Matt Wills is back with a new blog! What’s next in line for the man who brought Cantona out of retirement and got England’s class of 1990 back together? Over to Matt…
New Years Eve 2019. The wife and kids are in bed and I fire up CM97/98 to see in the new decade as I’ve promised Dave a new blog.
This will mean I’m in my 4th decade with this game, I can scarcely believe it.
I played it (unwisely) during my A-Levels when first released and then again for a year or two in 2004/05, before picking it back up again in 2017 and doing some blogging for Dave, after reading his excellent stories.
Those of you who have followed some of my other blogs will know I love to tinker with the editor and loosely rewrite history, whether it’s bringing Cantona out of retirement to win the treble with Utd in 99 or giving the heroes of Italia 90 another crack at glory, I always find I’m drawn to a strong theme.
Since my last blog I played through the whole 30 seasons for the first time, matching the managerial career of Alex Ferguson and currently have a lovely little save going with RBC Roosendal in Holland, but that’s mainly just for me.
I’ve had a few ideas churning in my head for a while for a new short blog save and the one I decided on is to look at some 90’s heroes who never won a dicky bird in their careers.
The obvious ones are players like Matt Le Tissier, a legend at Southampton, but never getting a chance to lift a major trophy. Other names like Nigel Martyn and Jason McAteer, who is always reminded of this by Roy Keane, but filling a whole squad of pot-less players isn’t as easy as you think.
Firstly, some criteria.
- They have to be a well known 90’s footballer. That is, well known beyond the realms of CM 97/98, so no Andrew Mainwaring or John Curtis for me.
- They will qualify if they haven’t won a top flight league title, major domestic trophy or an international trophy. (Zenith Data Systems/Intertoto Cups do not count, thankfully)
- I also have to take over a team that hasn’t won anything.
Going to point 3 first, I decided upon Crystal Palace, who to date have never won a top flight title or major domestic or European trophy (the Full Members Cup doesn’t apply – see point 2).
Palace finished bottom of the Premier League in the 97/98 season in real life so this seemed like the perfect challenge.
Next, I have to draw up a list players to populate the team and cast off the original players, so bye bye Attilio Lomabrdo and Tomas Brolin and hello Nigel Martyn and Matt Le Tissier.
I had some help from Dave’s Twitter followers, but had to check every suggestion as some playing legends have also won foreign titles (like Nobby Solano in Peru), so were ruled out.
Anyway, with some diligent checking on Wikipedia, here are the 28 players I’m going to try to lead to league or cup glory within 2 seasons. (warning, Leeds, Newcastle and West Ham feature quite a bit…)
In goal, Nigel Martyn returns to Palace where he received a FA Cup Runners Up Medal in 1990. He’s joined by Shaka Hislop and Paul Jones, Also FA Cup Runners Up in 1998 and 2003 respectively.
In defence, I decided to keep a hold of Andy Roberts and Dean Gordon as they are solid pro’s and can play in a number of positions.
At right back I have Gary Kelly from Leeds and Steve Watson from Newcastle, whilst on the left I have Julian Dicks for his calm temperament and composure and versatile young Kieron Dyer.
In the middle I have Dean Richards from Wolves, Richard Shaw returning from Coventry and Aaron Hughes from Newcastle. Nothing fancy, but hopefully solid enough.
In defensive midfield, I am ‘blessed’ with Carlton ‘Paul Pogba’ Palmer, alongside Lee Clark and Robert Lee from Newcastle and Jason McAteer from Liverpool. Ian Harte from Leeds back up the middle of the park.
To provide attacking spark and a little width we have Steve Stone from Forest, Matt Le Tissier in the hole, Trevor Sinclair from West Ham and Benito Carbone from Sheff Wed. You’ll also note a young German called Bernd Schneider who in the 2001/02 season was runner up in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen as well as the DFB Pokal Cup and the Champions League and then was part of the squad that lost the World Cup final to Brazil, so he’s in on merit.
Leading the attack, we have Kevin Davies from Southampton, Steve Bull from Wolves, Neil Shipperley retaining his place at Palace, Collymore from Liverpool and Darren Huckerby from Coventry. You’ll also notice we have added a bit of continental glamour by recruiting Beppe Signori from Sampdoria, who incredibly never won a major domestic or international trophy in his distinguished and prolific career.
Looking over it, it’s not a stellar cast and I think my best bet in the first season is the League Cup and an outside edge chance at a Eufa Cup spot for Season 2, but we’re here to have fun, so with that in mind, I’ll start off by deploying the famous 2-3-1-2-2 Direct tactic with this my preferred line up once Dicks and Le Tissier have recovered from their various ailments.
First though, it’s time to get some friendlies under our belt and see what we are working with.
I decide to take my charges on a short tour of rural Holland and while I don’t think I need to worry about scoring goals, keeping them out at the other end might be a bit of a problem.
As the normal transfers start to occur, the ones below are of note, which I should probably explain. There was some talk over the festive break about which retired players retained histories within the database. Lineker and Cantona we knew about, so I added Van Basten, George Best and Stanley Matthews to see if another other prominent players had histories retained. None of these 3 did (surprised at van Basten as he retired in 95) but forgot to edit them back out of the database when setting up this save, so will be interesting to see how they get on this season.
Anyway, back to the task at hand and after the traditional curtain raiser:
Hughes the hero, Keane the villain.
We set about our season with a visit from Southampton and when we are six nil up by half time, I am in dream land. Saints solidify in the second half and we concede two but it’s a great start by anyone’s standards.
This is followed up midweek with a credible draw away at Anfield, even if we had a man advantage for 70 minutes of the game.
Our next 5 games are a mixed bag of results. How we can beat Spurs but conspire to draw at home to Wimbledon is beyond me.
So after 7 league games, we are tucked up nicely in 3rd spot behind Liverpool and surprisingly Coventry. We’re averaging scoring over 3 goals a game, but conceding just over 2, so we’re certainly good value for entertainment.
At the other end, you can see how Le Tissier kept Southampton in the top flight for so long.
Talking of Sir Matt of Le Tissier, he’s now back from injury and the League Cup 2nd round against First Division Stoke is the perfect game to ease him back into first team action.
Stoke start brightly and take the lead through Simon Sturridge, but Signori is on fire at present and scores one penalty but misses the chance of a hat trick by ballooning the second. Dean Richards and Stan Collymore get in on the fun, so we’re set up nicely for the return leg.
Overall a promising start, but the defence is a worry. I’ll need to keep Signori and Collymore fit and firing as they both have 9 goals in 8 games so far.
I’ll wrap up this part by throwing a bit of light on a couple of members of the squad and their ‘potless’ careers.
Nigel Martyn – the first £1m goalkeeper in English Football from my home county of Cornwall came close to a FA Cup Winners medal with Crystal place in 1990 only to be denied in the reply by Lee Martin. Atfer Palace he spent 6 seasons at Leeds before 3 seasons at Everton where injury forced his retirement in 2006 after winning 23 caps for England. Not strictly a ‘Potless’ player as he did win a Full Members cup with Place in 1991 but we’ll ignore that for the sake of art.
Giuseppe ‘Beppe’ Signori had a prolific career in Italy between 1984 and 2004 playing for the ikes of Foggia, Lazio, Sampdoria and Bologna before winding down his career in Greece and Hungary. Capped 28 times for Italy and scoring 7 goals, Beppe received a runners up medal in the 1994 World Cup to add to his Serie B medal with Foggia and his Intertoto Cup with Bologna, but we’re not counting those.
I hope this intro has whetted your appetite for a goal laden season to see if these players won nought for a reason or they were just in the wrong clubs at the wrong times. See you soon!
You can follow Matt on Twitter @matt_c_wills