What's the longest you've managed a team for in Football Manager? 10 seasons, 20, 50? Try 154. That's how long Norwich chap Darren Bland (unfortunate surname) managed Fiorentina for - and now he's a Guinness World Record holder for it.
Bland won 151 league titles in that time, and his manager would have been 190 years old if Football Manager 2010 could recognise ages past 100. That's even older than Arsene Wenger! And how much do you think Bland spent on players during that century and a half? £500,000! That's what he said in an accompanying video. Reckons he recouped more than £2bn.
"I was a good manager, good at business," he said. "Buy 'em cheap, sell 'em high; get 'em when they're about 16, get rid of them when they're about 28 - some big team will buy them. And you just invest it all again."
Mind you, in an email sent by the Guinness World Records team, it notes that Bland spent £104m on a player in 2040, so perhaps he's telling porkies.
Bland had a stadium named after him (again, unfortunate surname), saw a player retire because of arthritis, and witnessed Algeria win the World Cup in South Africa in 2034.
Bland even once applied to be the real-life manager of Liverpool FC, using his Football Manager credentials as evidence of his qualifications for the job.
"When Gerard Houllier left Liverpool, before Rafa Benitez got put in charge, I did actually apply for that Liverpool job," he said. [Note that Houllier left Liverpool in 2004, long before Football Manager 2010 was released in 2009. The first Football Manager game was FM05, released in 2004. Sports Interactive made Championship Manager for Eidos before then.] "I did go on to say, in my letter, how well I'd done at Football Manager... I got a really nice letter back from them.
"Of course you're never going to be able to immediately go into a dressing room and be able to handle multi-millionaires who are more worried about their fake tans and girlfriends than anything you've got to say," he added. "Of course there are going to be some elements of tactics and coaching that you're going to have a grip on and, I guess, do something with, but actual man-management: no, not at all, not one bit. I would have failed miserably."
Bland comes across well in the video, smiling as he recollects, in a good humoured way, an addiction of sorts to a video game. Seems like a good egg. He played that Football Manager save for 4169 hours, which equates to nearly 174 days, but it occupied him during a difficult time.
"I had a lot of free time so I was playing the game every day like a full-time job," he said. "I was caring for my mum, helping out my family, so I'd be doing other things, but mainly that was there to get me through a difficult time." And being a Guinness World Record holder means "those two and a half years weren't put to waste", he added. "Something good came out of it.
"The game ended with me spilling some liquid all over my laptop, breaking my laptop, and I was so heartbroken I didn't even try and retrieve it," he went on. "I saw it as a natural way of ending what could have gone on, quite possibly, forever."
Incidentally, Bland chose Fiorentina because he likes the colour (purple) and his favourite ever player, Socrates, played for them.
Reminds me of the time I played for Fiorentina - Fiveways Fiorentina that is. I was barely a teenager and we desperately needed a new kit, so one of the dads, who was Italian, tried his luck writing to Fiorentina and lying about us all being huge fans. And it worked! A few weeks later an entire replica kit turned up, way too big for us but it didn't matter - our socks didn't scrape the skin off our fingers any longer. We were thrilled! And we became Fiveways Fiorentina as a result.
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