About two thirds of the way through my first season of LMA Manager 2007, it strikes me that this might not be the most realistic football management sim ever seen. Mainly because I'm topping the Premiership with Watford, playing in front of 60,000-strong crowds thanks to some rapid stadium expansion, and have signed Gerrard, Rooney, Ronaldinho, Beckham, Cech and Roberto Carlos.
Well, that and the fact that they're called Girrerd, Rouniy, Ronaldenhu, Bickhem, Cicha and Roberto Cerlus.
This may be the stuff of real-life Watford boss Ady Boothroyd's wildest – and most dyslexic – dreams, but it's just a tad far-fetched. Whether this puts you off or not will tell you whether LMA Manager 2007 is worth investing in.
Let's start at the beginning. The game puts you in the hotseat at a top-division club in England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, France or Spain. You pick a club, choose a difficulty level – Normal or Expert – tweak your skills balance between motivation, coaching, judgement and discipline, and get stuck in.
If you've played the previous LMA Manager mobile game, you'll find it's been completely overhauled, with much more depth. You control tactics, transfers, training, ticket prices, and a few things that don't begin with 'T' as well, like stadium improvement and staff hirings. You don't get to trouser brown envelopes stuffed with used notes offered by agents, but that's about all that's missing.
It's all controlled through a menu system, accessed through nine icons at the bottom of the screen, which have sub-icons below them. Making complex football management sims work on a small mobile screen is a tough challenge, but here it's intuitive and accessible, once you've done the initial exploring to work out what option is where.
The big selling point of LMA Manager 2007, however, is its match engine. You can choose to skip games, just hearing the result, or watch a text display that's similar to rival game Championship Manager. However, you can also watch a proper 2D match, which brings your players and tactics to life as you see them trundle up and down the isometric pitch playing the beautiful game (or not, as the case may be).
It can be a bit repetitive – strikers have a tendency to lose the ball in the penalty area, then slide tackle the defender to ricochet the ball into the back of the net – but it's a nice touch that will add to the game's appeal, particularly for more casual players who aren't stat-geeks. And this is the key thing about LMA Manager 2007.
If you're a hardcore footy-management game fan on PC (in other words, if Championship Manager and/or Football Manager has lost you several jobs/partners/friends), you may turn your nose up at this mobile game. It's a bit easy once you've found the formula for success, the lack of licensed team and player names is a pain, and the tactical options are limited – particularly as there's no rating system to show who on your team is playing well and who's not.
However, LMA Manager 2007 isn't strictly aimed at that audience. If you're a football fan, but think the hardcore PC sims are just a bit spreadsheety, this game is admirably suited to bitesize chunks of mobile play. The example at the start of this review, of turning Watford into a Galactico-strewn superclub in just six months, is actually a selling point in this context, rather than a bug.
It's a bit rough and ready around the edges, but ultimately Codemasters has come up trumps with a football management sim that works well for mobile play, and gives you the chance to live the dream. If you want gritty realism for your train journey, buy a decent laptop and Football Manager 2007. But if you just want some knockabout fun, LMA Manager 2007 is just the ticket.