Go back to Championship Manager 00-01

Written by: Rik

Date posted: September 13, 2005

No-one can really be told what a game of Championship Manager is. They have to experience it for themselves. Unfortunately, though, FFG doesn’t work like that, and so in an effort to get the point across in a different way to the main review, I kept a log during my playtest of CM 00-01. Compared with past experience, my real life wasn’t compromised too much, although it has to be said that after just one week and one season of play I was starting to get the CM bug again…

Day One

Real World: Despite the girlfriend being away for two weeks, I wait until two days before she comes back to start playing CM. I open the box up to discover I’ve lost the sodding manual – not a good start. Still, it shouldn’t be too hard to get back into it; I just wanted a reminder about how many leagues you’re supposed to run at the same time without your computer turning to shit.

Game World:

15/07/00 – I am hired as Swindon manager. I take a look at the squad – not a bad bunch, and a damn sight better than in some of the previous editions of the game. Not too sure about some of the coaching staff, though; they seem to be lacking in fairly fundamental areas. The board reckon we can get to the play-offs – and I agree, though I wouldn’t have minded if their expectations had been a little lower.

20/07/00 – We need another striker – someone with a bit of flair. I’m attracted by exotic-sounding foreign stars with only one name, and come across Onésimo – a Spaniard available on a free transfer. Despite a work-rate of 1, he looks like a good acquisition – especially as his wages won’t break the bank. That should do us for now, but I send out a couple of scouts to Scandinavia (a particularly fruitful source of cheap and talented young players) to see if they can uncover any gems.

21/07/00 – We don’t have an assistant manager, so I make an approach to some unemployed bum who snaps my arm off. His stats are quite good though – I’m sure he’s a well respected coaching professional. However, one of my coaches, Viv Busby, has been poached by QPR. I’m not too bothered about it, although he was one of the better ones – why won’t someone poach Andy King? (Ironically enough, King is the current manager of Swindon – but in my game his stats are shit).

22/07/00 – Pre-season is going quite well and I’ve got a pretty good idea of my best side. On’simo scores on his debut and we seem to be playing good stuff. The only slight worry is Andy Williams, a talented but erratic wide player, who seems to be underperforming. He might come good – but we’ve got plenty of cover for his position if he doesn’t. Off the field, I’m looking at hiring former Manchester United keeper Les Sealey as a coach. It’s a little on the iffy side as he’s actually now dead in real life, but frankly in CM his stats are pretty damn good and I think he’ll be keen on the switch. The only problem is that he still wants to play – and doesn’t see himself as a back-up to the first team, either. He rejects my initial offer.

03/08/00 – For some reason bids are flooding in for my reserve keeper, Stephen Mildenhall. He’s not that good, but I don’t really want to let him go. I briefly toy with the idea of selling him and getting Sealey in as the reserve goalie/coach, especially as (believe it or not) Andy King has left the club to take another job. We need a couple of backroom staff in before the season starts – but we don’t need to flog Mildenhall. I could lie to Sealey and tell him he’s got a chance of being in the team, but in the meantime I’ve spotted a useful (and unemployed) Swedish feller and make an approach.

Day Two

Real World: A couple of missed buses and a nightmare trip to Sainsbury’s means the all-night session of CM I’d planned won’t quite be possible. I can still fit a couple of hours in, but I’m wary of the time-sapping qualities of the game and place a clock directly below the monitor so I don’t stay up all night.

Game World:

12/08/00 – It’s the first game of the season, at home to Colchester. Amusingly-named Australian winger Danny Invincible scores two in the first half and, frankly, we’re all over them. They pull a goal back just after the break but it remains a fairly comfortable victory. Already I start to imagine what kind of cliche-ridden manager-speak I would use in the post match press conference – which, incidentally, isn’t part of the game itself.

18/08/00 – West Brom and Burnley both come in for my talented young midfielder, Antoine van der Linden. The money isn’t particularly good, and I don’t really want to let him go, so I turn both bids down. It unsettles the player, though, who feels he should be allowed to move to a bigger club. Where’s the loyalty? In other news, my offer for a talented young central defender from Denmark is turned down flat. We’ll keep an eye on him.

05/09/00 – Things have started to go slightly awry. After a good win away at Northampton, we get well beaten in the home leg of our league cup-tie with QPR, followed by a home defeat to Peterborough and a bore-draw away at Port Vale. To cap it all we then get stuffed 3-0 by QPR in the return leg of the cup. No need to panic, though; there’ve been a few injuries and by and large the team is playing quite well (seem to be slipping into manager-speak again).

15/09/00 – We win our next two games, and my strike partnership of Martin Williams and Onésimo seems to be working well. Williams is scoring regularly, but after bagging a couple in one game he gets sent off for punching an opponent in the face. Never mind – that’s the kind of passion I want to see from my players. With injuries and suspensions taking their toll on the squad, I really need to get some players in – but there’s not much about. I make a speculative approach to take a Premiership midfielder, Jonathan Hunt, on loan. He’s not that good but he’s better than the players I’ve got in reserve – we’ll keep him until after Christmas and see how he gets on.

23/09/00 – After an away defeat to Rotherham I start to get a bit worried. You expect to lose a few more games in the football league than the Premiership – but I’d prefer a slight mid-season slump to this sluggish start. One of my scouts looking at English players recommends Brian Atkinson, who’s had a good start for Darlington in the division below. He looks pretty handy, and can play on the left or in the centre – but £100K for a 29 year-old is a bit of a gamble. I put in an offer and immediately worry that I might be making a panic buy – especially as we then go to Wrexham and beat them 5-2. Swindon!

Day Three

Real World: A day off CM yesterday – had to go to a barbecue. It bloody rained all day, and I won’t pretend I wasn’t planning Swindon’s promotion push as I chomped through my soggy burger. Thus far I haven’t been doing as well as I thought I would, especially with a familiar squad, and if we don’t get promoted at the end of the season I’ll be extremely disappointed.

Game World:

28/09/00 – We beat Bristol Rovers despite top scorer Williams’ suspension. Rubbish reserve striker Giuliano Grazioli gets in the team and actually scores a goal. He’s still on the transfer list though. We need to bring in a couple of players, but Brian Atkinson’s wage demands are a little too hefty and he rejects the move. Fine – stay at Darlington if that’s what you want. Bastard.

12/10/00 – Aston Villa have been sniffing around Alan Young, one of our more promising youngsters. He’s looked pretty good when he’s played this season, but I’m not sure he’s going to be anything to shout about in the future. I ask Villa for £100k and they stump up the cash. Luckily, I’ve already got a deal for a replacement (a Danish part-timer) in the pipeline. He looks quite good – honest.

24/10/00 – Inconsistency has been the problem so far this season. But after a disappointing defeat to Swansea at the end of September, we go through October unbeaten. It’s not all crushing victories, though, and a couple of turgid 0-0 draws leave me unhappy with the way the team is performing. I somehow manage to get rid of a couple of duds in my squad (including Grazioli) and there’s now room for a couple of new players. The only trouble is there isn’t really anyone suitable around at present – I take a promising defender on loan from Barnsley to see if he’d be worth a bid.

11/11/00 – It’s the same old problem with inconsistency. We crush Bristol City at home, but then lose to Brentford and perform woefully. Then we scrape past local rivals Oxford by a single goal – and they were playing with ten men for most of the match. We’re still hanging around the play-off places, but I’m still not sure how well we’re shaping up. Blackburn come in for Antoine van der Linden, but there’s no way I’m selling one of my best players at the moment. A price tag of £1.5 million soon curbs their interest.

Day Four

Real World: A couple of days off CM due to a personal matter and a very messy night down the pub. An empty weekend beckons though, and I soon get back into it. I’ve realised that I’ve placed a bit too much faith in players who played well for me in a previous game – I should really pay more attention to current form rather than past glories.

Game World:

19/11/00 – For a player supposedly a step up in class, loan signing Jonathan Hunt is not really performing. I’ve been rotating him and another player in central midfield alongside van der Linden – my own guy is doing better. I decide to terminate his loan spell and look for someone else who can really make the difference. Watford’s Charlie Miller is talented but troublesome – he’s also available for loan, and just happens to be keen on the switch to Swindon. We get him until the end of March.

02/12/00 – Miller’s arrival is the catalyst for some improving performances. We lose away at Millwall, but always look dangerous and for the first time in a while I’m optimistic about our chances. I’ve also been playing Onésimo in a slightly deeper position and it seems to be paying off. The only thing I’m worried about is our left side – trouble is, there’s no-one particularly outstanding available. I make offers for a few players who could possible fill the void, but none of them are really interested, even though one of them is playing in the bloody League of Wales for £65 a week. Either he’s got a really well-paid job from Monday to Friday or he just doesn’t fancy playing for Swindon.

16/12/00 – We pull off a couple of convincing victories, but unfortunately they’re both in the cup. The FA Cup could be a moneyspinner now we’re into the third round, but frankly the Autoglass Trophy (a not-very-prestigious cup competition for lower-division teams) is a bit of a hindrance. Still, we carry our good form into the league match with Notts County and pull off a good win away from home.

Day Five

Real World: The test match holds my attention for most of the day, but in the evening I get around to CM. I plan on having quite a long go, but after a couple of defeats I remember that things tend to get a little out of hand at 2 in the morning. If things are going badly, the temptation to panic and start rushing through the games is overwhelming – but it rarely produces good results.

Game World:

01/01/01 – I’m fearful of the hectic Christmas schedule, but it actually goes pretty well. After a narrow defeat to Colchester, we record convincing wins over Cambridge, Peterborough and second-placed Northampton. Things seem to be coming together, but we don’t really have the depth of squad to cope with the number of games we have to play and, frankly, the players are knackered.

10/01/01 – Wigan are a strong side and they beat us convincingly at home. I’d been expecting a below-par performance, so I’m only a little disappointed, but the board indicate their disappointment. However, we win at Northwich in the cup, and then pull off a great victory away at Stoke. I’m still concerned about the left side, and in the absence of any decent players on the transfer market, I decide to bring in a Premiership youngster on loan. The only trouble is, we’ve already got a couple of loan players in the squad, so I make a bid to sign one of them permanently. Charlie Miller’s out of my price range but Barnsley accept my derisory offer for Keith Brown, which enables me to get my man from Southampton.

20/01/01 – Three defeats on the bounce and I’m starting to get worried. The cup match against Reading is a marathon which stretches into extra time and also sees a couple of our best players get injured. In truth, I want to keep playing, but we’re slipping down the table a bit and I feel a slightly more cautious approach is best.

Day Six

Real World: I realise I spent most of the weekend watching cricket in my boxers, and CM has been neglected a little. Luckily, it’s all over by Sunday afternoon and I finally manage to get washed and dressed in order to get Swindon’s promotion push back on track.

Game World:

10/02/01- Brief glory is attained after dispatching Aston Villa in the cup. We get a slightly lucky draw at home, but a suicidal attacking formation in the replay is rewarded and we win 2-1. I consider using it in the league but quickly dismiss it as folly. Speaking of which, form-wise it’s a case of same-old, same-old as we struggle to draw with Oldham at home before producing a brilliant away performance to secure victory at Swansea. We’re in sixth – just into the play-off positions.

28/02/01 – Feck! Two extremely unconvincing home draws with teams we should be beating are followed up by an equally crap performance against Wycombe – luckily we scrape the win. Five points from three home games just isn’t promotion form. Oh, and we’re out of the cup, too.

24/03/01 – Finally we seem to be putting together a good run. Three wins and two draws in the month, and some pretty good performances along the way, too. Erratic Spaniard Onésimo has had a great season so far, able to create something from nothing, and he seems to be the driving force behind the team at the moment. The real problem is my inconsistent midfield; loan signing Charlie Miller adds a little bit of quality, but he also seems to get injured and sent off a lot. Mind you, if he didn’t have attitude problems he probably wouldn’t be on loan at Swindon in the first place.

16/04/01 – It’s all gone wrong. We draw at home with Stoke, and then lose consecutive matches to play-off rivals Bristol City, Brentford and Walsall. I don’t really know what happened – we just seemed to concede early goals and then struggle to pull it back. We’re not totally out of it, but the fact remains that if we’d won just a couple of these games we could probably breathe a bit easier. As it is, we’re going to have to win at least two of the last three to make the play-offs.

Day Seven

Real World: I’ve got other things to do, but part of me still believes I can make the play-offs and I’m determined to give these last three matches everything.

Game World:

05/05/01 – The dream is dead. We thrash Notts County 5-1 but then lose to Wigan and we’re out of the play-off race. The season ends with a typically carefree draw with Millwall and then it’s all over – Swindon finish eighth. Frankly, I’m disappointed, but I should have seen it coming. We’ve lacked consistency all season and key players have underperformed. To be honest, I’ve placed a little too much faith in players who did well for me before – Danny Invincible and Keith O’Halloran in particular. Perhaps I should have made more effort in the transfer market – I ended the season with a lot of cash in the transfer kitty – but the wage demands of a lot of potential targets were too hefty.

Excuses, excuses, excuses… I even end the season thinking that with one or two new acquisitions, we’ll definitely do better next year. Conclusive proof, if it were needed, that playing CM turns you into Ron Manager in a matter of days.