Championship Manager a journey through time – S2

Season Two – Que viva Espana

Before we get to Spain, I have to start by saying 95/96 was a glorious season for me personally as a true fan of the game because I had gained a new team from the previous season.

You often hear the song “they’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen”. I’ve sang it myself but if you ask me now, as a neutral: “who are that team?”, my answer would be AFC Ajax.

Ajax 95-96

What they have given football is absolutely incredible and to my mind worth more, and more impressive than any trophy haul the game has seen (sorry Bob).

Part of growing old is to understand and experience change. The older we get, some of us try to hold on to things that we knew, it brings us comfort and this is why Ajax means so much to me.

As the football landscape has changed so much – and not for the better in my opinion – there is one institution that refused to change with it.

I could wax lyrical about Ajax and at some point in the future will do, so consider this an apperetif but unfortunately, and while Ajax are available on Championship Manager 2 (CM2) – and while I did play as them time and again when I was a kid – they are not available on the download that I have. The only teams available on this downloadable version are Spanish, so that somewhat decides for me.

Which team though? Well Atletico won it but just as before, I won’t be taking the “easy road”. I feel more confident in terms of the challenge this time around but a quick look at the Segunda doesn’t inspire any great nostalgia so I turn my attentions to La Liga.

la liga 95-96

Valencia finished second and a cursory glance throws up three memorable names in Andoni Zubizaretta, Predrag Mijatovic and Gaizka Mendieta. Something to build around, possibly.

Next team up is FC Barcelona. Carlos Busquets (dad of Sergio), Nadal, Albert Ferrer, Guardiola, Popescu, Figo, Bakero, Prosinecki, De La Pena and even a young Franciso Rufete of Valencia fame. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t my choice as they finished 3rd 7 points off champions Atleti and this was a time when Barca were still “mes que un club”.

Real are a mad one, how they finished sixth is beyond comprehension when you look at the players they had at their disposal. Canizares, Hierro, Redondo, Michael Laudrup, Luis Enrique, Guti, Ivan Zamarano and Raul. Funnily enough, a player I don’t remember but did know that he played for them also makes an appearance, Quique Sanchez Flores. I can see why they didn’t win it, but SIXTH?!

Finally the wild card, Deportivo La Coruna. I used to LOVE this team, mainly due to the heavy Brazilian influence and the way they played. Donato at the back or in midfield with Mauro Silva, Fran – a player who had one the best left foots I’ve ever seen and Bebeto up top. This is pulling at the heart strings.

Deportivo 95-96

The lure to take Depor from their 61 point 9th placed finish to greater heights is just too much. There are just too many players I will always remember fondly playing in this team.

If you really want to come on this journey with me, you need to watch this excellent 18 minute documentary:

If you can’t or don’t watch it then I’ll sum it up quickly. Depor’s rivals are Celta Vigo. Depor have 6 major trophies, Celta have zero. Both sides fans consider themselves more “Galician” than Spanish. If you’ve seen Game of Thrones, they are probably the closest thing to real life Iron Islanders. They are born by the sea, they live from the sea and then they die by the sea.

At this point in time in real life, Depor are sadly in the Segunda and facing potential relegation, Celta are in La Liga but also in a relegation battle. From a personal point of view, I hope both are able to stay up and we can get this amazing derby back, for football’s sake.

One last thing, there is genuine animosity but much like Liverpool and Everton as much as that exists they put it to one side when it matters. Unlike Liverpool and Everton or any derby I’ve ever seen they have an anthem for their area that both sides sing at the start of every derby together. Oh and while I think on Irureta managed both sides at their most successful, he left Celta to go to Depor and so Celta fans hate him and Depor fans love him.

I’d still say watch the documentary, it’s fascinating but hopefully if not I’ve covered the main bases.

So here we go.

The game already has the look and feel I am more accumstomed to at the peak of CM powers. Stats are neatly laid out and far more realistic although this will still need to improve in future releases and to be fair it does.

The values of players are now shown as 2,000k to represent 2 million. It’s not the way we know but it is a step in the right direction.

Unlike the previous game, this one demands more thought and more respect. I can already tell without my team kicking a ball that the decisions I make will be represented far truer and so I will devise a plan.

In the actual 95/96 season, the clear issue for Depor was that they did not score enough goals to compete. Their 44 goals against was more than respectable and was the fourth lowest in the league with the 3 teams better in this department all finishing ahead (Atleti, Espanyol and Barca).

Deportivo starting squad

It’s not hard to see why they were so solid defensively, no less than SIX centre backs. It’s also not hard to see how they struggled to score goals. One average player on the right wing, I don’t see the balance needed to employ a 10, two strikers and get the defensive stability needed.

I decide to take a page out of the masterful Irureta’s book and move to a 4-2-3-1. Defensively, Paco and Lopez Rekarte both have the pace to get up there to support the forwards but Lopez Rekarte lacks the stamina. Unsurprising really as he is 33.

Centre backs are obviously not an issue but outside of the fantastic Mauro Silva, centre midfield very much is. From Aldana who has 19 injury proneness to Vazquez who has tackling 1. No Galician is accepting tackling of 1 from a centre mid!

Let’s see how the game responds if I put everyone of my attackers up for sale who isn’t numbered above.

I need more creativity and a backup for Fran. A 19 year old Brazilian left winger called Claudinho seems a good bet for £700,000. My scout also recommends a central attacking midfielder who can also play on the right called Fabian Estay who I bring in for £450,000. I sign them both with little hassle but then remember that the game won’t allow more than three foreigners in the starting line up or on the bench at any one time. D’oh!

First game is Barcelona at Depor’s home stadium, the Riazor. There are few stadiums more intimidating than the Riazor, as AC Milan found to their cost in 2004 when they took a three goal lead to Galicia having won 4-1 at the San Siro only to lose 4-0 and crash out 5-4 on aggregate. It’s a tie and a performance I will never forget and you can enjoy revisiting it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3Sb_a1RVKE

https://thesefootballtimes.co/2019/08/08/the-warm-riazor-evening-when-deportivo-tore-ac-milan-apart/

Can the 29,000 inspire Depor to get their first 3 points on the board?

First game v Barca (H)

Of course they can.

Having taken down Valencia and Barca, I thought I was on to a winner.

Depor v Valencia (A)

But then in the shadow of the great Alfredo Di Stefano, I was brought back down to earth. It wasn’t losing to Real Madrid, that happens to the best but to lose when they play with 10 men for 54+ minutes? That’s not good enough.

Depor v Real (A) first defeat

depor - 1st league defeat

Sadly this was followed by the first league defeat of the season. An early own goal and a 75th minute sending off was just too much to overcome. Changes need to be made, the team is not performing how I would wish. If Edu were free, he’d have been a waste of money.

I switched up my tactic from a passing 4-2-3-1 to a more direct 4-1-1-2-2:

Depor formation

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may also notice a few signings have been made.


The result?

Depor v Celta (H) Spanked Vigo

Depor v Real (H) Rewenge

Potentially looking like a much different prospect now and feeling far more confident in smashing my preset 61 point target.

Depor - 10 men v Espanyol

What a result. 2-0 down and with a man sent off after 5 minutes, Depor fight back for a memorable comeback and a statement win.

Depor - top the table Compostela

Depor raise serious questions that the unlikely leaders Compostela are unable to answer

A quick look at the table after 11 games (at least for Depor):

Depor - third after 11 games

I now feel like I have this team running the way I want it and I have my plan B and C.
That is to say if I need to see out a game, I have a tactic for that and if I need to go all out attack I have that too. Sell a few of the deadwood and bring in young players for the future and I could really be onto something with this team.

As you can probably tell from the change in tone and amount of content I now feel like I’m playing Champ Manager again. Yes there are a few tweaks that are coming in later additions that will be welcome but overall, CM2 is good enough to get you that original CM experience and given this is only the fourth installment in a game that has run for two decades, that’s all power to the Collyers.

15 games in and the table has new leaders:

Depor - table 15

Forget 61 points, I’m going to decimate that if I keep on at this rate. I think I should at least be looking at Champions League football now, at least! I lost Fran, my captain and didn’t skip a beat and wne on to win 4 games in a row, that has to be a good sign for my squad depth.

Perfect example of how I believe I have control over this team and subs. 2-1 down to Zaragoza poor performances all around due to players out of position with Fran and Terejo now both injured.

Full time:

Injuries now mounting up as Fran, Terejo, Gustavo and Varela are all on the treatment table. Terejo is the one that is irreplacable but the sheer numbers are going to take their toll given I don’t have the biggest squad and only trust about 16 of them in total. The next few games before the window opens will be critical, as will people wanting to buy my players so I can reinforce positions of need.

Injuries force my hand and the out of favour and transfer listed future Sporting Director of Man City, Aitor Beguiristan (or Txiki to his mates) comes in on left wing. After a tight encounter he breaks the deadlock. To be fair the only reason I don’t fancy him for my side is he plays on the left, as does Fran, and he’s 31. He will remain on the transfer list but he has increased my trust should he need to be called on in the future.

Depor - Txiki's game v Tenerife

What run this team is on. Injuries to no less than 5 players – 3 of which are first teamers – and they don’t break stride. The fans of the Galician side are beginning to dream of trophies. Manager Irureta says it is too soon to be thinking about that but admits he is proud of the resilience of his team.

Next up the real life champions Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon:

Depor - 6-3 Atleti

A banstormer ends 6-3 to the top of the table side. Bebeto simply too much to handle and the return of Fran a welcome sight. Most encouraging is a near man of the match performance from the Spanish winger Luis Perez who up until now had failed to settle for his new club and the return of midfield enforcer Tejero.

For many teams the prospect of a trip to the Calderon can be a daunting task but this Depor team have no such worries. Four wins from four in the middle of an injury “crisis”.

I’m unable to get the defensive midfielder I feel I need before the transfer window closes so it is imperative that Terejo stays fit. I do however see a striker at Zaragoza who has low confidence and chance my arm. He seems like he could be a good goalscorer to replace Bebeto when the time comes and 700k is within my budget.

It’s tight and is a final day transfer but I get the tall target man. Welcome to Deportivo, Fernando Morientes. The only bad part of the deal? He has a spine injury that will keep him out for no less than TEN months. It didn’t say that and the fact I was able to sign him comes as a shock but so be it, as Klopp said “like a good wife waiting for her man in prison, we will wait.” I couldn’t get anyone else I wanted anyway so the only real negative will be the board might be unhappy, so what. Sack me, I dare you.

It’s obvious I will be continuing this save at some point but the chances are you won’t even get to see how that plays out with Morientes as I have to continue my journey to reach 01/02. Then again, if the other games are not as fun, I will simply return to this. I’d say a ten month investment suggests I’m “all in” to return to this save though, wouldn’t you say?

Quick reminder of why I can live with the decision:

So, we fail to strengthen and the transfer window is now closed. This is the squad we have and it’s not the squad I want by any means. I’m still confident for Champions League qualification but I can’t see the title now.

Depor SEVEN

There may be a day when I bemoan my lack of squad depth, but it will not be this day…

Biggest win of the season sees Depor hit the halfway mark on 48 points, 3 clear of Real Madrid in second.

Depor 2-2 v Barca

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The red card changes the game, Barca still end up with the lead but Perez starts to repay his transfer fee with a 90th minute equaliser.

Depor 4-0

Another impressive result as Depor roll on despite Mauro Silva’s suspension. Perez’s best game in a Depor shirt.

Depor - SF Copa Del Rey - 4-1

Donato has just been immense all season but it was Txiki and Radchenko that put this tie firmly in the favour of Depor.

Depor - 1-2 CDR 2nd leg Valencia

Depor seal their place in the final, is the double on?

Depor - Celta (A) 4-8

Breath taking Bebeto bring Brazilian magic to the Galician derby as he smashes 4 past Celta and Depor get no less than 8 (eight) goals in total.

Depor - the Bebeto show

It was a game for the ages. Depor as usual found behind at some point but the firepower they have is just too much to handle for La Liga and was certainly too much for Celta in the Balaidos. You had to feel for Sacristan Eusebio who could do no wrong and on any other day would have had the unwanted honour of man of the match on a losing side.

Bebeto though was on another planet. The rating on Prats was harsh as it seemed he was making save after save, but if you concede 8 goals, history will simply not remember your performance kindly I suppose.

Through to the final of the Copa Del Rey, the Semi Finals of the Cup Winners Cup surely (with a 6-0 lead over some team from Luxembourg – the draw was kind) and 9 clear at the top of La Liga. Talk of the treble abounds around the Riazor. Irureta maintains that nothing is won until it is won. His team are simply irresistible in their current form though and there are those that already think that a win at the Bernabeu would be too much for even Los Blancos to come back from.

Depor - 4-1 v Sevilla

Depor - 4-1 v Sevilla (2)

After Davor Suker gave Sevilla the lead and the clock ticked to 78 minutes, you could be forgiven for thinking that all good things come to an end. The undefeated run that began back in September of 95 looked seriously under threat and then, it wasn’t. Deportivo simply flicked that attacking switch and left Sevilla in the dust, as they have with so many teams this season. 11 to play, 11 points clear now. Surely the title is heading to Northwest Spain?

[annoyingly the game crashed at this moment. I went back and beat them 3-1, this time I had 10 men after 66′ will missing Txiki in the next game against Real come back to haunt me?]

Depor - 3-2 - Champions elect

Forget the title, it’s done. 14 points clear with 10 to play and Depor are simply not slowing down. 2-1 down at half time in the bernabeu, they go more attacking as is their m.o. and win 3-2. The Bernabeu was left shocked and in silence other than those that were applauding the opposition. The only other sound was that eminating from the away end: “Campeones, Campeones” too soon? The travelling Galicians don’t think so.

After the match Richie Irureta was interviewed and was beaming with pride. When asked if the title was over, he simply replied with a smile he could no longer hide: “Sin comentarios”, no comment.

No comment was needed:

Depor - Champions elect table

Depor - unbeaten run over

The unbeaten run is over. After taking a 2-0 lead in their Cup Winners Cup tie against Dinamo Moscow, a tired Deportivo ran into a determined Compostela.

Irureta was quoted as saying: “all things come to an end, but then they begin again”.

Depor - Campeons del Copa

“Capeones, Campeones” once again was the refrain from Deportivo fans, only this time they were at home and they were actually celebrating a retained trophy that will be staying in their cabinet at the end of the season. The holders were too much for Almeria as Mauro Silva put on a midfield clinic and old stalwart Lopez Rekarte was impeccable at the back.

Lopez Rekarte said: “This could well be my last season, I don’t know but it if its it is beautiful for me to leave with another trophy. Of course, I still have my eye on at least one more and who knows … maybe more?”

Depor - EDU!

With 8 games to go, Edu finally has his goal! It’s a where were you moment for fans of Deportivo and of course after waiting so long for one, he bagged a second in the same game. 7 games left…

Depor - Semi final CWC second leg

It’s official. Deportivo will have a shot at the treble, against AC Milan. Edu the scoring machine seals it … he couldn’t, could he?

Depor - La Liga Campeones

6:15 onwards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCP1mwdMQFk

The Liga and Copa double is complete. Depor rested all of their first team players and still won 3-0. Milan are all that stands in the way of a historic treble. Oh and Edu scored his fourth of the season …

Irureta: “When I first came here, I knew we had the potential in this team to do something special but I needed more squad depth. Once we got that and the boys started to adapt to what I asked of them, I started to think we could even maybe challenge for the title but to win it, in the manner we have? That’s a testament to the character and ability of this team.”

When asked if he believes they can beat Milan, Irureta replied: “We just won the title, not Barcelona, not Real Madrid, us. We respect Milan, they’re a great side, but right now? We fear no one.”

Depor - TREBLE!

Triplica! Or in English, the Treble. Deportivo La Coruna have made history by winning three of the four competitions they entered at the beginning of the season. First the Copa Del Rey against Almeria, then the league was wrapped up comfortably with a month to go and now arguably Depor’s greatest achievement, the Cup Winners Cup.

For context, even the might Liverpool did not and can now never win the Cup Winners Cup and to do it against the greatest side of the 90’s? The Galicians are rightly beaming with pride.

An 18th minute strike by Luis Perez gave Los Branquiazuis (the blue and whites) an early lead but was cancelled out in the 82nd by Marco Simeone.

Sometimes the heroes don’t come from the place you expect and so it proved again as Txiki Berguiristan – in from the cold after his poor start to the season and Irureta being unimpressed – scored twice in extra time to make the dream of Super Depor a reality.

An onlooking Bebeto – who was suspended having been sent off in the first leg of the semi final – said: “This club will always have my heart, what a club, what a club!”.

Fernado Morientes watching in a back brace commented: “The heart and character this club has shown is incredible, for them to take a chance on me the way they have just sums up how much trust they have in each other and now in me. I can’t wait to get out there but for now I am just so happy for my team mates.”

Txiki Beguiristan showed his class also saying: “I spoke the manager and he told me I was not in his plans, I appreciated the honesty but I still believed if I worked hard and kept myself available, I had a part to play. The manager has many tough choices, I’m glad on this ocassion I was able to prove him wrong and I thank him for rewarding the hard work I put in.”

Finally the last word had to go to Richie Irureta: “I heard Txiki’s comments and he’s right, I was wrong. I can’t always be right but I didn’t hold any grudges I just did what I thought best for the club and when he gave me no choice but to play him, he was given the chance to prove me wrong. Txiki’s is the story of our season, he never gave up and neither do we. All the talent in the world means nothing without a winning mentality and that’s what runs through the veins of all the players and this club and I’m just proud to be a part of that”

1:27 onwards:

The procession now continues with Depor having nothing to play for 11 points clear and already champions with 3 to play.

Depor - precession

What a way to greet your fans. Edu the man who has become a cult figure at the Riazor bags another two as he finishes the season on a tear.

Irureta said: “We had the three trophies but we did not want to parade them before kick off because there is still a match to be played. I heard many people say there was nothing to play for, but in life as in football there is always something to play for. We are unbeaten at home this season, I want that to remain in tact and clearly so do our players. For me, this result is my favourite of the season. For the players to show this level of quality and focus after achieving everything asked of them and more, I could not be more proud of them.”

Depor it seems do not do days off.

Depor - 3-2 the legend of Edu

The legend of Eduardo Arnau Vilata Edu continues to grow as in another for all intents and purposes meaningless game – but don’t tell Irureta – the Spaniard wins his side all three points in the 88th minute. All over a sudden his 8 goals in 14 appearances looks impressive for a third choice bench striker.

Real 2-2 United

Real Madrid’s miserable season continues as goals from Steven Maddison (?) and Roy Keane are enough to see United through to a penalty shootout in which the great Dane Peter Schmeichel is the hero for the team from the north west of England.

Depor - Lopez Rekarte day

As you would imagine it was party time once again at the Riazor but also with a hint of sadness as the Galicians said farewell to 34 year old Lopez Rekarte and 32 year old Bebeto.

Both players announced before the game that this would be their last season at the Riazor. Lopez Rekarte saying: “I was not here long but this club is in my heart” .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUTR4m_H3bY

After a video showing the greatest moments of Jose Roberto Gama de Olivera – or Bebeto to you and me – the great man himself addressed the crowd visibly emotional he said: “When I came here, you accepted me and treated me like one of your own, my goals were my way of saying thank you and to be able to say thank you with my last two today means everything. Viva Super Depor!

Depor - Annual Awards

Outrage at the La Liga awards as Camarasa beats Donato to the player of the year award. Deportivo had a season that broke the previous 107 goal season record held by Real Madrid 89/90 (albeit with 4 more games played) and smashed the record for a 42 game season again previously held by Real Madrid 96/97 (92 points) with their 101 points total and no one in this incredible side performed better or more consistently than their talismann at the back Donato.

When asked Irureta said: “Camarasa is a wonderful player and I am glad to see him recognised but I don’t see how the best player on the best team in Spain does not win this award.”

Depor - Tito young player

Bebeto leaves Spain with a golden boot to take with him after his 31 goal haul and the unanimous young player of the year Tito re-writes what it means to be a full back with no less than 12 goals and 8 assisnts from right back.

News from on high is that Depor are being given £10m to reinforce the squad for next season:

Depor - Money

With Mauro Silva signed up for another 3 years, Txiki and Paco rewarded for their seasons and Irureta pledging he is going nowhere, Depor have a bright future indeed.

Historic:

Depor - 101 points

What a season, Forca Super Depor and what better way to sign off than with a video set to crap music:

See you again I hope for our next game Championship Manager 96/97.

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