Get better with your feet, using your thumbs

After a calamitous run of form in 1997, former England keeper David James blamed his error-strewn performances on playing Tekken II and Tomb Raider for hours on end.

Well, according to the game’s international governing body, James has erred again. FIFA – the real FIFA – carried out a survey of over 10,000 gamers and 58 per cent stated the virtual skills they’d learned on the video game FIFA improved their game on the pitch, citing silkier skills and improved awareness.

The link between furiously twiddling your controller and pulling the strings for your team in real life is a growing one. Research by London’s Queen Mary University suggests some video games actually increase brainpower.

The study found that subjects who played the military strategy game StarCraft improved their decision-making, as well as creative and lateral thinking.

“The current work also revealed that real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes,” explains Dr Brian Glass, head of the research.

That means playing a cerebrally-stretching game on your Xbox or PlayStation can lead to choosing the right pass, knowing when to make that run in behind, or timing a risky tackle in the penalty box.

Now you have a legitimate excuse for swerving a wet Tuesday night training session: tell the gaffer it’s all in the thumbs.

BE A PLAYSTATION PLAYER! Learn how to boss the pitch like the best computer-generated footballers here.

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