Review: Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad

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Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad

Football Manager Handheld 2012 is this year’s iPad (and iPhone) version of the superb football management game from Sports Interactive. I’m a huge and long-time fan of the Football Manager series, after graduating to it following years of obsession with Championship Manager.

I was over the moon when Football Manager first came to the iPad. Yes, there wa an iPhone version before that but this game lends itself much better to the bigger screen I think. I spent many (many!) hours playing last year’s iPad version of this game and mostly enjoyed it. It had one very major bug which I felt really let the game down though – it would never remember your choices for penalty and set-piece takers. So you could have David Beckham and Roberto Carlos (if he were still playing) set as your free kick takers and then find that every time you got one a lumbering central defender would come forward and blast it nowhere near the goal.

Seeing a new year’s version of Football Manager is always exciting, and even more so for me now with the iPad version. I had high hopes for the new 2012 version and I’ve spent a crazy (just ask my wife) amount of time playing it since it was released last December. Hit the break for all my thoughts on this latest version …

Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad


This year’s version of the game is not radically different to the 2011 version. It’s still a ‘light’ version of Football Manager on the desktop. What this means is that the game is considerably less in-depth but it is much faster to play. I think this is a good trade-off for an iPad version of the game.

There are some notable new features in Football Manager Handheld 2012 though, and chief among them is a brand new game mode. In addition to the traditional Career mode, we now have Challenge mode as well. In Challenge mode you can choose from four difficult scenarios and test your footie manager skills in a new way. The four scenarios are:

The Savior Cometh – Your team are in a relegation battle half way through the season. Can you take the reins and guide them to safety?

Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad

Injury Crisis – Your team are swamped with injury problems leading to most of your first team players being on the treatment table. Can you keep the results coming in and avoid getting the sack?

Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad

Unrest at Home – Your appointment as manager has left some senior players unhappy. How will you handle the egos? Can you avoid being sacked before the end of the season by still achieving the board’s ambitions?

Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad

Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad

The Invincibles – You’ve gone on a long run without losing. Can you cement your place in history by going the full season unbeaten?

All the challenges can be played with any club in the game, except for The Savior Cometh – which can be played with any club in a league with relegation.

Here’s what else is new in the 2012 version:

Updated Leagues, Competitions & Transfers – for the 2011/12 season, plus the addition of the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League, and Blue Square Bet North & South.

Fully customisable tactics – Use drag and drop to create your own unique formations and perfect your tactics.

Apple TV Mirror Support – Playable in HD on a HD TV using the Apple TV Mirroring system for iPad 2 & iPhone 4s and a new generation Apple TV.

Star Players – Helps you to easily identify the three key players in other squads.

Social Networking – Send updates direct to friends directly from the game via Twitter and, for the first time, Facebook

Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad


— It’s great that you can now tweak formations to make them exactly as you want them now – creating your own slight variation of a popular tactic is big fun, and can be very effective if you know your team’s strengths well.

— That major bug from the 2011 version was finally squashed with the 3.2 update to the game in late January. Hurray. There aren’t that many places in the iPad game where you can make tactical choices, so it’s good to see one of the main ones working as it should.

— The new Challenge mode is quite challenging, as it should be. This gives the game a nice new dimension. I’ve completed three of the four scenarios so far, all except The Invincibles, which I’ve only tried once. I like that when you complete a challenge you can choose whether to call it a day or continue and switch over to Career mode.

Unrest Challenge Done

— The game is now even faster and smoother to play. One example is that in many places where you used to have to tap an arrow button to move between screens, you can now just swipe through quickly – on the player search and main news screens for instance. It’s also quite fast when loading a saved game and even when setting up and starting a new game.

— The player and league databases are very complete looking. Or at least I haven’t found any major gaps in them.


— There are places where the AI in the game looks weak. A few examples of this that I’ve seen in both Career and Challenge mode:

Playing as Chelsea, I won the Premier League and the Champions League in my first season in charge. Then just prior to the start of the new season a board confidence update said the board felt I should be performing slightly better in my role. Say what???

The Board Feel

I saw this again when managing Arsenal, after winning the Premier League and League Cup in my first season. And again in a Challenge mode game (the Unrest at Home) one where I finished the challenge and continued in Career mode and ended the year with Chelsea winning the Champions League. Even in this era of impatient ownership, these reactions seem far from realistic.

Oh, and even in a friendly against a club from a lower division, you shouldn’t see this sort of scoreline:

Ridiculous Score

The graphics in this game are spot-on for what it is, but they are very basic, far from complex I would say. For me, this means that there should be ample resources and room to make the AI not just good but superb. It’s not there yet in my view and should be improved.

— When you are setting up a new game you can’t look at any teams, you just have to choose one. In the desktop game you can check out a team to see their players and financial status and so on – this should be the same in the iPad version.

— It would be great to see some ability to play this game against others, or at least compare best results with others online in some way, have some sort of global leaderboards.

Some Tips

I’m not going to claim to be the Alec Ferguson or Jose Mourinho of Football Manager Handheld on the iPad – but I have done well on the challenge scenarios and just about always won major trophies if I manage one of the Big 5 clubs.

Mnaager of the Year

I don’t tend to try the whole take a team all the way up from the lower divisions approach often – largely because I don’t know the players at that level well and also because I just love having a Premiership team with a shot at playing in Europe.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are a few of the things I think will help you succeed in managing any of the major clubs in England, Spain, or Italy at least:

— Start by looking carefully at your first team. At the bigger clubs, the game usually starts you out with a number of reserve / 2nd team caliber players in your first team squad. I like to first demote the players who have no business being in the first team, offer up for loan those who are young and promising and need competitive games, and transfer list those who don’t fit into my plans. Next I try to identify the strengths and weaknesses of my first team, with two key things in mind: what formation will exploit the strengths best and where do I have needs to be filled through buying players.

— Be ruthless about selling players who don’t fit your tactics. For example, if you’re committed to playing a 4-1-3-2 formation and you have a couple of very good wing players who do not play well in central midfield, get rid of them and go get more midfielders who are well suited to your tactics.

— If you need or want to sell any established players (to finance better new players or help with team chemistry) do all your selling first if possible, before buying any players. The reason for this is that you’’ll often find that many of your first team players will be unhappy when you sell off stars or even just fringe members of the first team. The best way to get them quickly over that is to do your buying last – bring in some quality new players and they forget all about those who were sold.

— Pick a tactic that best suits your team, experiment with a few during friendlies if you need to, and then stick with it. Frequent swapping round of tactics leads to bad results in my experience.

— Try to build depth in your squad, so that you have at least one decent player to cover for your first choice at each position. This may take some time depending on which club you manage, but it will lead to less tiredness among first choice players and much better results when injuries hit.

Supporters Sing My Name


If you like Football Manager, or football management games in general, and you own an iPad then you need to own this game.

Here’s the best way to sum up how much I like Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad: I enjoy playing the iPad version much more than the desktop version now. Although that’s partly because I just can’t spend the huge amount of hours required to get the most out of the desktop version without probably ending up divorced and jobless, it’s also all about how good the iPad version is. 

Here’s an App Store link for Football Manager Handheld 2012; it’s priced at $9.99 and is a universal app designed to run on both iPad and iPhone.

Disclosure: This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPad App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the "About" page. 

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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26 thoughts on “Review: Football Manager Handheld 2012 for iPad”

  1. Thank you for your review. Actually I spent countless hours and days playing FM (when it was CM and developed by the Collier Bros) and being able to play it on the iPad it’s just wonderful. However, the game still feels worst than the versions I used to play in the 90’s and the 00’s. The game has no depth, awful graphics, doesn’t use the marvellous UI that the iPad allow and the game is just a sad shadow of what the desktop version is. I think that the iPad, although it doesn’t have as much RAM as the desktop version requires, it could at least use it better. The game engine is no good enough, the graphics are hedious and the whole experience is defrauded. I would never buy FM for my computer if all I knew was the iPad version…
    I bought the first one, and never bought one again. And every year I wish that they get their things together and release a proper FM that can live up to its reputation!

  2. Thanks for the review – seems very fair and balanced.

    There should be a new update out this month (whenever it finishes QA) which allows people to fully edit tactics in-match using drag and drop positioning … it will also contain a january data update.

    Hope this helps,


  3. PS – Alexandr3 if you’d care to email me with more detailed feedback I’d be interested in hearing how you think the UI could be improved – the original FMH (iOS) game did not contain a HD skin for the iPad (and so just scaled up the iPhone UI on the 2x button) … the game now has a specific iPad UI in the correct resolution for that device.

    The game engine itself is based on our earlier products which you indicate you enjoyed and shares its database with FM, obviously I realise it won’t be a game for ‘everyone’ (no game ever is) – but if you’d be kind enough to email me more detailed feedback I’d be interested in listening.

  4. Its single player only I’m afraid – simply put we included a simple multi-player network game on the FMH PSP game and found no one used it really, so implementing multi-player wasn’t a huge item on the radar when I moved the game to iOS.

    (if enough people request it however I’ll try and revisit that decision at some point)

    1. Hi Marc

      Any news when you might add a retina skin for the new iPad, has a massive opportunity for more screen estate on menu’s, also is there any plans to update the match engine seems a little clunky compared even to earlier FM games,

      1. No timeline fixed for that yet I’m afraid – the main thing isn’t the creation of the skin its trying to ensure that the additional pixels don’t slow down the user interface as I think its vital it stays as responsive as possible.

  5. I enjoyed an older version of the game on the iPhone a couple of years ago, so I’m interested in picking this up, but I must say I’m very unimpressed by the visuals. I know a management game doesn’t require complex graphics as such, but it really does look like the iPhone version (which is a bit ugly anyway) scaled straight up. Looks like a lot of wasted real-estate. It makes sense for the iPhone, but the iPad screen should be able to handle menus a little more like the desktop version of the game.

    I’ve not decided if I want to splash for it yet… A demo would definitely be good, one of the downsides of iOS App Store.

    1. I have to agree with the above point, I’ve been playing the series since day one and certain that the iPad can do so much more than currently avaliable, the psp version has more depth and a better match engine

      1. Purely out of interest why do you think the PSP has more depth and a better match engine? – they actually share the same original match engine with the only differences being that the iOS version uses player roles rather than individual player instructions (player roles are basically ‘pre-canned’ player instructions which are easier to setup and use on a touch input device).

        With regards to depth – I’d have argued that you win some, you lose some between the two – some features on the iOS aren’t present on PSP (graphical news items, lots of the new media, new challenge game mode etc.) while the PSP has the network play option.

        I’d be interested to hear your reasoning and what you think might be improve this side of things.

        PS – The iPad version of the game does have increased rows for tables (meaning more information on the page) and also some pages customised specifically for the larger input area (notably the squad selection page for instance).

        1. To me it feels like you guys looked at the iPhone and thought about what it can do, and carefully considered the size of the screen, and made a decent management game considering. It looks VERY different compared to the PC version, but it has to. The iPhone implementation is pretty decent. My issue with the iPad is that it feels the same attention hasn’t been paid. For the iPhone, the series was modified entirely to work for the new form factor and screen size (and touchscreen, obviously). For the iPad though, it just feels like an upscaled iPhone app. It’s not upscaled obviously, as you’re right, you can see more stats at once, more players on a list etc. But the huge chunky buttons, only looking at one thing at a time… It’s not dreadful by any means, but it just feels to me that the iPad got a lazier solution. A modified port essentially.

          When the iPad was first revealed by Apple, my gaming mind thought of two things: football management games, and RTS like Command & Conquer and Starcraft. I feel neither of these categories have been fully realised on the iPad yet.

  6. I’m not one to hide behind fancy words ….. so ….

    Frankly the iPad version isn’t as good as it ‘could be’ with regards to the user interface, we’ve been pragmatic with our decisions on how to create and evolve it – I targeted what was possible to improve upon the iPhone UI with it when it was implemented but we haven’t had time to do a ‘full make over’ on it yet (that I hope we’ll get to do with FMH2013).

    That being said – I’m pleased with how the iPad interface handles and it is (in my ever so slightly biased opinion) usable and friendly for people.

    With regards to when/how/why the interface will evolve further – There are only two developers on the handheld team (me and Rich) and as such we have to balance our decisions with regards to development against the various platforms we’re supporting (iOS, Android and PSP) – this means sometimes it might take a couple of generations of a release to reach the optimal solution we’re aiming towards.

    I apologize for this – however its not us being lazy, just that there are only so many hours in the day I’m afraid.

    Please bear with us, I make these games because I love playing them myself and if it was physically possible for us to advance them into the future faster then I would have done so.

    1. Yes its fully compatible with the iPad3 (ie. it works fine and is fast as heck) – it doesn’t contain an iPad retina skin however at present.

  7. Question primarily aimed at Marc:

    I’m guessing that there’s a whole host of black magic computer jiggery-pokery, but is there any way that save games can be synced from iPad/iPhone to the full, desktop version of FM?

    If it’s not possible now, will it be in the future?


  8. I just want 2 know that on football manager 2012 handheld, is it possible 2 save ur game progress as I’ve heard u can’t, I don’t fancy starting a new game everytime? Thanks

    1. Yes its possible to save – its be horrible if you could t IMHO.

      There are four save game slots and tow “rotating” autosaves available.

  9. That’ll teach me to post from my phone and rely on its auto-correction ;)

    To risk repeating myself:

    Yes its possible to save – its be horrible if you couldn’t.

    There are four save game slots and tow “rotating” autosaves available.

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