If a football manager isn't careful they can be typecast, just like an actor.

Perfectly decent, dependable managers such as Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis will probably never get a crack at a top job.

Whether it's down to their not being ambitious enough, not playing sufficiently attractive football, or simply speaking with an unfashionable accent, there's a glass ceiling in place above them.

Football Manager Handheld 2014, while predictably engrossing and accomplished, leaves us wondering whether it's climbed as high as its current approach to the job will allow.

Percentage ball

The Football Manager Handheld series has attracted a lot of praise over the years for its solid, lightweight approximation of the formidable PC series. But you couldn't accuse it of over-ambition.

Despite claims of a "complete redesign of the way the game looks", Sports Interactive's latest mobile footy management game doesn't sport the iOS 7-like flourishes of the equivalent desktop version. It still looks a little ugly. A little late-'90s.

More importantly, it also plays much the same as Football Manager Handheld 2013.

This is a stripped-back, sped-up take on the dauntingly deep desktop-based series that spawned it. All the basics are here - you assemble and organise a team of real-life players and send them out into a string of simulated games.

These are accompanied by text commentary and the odd 2D-engine highlight, informing you of any tactical shifts that need to be made when the game is next paused.

Form is temporary

It's still impossibly absorbing stuff, and the temptation to play another game is as strong as ever. This is helped by some super-fast processing and loading times, even on older devices with the full quota of four leagues being simulated in the background.

However, the tactical side of things still feels a little too light. Beyond assigning your players a position and a role (advance forward or target man, for example), there's no way to instruct them as to the kinds of runs you want them to make, or where you want them to operate when in possession of the ball.

Admittedly, this is probably more realistic than the alternative. Managers don't tend to micromanage such matters to this degree, and professional players tend to have their own instinctual movement patterns that define them. These are often replicated accurately here.

But there's just the slight sense that matches are playing out to parameters outside of your control. The lack of ability to hire staff in order to influence training beyond simple attack-defence-general options (and the emphasis of each schedule) furthers the sense that your control over your team's approach on matchday is limited.

Start by getting the names right

This remains a fine management game though, and the ability to change your players' moods - and thus performance levels - with a well-timed public comment or a poorly timed transfer-listing is endlessly impressive.

The interface has been improved, too, but it still feels like a work in progress. We appreciate the ability to jump to the subjects of a news item through a News Links tab, but it still feels like a somewhat bodged workaround.

Why can you still not directly tap on names to get you to the relevant info screen - at least not consistently?

Picking your team still doesn't quite feel as slick as it should, either. Not being able to simply deselect a player by tapping his position tab within the team select screen gets irritating - especially given that attempting to scroll up through your squad often leads to an unintentional jump to an individual player screen.

On cloud 9

One thing's for sure: Football Manager Handheld 2014 is a much better iPad game than it is an iPhone game. From the helpful overview home screen to the comparative ease of navigating the UI, this is a tablet game first and foremost.

Still, it also makes for an absorbing game to play in odd snippets of time on your iPhone, which is why we're incredibly happy to see a cloud-save feature implemented. Switching between the two devices is relatively seamless - once you've realised you need to open a menu and select 'iCloud', that is.

We also appreciate the ability to track a player's progression over time, which makes picking out a promising youngster or rough gem more viable and satisfying.

There's also the new ability to create your own team from scratch. It's possible to replace any team with your own custom creation, as well as to add yourself and your friends into the game in the ultimate act of wish fulfilment.

It runs somewhat counter to the realistic spirit of the game, but we're sure there will be people out there who will thrill at the ability to put their local town into the shoes of moneybags Manchester City.

Vote of confidence

It might sound as if we're being unusually harsh to Football Manager Handheld 2014 - especially when it's undoubtedly a better game than last year's version, which we positively raved about at the time.

But expectations shift quickly in the worlds of football and video games alike, and as ever there's a shiny new talent that's had us looking on enviously. The new PS Vita version of Football Manager will essentially be the full classic version of the PC series, all packaged up in portable form.

Put simply, we've seen the level that our own team (let's call it iOS United) could conceivably reach. It's tantalising. Full Footy Manager on the go! All of a sudden, the gaming equivalent of a European place doesn't seem as attractive or commendable as it once did.

Football Manager Handheld 2014 is well on course for another solid year at the top with a string of minor but welcome improvements. But the fans have had a glimpse at what might have been, and simply maintaining local dominance won't be good enough for much longer.