Rejoice, All Ye Faithful

It's that time of year again - the blazing sun, the humid nights, the brown grass - and the good folks at Sports Interactive starting to drop hints about the newest incarnation of their baby, due just in time for the holidays. Football Manager 2008 (née Championship Manager) is just around the corner and you can take a gander at some screenshots (scroll down) and the new features over at the SI website.

Besides the normal gloss of eye-candy, it doesn't look like too much has changed, but there are still a few months until the final release for changes to be revealed, hyped, and, of course, maligned on the forums. A few new leagues, faces that age for the regens, an advisor mode, graphics tweaks, more financial/ticket data, and the mandatory "improvements" to the match engine, all probably combine to make the upgrade worth the price of admission, though, to be fair, I pretty much have the cost of FM in my annual budget anyway, such is my trust in the work of the SI team.

The one feature that jumped out immediately was the inclusion of graphical calendars rather than the standard fixture listing. To someone as visually attuned as I am, this feature is going to be a godsend. Being able to call up yearly and monthly calendars to get a fix on where the fixture pile-ups are going to occur will save me from the normal "crap, I just put out my first team for the cup match, but we've got two important league matches in the next five days" approach.

So, skip a coffee a week (you don't need the caffeine anyway) and put those extra dollars/pounds/euros/pesos aside for the often frustrating, always engaging, sometimes wonderful escapism that is Football Manager.

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