Championship Manager: A journey through time

Part One: That tricky first season

The Background

As the Premier League becomes a human rights abuse invitational, I thought I’d go back to a simpler time in my life when the beautiful game – for whatever reason – at least seemed more beautiful.

While I’ve always been a Liverpool fan, I always loved the game first and so when two football obsessed Evertonians from Shropshire designed the first Championship Manager  (CM) game, they opened up a world of possibilities for all the want-to-be future football managers like myself.

The first installment was released in 1992. It was a far cry from the game we came to know and love but it was the first rendering of what was to become a staple in every young football fan’s life.

Where it all began

The original game did not have the real players’ names, that came with CM93, the update disk came along in 93/94 but before that we got Championship Manager Italia and this – as a keen 10 year old – was where my CM journey began back then and hence where it will begin now.

The Decision

As anyone will tell you who was alive back then or has a grasp of Italian football, Serie A was THE league. In 1993, Marseille – European Champions against the odds – had some quality players of course but sadly it was revealed years later that Marseille President, Bernard Tapie was – as we now know – fixing football matches.

Bernard Tapie: Scoundrel

There are varying beliefs as to the degree it affected an impressive Marseille side and how much it played a part in Europe. Rangers in particular felt hard done by to say the least. What is undeniable though is that it will have given an advantage to the French side on and off the pitch and because of this, their European Cup of that year should be returned and stricken from the records, just as their French League title was.

There is an excellent piece on this scandal here: https://footballchronicle.co/2019/03/13/the-success-and-scandal-of-bernard-tapies-marseille/

Anyway, Milan were THE team and everyone knew it. They would go on to prove this a year later when they trounced a Barca side containing no less than Nadal, Koeman,  Romario, Stoichkov and one Josep Guardiola. The score was 4-0.

The Rossoneri at the San Siro

I don’t want to go AC Milan though, that would be “too easy”. So I decide to scan through the history books and what do I see but Fiorentina languishing in Seria B.

La Viola

Fiorentina had been relegated the season before managing just 8 wins and 30 points.

They were to return the next season, with Francesco Toldo, Francesco Baiano and the legend that was to be, Gabriel Batistuta.

I couldn’t resist taking charge and trying to emulate their first placed 17 win, 50 point season.

CM Italia! – The beginning

The overwhelming issue for Fiorentina in real life was the 56 goals they conceded. So suring up the backline is the main issue here. I place every defender not part of my chose back four on the transfer market and many of the poor or unwanted midfielders with them.

No one seems to care. I was wondering if there would be a backlash from the board but none is forthcoming.. Dunga is gone, a big miss but Steffen Effenberg is still here. Not exactly defensive minded. I mean he was defensive in the idea that if you got near him, he’d try and hoof you ten foot in the air but his real skill was moving the ball forward and happily CM Italia agrees.

Up front Brian Laudrup is nowhere to be seen. A real shame for me. I assume he’s made his way to Rangers but unfortunately the search function won’t allow me to look into this further. The game is very limited in that aspect.

So what I really need is a defensive midfielder. Giovanni Tedesco has just signed from Reggina. I remember him being a no nonsense player but a bit of a journeyman. A plan begins to form.

I don’t have the defence or defensive midfield options I want and I can’t seem to buy them as £3 million is my budget and no one I want is affordable or wants to come.

I decide I’m going to have to sell someone. Who though? Of the players who have any value, Effenberg is the one at 4.5m and for realism (actually I should say he’s 4500000 as CM decides this annoying way of viewing numbers is the way to go, it’s no doubt a programming issue rather than a conscious choice of course) and he actually did sign for my German team Borussia Monchengladbach at the end of this season in real life.

I need a cheaper attacking midfield replacement and while perusing I see none other than  Maradona available for £2m. It’s madness. I must have him but surely the computer won’t allow him to sign for a Serie B team? 

Welcome to Fiorentina, Diego Armando Maradona! Didn’t even need to haggle.

None of my players are bid for, despite the fact clubs are interested.

The team is all over the shop and the options tactically are limited:

I don’t care, I’m in Serie B and I have a front three of Baiano, Maradona and Batigol. I’ll work the rest out when the window opens if the game will let me.

The Anglo-Italian cup comes to an abrupt end as Maradona is sent off for punching an Ascoli player and then Carrobi joins him for looking at the ref the wrong way or something equally stupid.

Not happy with that. Ah well, we will always have smashing Tranmere and Sunderland.

Next game and Danna is sent off for spitting at the ref.

If there’s one thing that is annoying me most about this game it’s how many times a man is injured or them being sent off for the strangest reasons every few games. Despite being 1-0 down to Bari and with 10 men, we fight back for a valuable point to take us a point clear at the top. 6 more wins needed out the next 15 games to match Fio’s actual season.

As if to prove my earlier point my captain Bruno is sent off for punching the ref and we lose 1-0 at home to Pescara, our first home loss of the season and first goal conceded at home.

The Anglo-Italian Cup is decided. It should have been me!

Here we go again:

As  you can see, you can’t even put the players in the positions you want so once you lose players like this, it’s just a matter of time.

And yet somehow…

So with one match to go, incredibly I have a chance to beat the target I set myself.

Francesco Baiano scores the only goal of the game against Verona and his 23rd of the season to ensure promotion and hit the magical 50. For context the soon to be Derby County man managed 29 in 118 games for La Viola in real life. I got something very right with Francesco.

I can more than live with not winning Serie B, that was never the target but the Anglo-Italian defeat and more so its manner still stings.

Conclusion

All in all, CM Italia was frustrating. There was not enough tactical flexibility and a lot of the time you felt like you were leaving it to chance and hoping.

From the moment I couldn’t sell players I didn’t want or buy players I did, to some bizarre incidents throughout the season that were random and I had no control over, it wasn’t the experience it could have been.

It’s amazing how much the little things annoy you, things we have now come to take for granted. Being unable to click on other matches to see who scored or played well Being able to search for a player by name or something as simple as being able to order goals, assists, average ratings etc in ascending or descending order.

Goalkeepers feel like also rans as the only stat you can see for them is influence, so you’re left to guess if they are good enough or not.

It was fun finding out half my side ended up in either the Italian first team squad or their u-21 counterparts but it simply wasn’t enough for me to want to play another season.

Of the time, it was exciting but now you see it for what it was which was merely a stepping stone to the greatness it would become.

Given CM93/94 is merely an update, it’s at this time I will skip ahead to Championship Manager 2. 

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