Football Manager 2006 comes equipped with a very large and memory-consuming data editor. Ostensibly this is so you can tweak stats and update your teams with new transfers, managerial changes etc. in advance of the next upgrade. You can also add entirely new players in, and I’m sure most players start by loading this feature and putting themselves in the game.

I was no different – except that the very idea of me playing football went well beyond laughable several decades ago, Crafting “Tom Ewing” of Leatherhead FC was still my way of getting to grips with the data editor – good on-the-job training as the help file refused to load. I tried to imagine a more athletic version of me, and what my strengths and weaknesses as a player might be. I always was picked for defense, so I made him a defender, left-sided cos I’m left handed, reliant more on brain and bulk than on pace or skill – since I thought that this idealised sporty me might have become quite fit and strong, whereas in no parallel universe would I have become fast. It was an enjoyable bit of mental exercise, a harmless trip into the counterfactuals of ones own life.

I then sorted out his club and player likes and dislikes, and turned to his abilities and potential. I kept the stats low, envisaging a clogging lower-league career for my alter ego. Next was current ability – I gave him a low rating, and then ‘potential’ – from “-10 to 200”. Realism took hold again, and I slotted in -10: even as a fictional footballer, I was going nowhere.

Except I didn’t realise, because I hadn’t used the data editor before, that the numbers “0-200” on this stat refer to definite potential, and “-10 to -1” mean “randomise it”, with the lower the negative stat the higher the likely potential. “-10”, in other words, is incredible raw talent.

So young Tom Ewing, while still not the fastest, has blossomed over 6 fictional seasons into an “England U21 starlet”, with Spurs and Arsenal battling for his signature. It started reasonably enough, with a spell in Doncaster Reserves, but he’s now worth several million. The occasional news updates on his progress feel quite embarrassing – I feel like Roy of the Rovers dreams have been thrust unwanted upon me (though I’m not so embarassed as to take him off my ‘shortlist’ and stop monitoring his progress). Worse, I sneakily feel as if I’m cheating by having him in the game, even though he’s never played in any of my teams or even against one. Next time I start a game I’ll have a poke in the data editor and reset young Tom to a more reasonable level – but for now I’ll guiltily enjoy his apparently unstoppable footballing progress.