 20 million striker hit the net” chips in the barman. This is a scene we all see far too often, and phone-in radio stations are inundated with calls criticising the style of play. Endless reputations have been built and drained by tactical systems and styles as managers seek out glory or just survival.

This was my typical Saturday afternoon walking from Craven Cottage in Putney after watching my Fulham team getting stronger and stronger, shooting up league tables like there was no tomorrow. Nothing matches the intense atmosphere leaving the ground on a high note, walking the streets of London with 15,000 other supporters chanting ‘we just beat the scum 2-0, we shall not be moved’ and smelling the night air. Dodging through grid-locked traffic waving your scarf at bus drivers and into various kebab shops will not be erased from my memory, and nor should it from other either.

It seems to be at home when we all turn into the manager, striding up and down the lounge carpet tutting and sighing when we give the ball away, and turning with our hands on our heads as yet another shot goes agonisingly wide. Hell, I’ve even gone as far as writing out the team sheet as it ‘should’ have been…

“I am a firm believer that if you score one goal then the opposition needs two to win”- Howard Wilkinson

Thank god that Codemasters have just released LMA Manager 2003 then. At last, we can all drop those donkeys that miss shot after shot and play the long-serving youngster not given a chance by the muppet in charge. And it’s no good pacing up and down now because it’s you who’s in the spotlight. The changes in 2003 are much more essential than simple updates that we see in many games, not just in this genre. Players can now be found by the snazzy search engine and scout reports can be filed for later viewing.

Swapping between training schedules and contract talks couldn’t be simpler, a few clicks of the shoulder buttons doing the trick in a matter of seconds. It’s this ease of moving around which improves the presentation as we aren’t bogged down with spreadsheet after spreadsheet and loading times. Moving squad members around on the team page is quick and easy, with selecting a player and then highlighting another being enough to transfer a player from your starting XI to the bench, as is the tactics screen. Of course, knowing your 4-4-2’s from your 3-5-2 is essential but newcomers will find learning the ropes easier than that of SI Games masterpiece. Information regarding the footballing world is also easily reached through those ever-reliable shoulder buttons. League tables to leading scorers can be viewed without fear of getting lost, as is the ease of navigation in the many menus of LMA.

“If history were to repeat itself then I would expect we could see the same thing again”- Terry Venables

Buying and selling players are regarded as one of the most important factors in gaining higher league status as well as the backing of the fans. The Codies haven’t left realism behind here as the fans rating will rise and fall depending on results. Buying high-profile players will make them more excited and will therefore like you much more, whereas selling top players will drag it down somewhat and will anger the faithful. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the fans play an important part in deciding whether you stay in the job or not. Staying in the theme of ‘simple is best’ placing players in your shortlist is quick, and so is placing an offer for new talent. No paying over 12 months after so many appearences, LMA is much more straight forward in it’s approach to the sticky world of management.

Perhaps that’s the downfall of this console-friendly dream maker. The core gameplay is really shallow, with barley no control over player instructions or customs tactics. In this day and age the inevitable happens and we compare every management sim on the market to the benchmark title Championship Manager.

After a few seasons of playing, you get incredibly lonely. You can’t chat to the staff, answer to media queries or reassure supporters that star players won’t be leaving during the close season. The only ‘contact’ with the board is watching a ratings bar, and if it goes into 20% then you will be on your way out. Perhaps the biggest flaw are player histories. There aren’t any, so checking up how players have performed in big matches or over tough seasons is impossible. This inability to interact with staff and employers has a derentimal effect on you and you may start to get fed up with talking to no-one. The lack of in-game music is also a shame but there’s no stopping putting on a CD instead.

The matches that you can watch are sub-standard also. Impossible to see how well players are performing due to repeating actions leaves games looking like each other. With this in mind it makes the highlights irrelevant, and you can only put up with Hansen moaning about your defence so many times. Despite this, the ability to shout instructions at your team is a nice touch, although the exclusion of popular phrases used by managers has annoyed me somewhat. Sure, saying ‘play direct’ may out the point across but Sam Allerdice would say ‘pull your ‘kin finger out and pass the ‘kin ball ‘kin quicker’. Building the stadium is also a major pulling point, the ability to give Carlisle the San Siro or Brentford the Millenium Stadium will give endless cheers.

“I’d love it if we beat them, I’d just love it”- Kevin Keegan

Unforuanetely Keegan may have to wait a while. LMA Manager 2003 is a fun title which portrays the managing side of football very well. What it fails on is variety in matches and not being very descriptive in its highlights package. Also the inability to interact with staff and players detracts somewhat from the experience. It just seems that the complexity of Championship Manager gives us the freedom we need to fulfil our requirements, with or without the hot pies and mushy peas at half-time. That doesn’t mean LMA should be discarded. Nice touches like stadiums and con-current leagues give an edge over the masterpiece that is CM, but just isn’t enough to win the cup.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

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