Taking control of Blyth Spartans was a release from sounds of gunfire
12 August ~ The beginning of July 2014 was the period when Russia-backed separatists brought all-out war to Donetsk. Artillery duels would usually start late in the evening and last until around 2am. Then, an hour or so later, multiple rocket launchers, mortars and other deadly toys were followed by machine guns. It is hard to forget those times when you are lying in your bed and feel your house vibrating, as if you are part of a horror film.
It will also be hard to forget my spell with one of the non-League teams in Football Manager 2012. During those nights it was virtually impossible to fall asleep, so I decided to start a new Football Manager game. It didn’t take me long to decide on the team I intended to manage while hearing the sounds of cannonade from nearby battlefields. I picked Blyth Spartans. In tough times I plunged into a tough league, picking a team with a tough nickname. When I saw the name of Blyth’s most versatile player – Richard Slaughter – I had no doubts that my choice was absolutely right. That said, the Spartans’ green colours provided a soothing and balancing effect.
Having signed a couple of players available on a free transfer for each area of my tactical scheme (grid system 4-2-3-1 tactics), I felt quite enthusiastic about the upcoming league campaign. The season proved to be quite easy for Spartans, although there were a couple of our very own Battles of Thermopylae, one of which took place in Workington and saw the referee send off two Spartans, cancel a goal scored by them, wave play on when my two players were stretched off injured and, to top it all, punish us with awarding a penalty kick in the 89th minute – which eventually led to the hosts snatching a controversial 3-2 win.
The best thing about playing as Spartans was not even the actual management of the team and winning promotion, but the fact that it was the only real source of brightness for me when it seemed that my region became the place where hell broke loose for real. I had already had 18 years of experience playing Championship or Football Manager before last summer, but my interactive spell with Spartans – which was accompanied by real-life hostilities – will be one I'll always remember. It was also the last team I managed before departing from Donetsk in August last year.
Almost a year has passed since I left Donetsk and played Football Manager. My old laptop with a Blyth Spartans save has remained there, and I don’t know if I will ever come back home. Nevertheless, I’m thinking about starting a new game with Spartans to pick up where I left off. Alex Sereda