Meet the multiple Champions League winner hoping to lead Ipswich Town to glory
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town begin their Football Manager Cup campaign against Port Vale this evening. ANDY WARREN spoke to the man taking charge of the Blues.
Ipswich Town appear to be in capable hands.
The Blues begin their Football Manager Cup campaign at 7pm this evening against Port Vale, as 54 EFL teams battle it out for interactive glory in a knockout competition played out on the cult computer game.
In charge of the Blues is a man who has an impressive CV. He’s won multiple Champions Leagues with Ipswich and clubs further afield, including a run which saw Lowestoft become the biggest club in world football and an unlikely success as Cypriot side FC Pathos conquered Europe using only homegrown players.
Joe Fairs, a 34-year-old Portman Road season ticket holder, also happens to be the man responsible for researching and then providing Football Manager with all their data for Ipswich Town players, surely making him the perfect man for the job.
“I’ve been doing the ratings for a few years now and did the last set of updates in January, so it’s my data in reality so there’s no excuse really,” he joked.
“It’s something I’ve done for a few years but I think actually knowing how to play the game is key. If pretty much any Ipswich fan was picking the team it wouldn’t be a million miles away from the one I’ve picked.
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“The research might help you when you’re playing on your own because you know the youngsters who have the best potential and things like that, but I don’t think it will come into it in this.
“I just like setting myself little challenges to play through the game.
“I have been playing with Wrexham and told myself I could only sign Welsh players. I had three promotions in a row but have found the Championship a little harder and I’m not sure how I’m going to get beyond that.
“I’ve done all the obvious ones, winning the Champions League with Ipswich in most of the versions of the game, but I’ve also turned Lowestoft Town into the biggest club in the world. The only problem with that one was every time I went up a division I seemed to have to end up sharing Carrow Road with Norwich while the Lowestoft ground was renovated.
“I also won the Champions League with a Cypriot club, Pathos FC, only using Cypriot players, so that was pretty fun.”
The format of the competition will see teams go head-to-head in one-off games on the FM Touch version of the game, with players carrying their true attributes rather than being adjusted to create a level-playing field.
“I haven’t really had time to think about it properly, but representing Ipswich at this is quite a big thing really, when you see some of the people doing it for the other clubs,” Fairs said.
“Joe Lolley is doing it for Nottingham Forest and Lee Camp’s playing for Birmingham, so it would be nice to get a tie against an actual player rather than a bloke called Jim who supports Port Vale - I’m sure he’s thinking exactly the same about me.
“I’ve never been one of those people who dress up in a suit for a cup final or anything like that and I’ve not gone as far as scouting Port Vale, or anything like that. I know some people do and mix things about accordingly but I just play my best team and tactics I know.
“I’ve never actually played the FM Touch version (a scaled back version of the classic game) or played with anyone else over a network, so that’s going to be a bit different. Hopefully it will be ok.
“I’d back myself up against any team up to the middle of the Championship, because the squad’s good enough, but as soon as you get a big hitter like Leeds or Forest you’re going to struggle because they’ve got so much quality.”
Manager Fairs is close to knowing his starting XI with only a few positions up for grabs.
Will Norris is likely to get the nod over Tomas Holy in goal, behind a back four of Kane Vincent-Young, Luke Chambers, Luke Woolfenden and Luke Garbutt.
The centre of the midfield is a ‘three from four’ scenario, with Emyr Huws and Flynn Downes certain starters and Cole Skuse and Teddy Bishop fighting for the remaining position, with Alan Judge ahead of them in the No.10 role.
Then it’s James Norwood and Kayden Jackson in attack.
“The whole squad is fit, which is a bonus, and you can load your tactics in from other Football Manager games you have going on which is good,” he said. “Hopefully I don’t get embarrassed.
“Emyr Huws is the best-rated player on there. He was signed by Ipswich as a top end Championship midfielder and now the club is obviously nowhere near that, but you’re not supposed to decrease their attributes just because they’re injured for long spells. Flynn Downes is one of the star players too.
“Jackson’s pace messes up the calculations a little bit and it makes a massive difference. I like to play with pressing forwards so that will be really important.
“I’m a bit undecided on a few of them but I’m pretty sure which team I’m going to go with.
“Hopefully we can win and get through.”