Dean Furman: The FIFA Career Mode Legend Who Became an International at Oldham

Purists know the deal: skip that FIFA Ultimate Team lark and head straight into a Career Mode. For anyone over the age of 24 that is how football video games were played when they were first introduced to them. It was, without question, the single most enjoyable mode of the genre. Whether it was Pro Evolution Soccer’s imaginative and unparalleled Master League or FIFA’s fully licensed and all ‘92’ encompassing Career Mode, the solo pursuit was king.

Buoyed on by the increasingly detailed and complex management games such as Championship Manager, Premier Manager and, of course, Football Manager, these offline adventures developed and improved over the years but somewhere along the line, some scallywag with a brainwave in a boardroom thought he’d come and ruin it all by turning perfectly good simulations into Dungeon and Dragons with a football. That is to say, Ultimate Team was born. Based on packs and cards, coins and points, FUT was the perfect way to monetise the franchise in the booming online gaming scene and it single-handedly salvaged the game and elevated it above the once unquestionably dominant Pro Evo.

But like I said, purists know the deal, and if there is one thing this elite breed of football game knows, it is an in-game bargain. FIFA developer’s preference to have the overall rating  and attributes of a player hidden before scouting them is albeit realistic if still annoying; when you’re trying to assemble a competent side for your consecutive promotions from League Two to the Premier League, the last thing you want to do is wait a few weeks for your scouts to return with reports of players who are, at best, 69-rated. It’s the way it is for purists, though; and if you haven’t already established, this is who the article is for.

You could Google search your way to the Premier League, relying on the likes of FutWiz and SoFifa to fire you up the tables with their highly tempting but also hollowness-inducing encyclopaedia of overalls and potentials, skill and weak foot stars, and strength and pace attributes. But, you know, we are purists.

So, among all the excitement and anticipation of those few precious weeks of squad building before Macclesfield away, there are some players you just know you can rely on. You don’t need to scout them. As soon as you see their name in the Free Agents list, you sigh a relieved sigh that oozes the sweet relief that everything is going to be alright. One such man is former Bradford City, Oldham Athletic, and Doncaster Rovers central midfielder Dean Furman.

Blessed with the lungs of Park ji-sung, the aggression of Roy Keane and the vision of a Football League Fabregas, Furman is a diamond among the rough, a free agent ‘bread and milk, please love’, a Career Mode Legend.

With an overall rating of 67, he isn’t even the best free in his position if you judge solely on that, but who does that? Not purists, that is who. Anyone that knows his onions appreciates that 91 for stamina is like manna from heaven in the long run, and if you’re in League Two, that where you are: at the start of a marathon in a chicken outfit.

But why is this lower league colossal a free? Plying his real-life trade at SuperSport United – ironically a team that sounds like it is in ‘Other Leagues C’ on PES – the South African international’s side does not feature in-game and thus he starts life among the likes of, err, Gergo Lovrencsics, Ali Gabr, and Jose Carvallo, who are all actually quite useful against teams like Morecambe, Cheltenham, and Crewe. I’ve signed Furman every year since FIFA 2015 and even if he’s a benchwarmer by the second season, he is the best kind of benchwarmer, and he’s my benchwarmer. He’s the kind of player who I have doggedly follow me like Harry Redknapp does good old ‘Niko.’ He’s ‘triffic. A top top player.

Before ‘Deano’ returned home to South Africa, he was holding the midfield together for Doncaster Rovers, helping them gain promotion from the League One in 2013, while on loan from Oldham Athletic. Two years later and at the end of his contract with Donny, after they’d turned his loan deal permanent, the former Chelsea youth player turned down a contract extension, stating, “[captaining South Africa has] become a big part of my career. It’s definitely something going forward and that I have to take into account and it’s something I’m looking to progress, along with my club career.”

At that point, the 26-year old had tallied up exactly 220 league appearances across Bradford, Oldham, and Doncaster, scoring 16 goals, including the Football League Goal of the Year in 2011, for this lovely strike that was seemingly recorded on a calculator but in which you can see Oldham Atlético playing like Brazil, and Furman finishing the move with a superb curling effort ala Kaka. He’s got a habit of scoring the odd worldy, repeating the feat against Polokwane City five years later whilst captaining SuperSport, this time with his left foot.

It was actually nine days before he joined Bradford from Scottish giants Rangers that captain fantastic received his first international call up, but his debut didn’t come for another four years, when he then donned the Bafana Bafana gold for the first time in a friendly away against Brazil on 8th September 2012. They lost 1-0 but it was a childhood dream kind of fairytale for Furman. Four days later he earned the Man of the Match award in his first international on home soil, played at the 2010 World Cup purpose-built 40,000-capacity Mbombela Stadium.

“For me, it’s a massive occasion to play in my home country in front of my home fans. For us to go and be dominant in the game and come out 2-0 victors – it is a great feeling. The boys were very happy in the dressing-room,” he said after the game. Two years later, he was named as South Africa’s captain.

Now, four years into his time at Pretoria’s SuperSport United, Furman is 30-years old, a Nike Football Athlete, and all-round top bloke. From scorer of screamers, to leader on the pitch, the boy from Cape Town, is also giving his fans a reason to admire him off it. He has become a Cartoon Network Ambassador and is set to feature in the iconic kids channel’s upcoming “soccer frenzy” to coincide with the Africa Cup of Nations, after SuperSports United Soccer Schools entered a partnership with the TV giants.

What a bloke and what a FIFA Career Mode legend. Bradford, Oldham, and Doncaster fans should be proud for their boy done good.