Exclusive: The Football Manager gun who realised an S.League dream

Tired of winning almost every virtual trophy there was, Jerald Tan decided to give real life management a go — and won the quadruple with Albirex Niigata (S). He shares his remarkable story with FourFourTwo…

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Like every other football fanatic, Jerald Tan’s life revolved around the Beautiful Game. 

On the weekends, the 22-year-old would play social football and watch English Premier League games.

In December 2015 he chanced upon an advertisement by Albirex advertising a job opening

But what really kept him busy was managing Greek side Panathinaikos in the popular simulated video game, Football Manager.

The then-Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) student would spend hours each day on the game, tinkering with his squad and making fantasy multi-million dollar transfers.

But after winning five Superleague Greece trophies, four UEFA Champions League medals and four Club World Cups, Tan (seen above, far left) was hungry for a more realistic challenge.  

It was then, in December 2015, that he chanced upon a Facebook advertisement by S.League side Albirex advertising a job opening.

Tan needed no second invitation. 

Tan became part of the triumphant Albirex squad and the rest is history...

“If you talk about managerial experience, I have a ton of it in Football Manager,” he told FourFourTwo.

“I had no clue about how to run a team, but I was always very interested in how top coaches like (Jose) Mourinho and (Antonio) Conte managed their players.”

Like all Singaporean parents, mine didn’t approve of me quitting school for this job

Two interviews – the first with general manager Koh Mui Tee and the second with club chairman Daisuke Korenaga – was all it took for Tan to be hired as Albirex’s new assistant team manager. He was to take over as a club executive.

“Going into the interview, I was pretty nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect.

“But coming out of it, I was confident of landing the position because we ended up casually discussing Liverpool’s chances in the league for half an hour at least,” said the Manchester United fan. 

“When Korenaga offered me the contract, it was pretty surreal as I was going to pursue a childhood dream.”

The White Swans are used to overcoming obstacles

Fortuitously, Tan had taken a six-month leave of absence from his studies just weeks before taking up the job offer. 

But there was to be one final obstacle in the way — his parents.

I didn’t take a break for the first two months. Some days, we even went in at five in the morning

They would give him the silent treatment at home after hearing he had taken on the role.

“Like all Singaporean parents, mine didn’t approve of me quitting school for this job,” Tan quipped. 

His father finally broke the silence close to four months later, after a home game between Albirex and Tampines Rovers.

“After that game was reported in the papers, he started asking me how my team was doing, and we even had a few debates about football in Singapore,” Tan said.

“They still didn’t accept it fully, at least they didn’t tell me that they did. But they started supporting me, which was important.”

[NEXT: A valuable lesson and unprecedented success]