There are just some tunes that you can never completely get out of your head, no matter how much time passes. For me, one of the repeat offenders is the theme music to the 1986 video game Footballer of the Year (FOTY). Specifically, the Amstrad CPC version.
Back then, my family only had an Atari 2600 (we didn’t get a ZX Spectrum until 1987!). So naturally, I spent a lot of time around my best friend’s house playing on his “vastly superior” Amstrad. Even at the tender age of six, it was obvious to me that the Atari 2600 had had its day!
When we weren’t playing Harrier Attack, we used to spend hours upon hours playing FOTY, taking it in turns to have shots at goal. But before loading our saved career, we’d always sit and listen in full to Ben Daglish’s wonderful take on the Match of the Day theme tune. And now it is stuck with me forever 😀
Sadly, FOTY is nowhere near as fun as I remember it being and is a rather strange hybrid of a game.
It came out in the wake of Mexico 86. England got to the quarter-finals, knocked out by Argentina and Maradona’s infamous “hand of God”, and Gary Linekar won the Golden Boot. Everyone got the footy bug and the result was a sudden deluge of soccer games for home computers.
But FOTY has much more in common with Monopoly and Game of Life than the other football simulations of the time. Which is not entirely surprising, given that two brothers originally submitted the idea to Gremlin Graphics as a board game concept.
You start the game as a 17-year-old apprentice in a team of your choosing from the English Fourth Division (rebranded in more recent years as EFL League Two). The aim is to ascend the leagues, get rich, and become the Footballer of the Year.
Instead of playing full matches, however, you spend money on goal cards, which get you a few seconds controlling your player (well, a ball) in front of goal. Sometimes it’s a penalty kick, other times you have to take on one or two defenders. And by “take on”, I mean move the ball left or right then shooting before being tackled. It’s pretty simple stuff.
The strategy part comes from carefully choosing which matches to use your goal cards in, as some will give you three opportunities to score and others just the one. And there’s not much point in wasting cards against weak teams.
In between games, you can also pay to draw incident and transfer cards. The former work a bit like Monopoly’s “chance” cards – perhaps you’ll win some money on the horse races or down the casino but you might also find yourself splashing out on a fancy new car. Transfer cards are far more expensive, but they give you a small possibility of moving to a bigger club and getting a better salary.
As I said, FOTY is a weird game. And while its mild eccentricity does have a certain charm, it’s very grindy and repetitive and the action segments are far too simple and easy to be engaging.
Still, FOTY seemed to keep me entertained as a kid and it does have a helluva catchy theme tune. I only wish it didn’t pop into my head quite so often!
You can checkout my classic video game music playlist on YouTube.