Sitting on the comfy leather sofas in the corner of Coffee #1, Paul Holden-Warren’s relaxed smile calms any nerves I might have about this interview. It’s rare you get a chance to talk to someone who really entertains you, but GoldenFM has me hooked onto his extensive, diverse and ultimately very fun Football Manager coverage on YouTube. I’m not alone either – he’s amassed over 35,000 followers online and some of his videos have over 200,000 views.
He is a Southampton graduate who certainly has done well for himself! And there is a twinkle in his eye and genuine warmth as he recounts his favourite memory from his time at our university: “It has to be meeting my wife. It’s quite funny, I was in the year above and looking for a new housemate for the final year. We advertised, she turned up and impressed us and at the end of University, we got together. It’s just gone from there and we are now married.”
But the Geography graduate knows that I am not here to ask a lot about his time studying. Instead, I want to really explore his FM career. His favourite game and why? “It has to be FM 2012 for the simple reason that my YouTube channel wouldn’t exist without it. I got into FM when I was 10 years old playing Championship Manager 1999/00.” He continues, offering his view on why the game is so addictive and has such a strong cult following. It is very unlike FIFA, I think it is much for immersive. You just want one more day, one more game. It’s addictive. You just have to end on a winning streak.”
He continues, offering his views on the FM fanbase. “I think it attracts a certain type of person. You have to be quite analytical. There is a lot of data, analytics and details – to be honest I think it has helped me adapt to my graduate role as a data analyst!”
Paul’s commitment to the game is clear, with the customary suit for cup finals, but has he ever gone so far as to get a team jersey for an FM career? “Not quite.” He responds with a smirk, “I had a save on FM17 called Regen Rovers. It was a created club from scratch and whilst it was ongoing, someone contacted me – they had a contact at Puma and had a custom shirt printed for me with the series’ main star Jack Young on the back. Honestly, it was a huge honour for someone to print a shirt for me, to know that fan was so committed and invested in the series.”
Paul was recently involved in the Football Manager Charity Cup last weekend and he speaks about the event with immense pride. “I actually applied to be involved. Lee (FoxInTheBoxFM) asked for content creators to apply. He said yes and it was an honour to be part of it. It was for Warchild, who are a very good charity, one I am close to, and of course they are linked with FM themselves. I loved it all.” But he does admit at times Sports Interactive could offer more support to FM YouTubers: “There is a mixed relationship between creators and FM developers. Some people feel SI should do more, but I am grateful for any support they give. After all, it is a small proportion of the number of people who play the game – only a few thousand people watch content and get involved. But of course, if FM wants to keep growing, SI has to show more support.”
And what about the incredibly detailed, complex World Cup experiment where GoldenFM simulated the tournament a staggering one hundred times? “It actually popped into my head while on holiday in lake district.” The mild-mannered creator enthuses, “I was the first person to do FM experiments on YouTube- they usually come to me when out and about. I was very interested and all I needed to do was work out the way to create real world cup groups, using the Editor. One hundred was a bit of an arbitrary number, but a lot of stuff is repeated or tested one hundred times so it seemed suitable.”
Paul’s next response clearly demonstrates to me how complex the experiment was to plan and execute. “It took two weeks in total, having to come back and write details. I often left it simulating the background while I was working from home.” He laughs slightly, admitting, “The comments sections were still full of ‘Why didn’t you record x, y, z?’- if I had done that I would have been there for years!”
We talk for a while about the results, some of which are very surprising. He isn’t too shocked though, “Belgium [who were most successful in the simulations]are very good on FM. The English Premier League has a lot of them and is obviously very strong I would say it is overpowered but it does have a high reputation- the key thing for deciding simulations. France also did very well, but again that is due to FM’s emphasis on wonderkids. He does offer a light-hearted conspiracy theory on why Germany struggled, “Sports Interactive are not licensed in Germany so I think they are very underrated!”
The biggest shocks? “It has to be Panama finishing fourth which was just incredible. To be honest, I think it can happen in real life due to how erratic England are! It’s all decided by algorithms which are just updated year on year. They are very secretive.”
And finally, what does Paul hope will be added to Football Manager 2019? He takes a moment to think, although he agrees that my underhand suggestion of ‘tapping-up’ would be a cool, yet controversial new feature. He finally decides, “It would not be ready for next year, but the ability to play historic years would be amazing. SI did an April Fool a few years ago and posted image of FM 1889 – I thought going back in time would be brilliant!” He ultimately concedes it is “probably not possible” considering the database size.
GoldenFM’s content might not be the most well-known online, but there is no doubt he cares a lot for his fanbase – the fact he agreed to this interview so quickly demonstrates that. If you’re remotely interested in football, Football Manager, or just tactical video games, check Paul’s channel out, you won’t regret it!
You can check out Paul’s social media here, and check out his World Cup simulation experiment below: