2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Part 1 | @NickRowe85

Greetings friends of the champ man universe, and welcome to my second blog. I hope you all enjoyed the first season of Basque Boys for Life, and while Guerrero and co are off on their end of season holidays for some much-needed rest and recuperation, it’s time for a new adventure.

We all love CM97/98 – this is a fact, as Rafa Benitez would say, and it will always be my favourite game in the CM series, but since being a part of the great community we have on Twitter, I’ve noticed that CM01/02 is also still very popular and has a massive following.

One of many things I love about CM97/98 are the players who had much better careers on the game than they did in real life, the cult heroes if you will. This is what lead me to create the Icons series, and CM01/02 is no different with its own group of legends who were fantastic on the game but never quite matched it in reality.

So this got me thinking, what if a group of CM01/02 legends got together, travelled back in time four years and crossed the match engine and graphics barriers to see if they could cut it in CM97/98? Thus, a new blog was born!

So I present to you… The CM01/02 Aces!

If you’re wondering about the team name, I needed a word that rhymed with ‘space’ for the purpose of the blog name, and that was the best I could come up with, it really is as simple as that! To make the players feel at home, I’ve added the famous bulging net background from CM01/02 to the team page, which the eagle-eyed among you have probably already noticed.

For those of you who are seasoned CM01/02 players, these will all be household names. I did play CM01/02 back when it first came out, but I’m by no means an expert and I had to do some research to put this squad together, so I must thank everyone who replied to my tweet in which I asked who the best players were, and special thanks to @mikepaulvox for his help via direct message.

It’s a very young squad, with an average age of just under 21, and I’ve literally copied the stats exactly from the CM01/02 database, so there are a couple of players who have a few randomised stats and some have -1 for potential, and it will take a season or two before we see the best of them. I have immediately listed Harbuzi, Moukoko, Paiva and Samba for loan in the hope that they can go and get regular game time to help them develop, so I can reap the benefits in a year or two.

The league that I’ve decided to start the Aces in is the Italian Serie B, and there are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is that it’s such a young squad and I’ve absolutely no idea how they will perform, the second is that if we were to get promoted at the first attempt, the players would have a year of experience under their belts and would have hopefully developed a bit, and the third is that there are no work permits in the Italian league, so none of them will expire for any of my foreigners.

I did a couple of things in the data editor to make my life a little easier. I made Belarus (or Bielorussia in old money) an EEC member, which means that Nikiforenko and Tsigalko are no longer foreigners, and I also set the reputation of our team to the maximum value of 20, to prevent the players from having big club release clauses in their contracts and wanting to leave. There is a down side to this though, as seven of them have non-promotion release clauses, which puts a bit of pressure on us to secure promotion at the first attempt.

In the event that we don’t get promoted first time and lose some players, I’ve upgraded a few existing players from other clubs who were good on 01/02, so I have a few transfer options if need be. Another thing I did was adjust the players’ ages to what they are on 01/02, mainly because there are a couple of players who are 15 years old on 01/02 and they would have been 11 in 1997. I could not change Jamie Victory’s age though, as for some reason the game wouldn’t let me, so he’s 21 instead of 25. I’ve also put the whole squad on long-term contracts to keep them for the foreseeable future.

The team I have taken over is Chieti of Serie C, mainly because they had no assigned players and it made data editing easier, and I have swapped them with Treviso, so apologies to any of their fans who are reading this. I was torn between the Sports Interactive Stadium and the Eidos Arena for our ground name, but in the end I went for the former, and you’ll have to imagine the number is seats has a slash between the 1 and 2 at the end (2001/2).

So let’s meet a few of the Aces. To feature them all would take forever, so I’m just going with one from each position, but keep an eye on my twitter account as I’ll try and feature a few more of them on there in between blog posts.

First up we have Sebastien Frey between the sticks, a young French keeper who I’ve nicked from Parma. He’s the most valuable of my keepers at £5m and will be my number one.

Next, and in defence we have the young Dutch centre back, Kevin Hofland. He was plying his trade at PSV before joining the Aces, and already has three international caps to his name. He’s the second most valuable player in the squad, with a price tag of £6m.

The most expensive player in the Aces squad is Swedish international, Stefan Selakovic at £8m. He can play either as an attacking midfielder or forward on the right-hand side or centrally and I’ve acquired him from one of his homeland teams, Halmstad.

And the most valuable of my four strikers is the infamous and fictional Tó Madeira. He’s a Portuguese striker who was at Gouveia before being called upon by the Aces, and is valued at £750k. His stats are great, so hopefully he will be my main source of goals.

So with all the waffle out of the way, let’s get down to business. For the pre-season tour, I’m taking the team to Norway, Scotland and England to play Stabæk, Partick Thistle and Leyton Orient. The reason for playing these teams is because I want the boys to meet some CM97/98 icons and see what it takes to make it in this game, and just sharing a pitch with the likes of Heidenstrøm and Svindal Larsen will be great experience for them. Partick Thistle are renowned for having a great young team, so I’m intrigued to see how my young team will fair against them.

Just before we set off for Norway, Parma make a £6.75m offer for Selakovic, which I swiftly rebuff, and there’s a managerial shuffle as Wales sack poor old Bobby Gould and replace him with Howard Kendall, who is replaced at Everton by former Italian national side manager Arrigo Sacchi.

There’s only one man in the Stabæk team worth mentioning…

As I’ve no idea what my best team is yet, I’m going to make sure every player starts at least one match out of the three friendlies, and this is the lineup for the first match. I’ve gone with the trusty 2-3-1-2-2 formation. Taribo West is the most experienced player in the team and has a good influence stat, so he’s captain, and Selakovic has the highest set piece stat, so he’s on corner, free kick and penalty duty.

It’s a winning start for the Aces and a solid performance. Tó Madeira and Aghahowa are on the score sheet, Victory gets man of the match, and Frey decides to get himself sent off late on and give away a penalty, which Svindal Larsen successfully converts. It wasn’t until after the match that I realised that I’d played with a passing style as opposed to direct, so it probably could have been more than 2-1, but I’ll change it for the next match.

Scotland is our next destination as we take on the young guns of Partick Thistle. We’re privileged to see Dunn, MacDonald, Ritchie, Lauchlan and Martin all in the same team as they’ll no doubt all move on to bigger clubs eventually. For the Aces, it’s an entirely different eleven to those who started against Stabæk, and the change from passing to direct style seems to work a treat.

As games go, this is fairly eventful, with five of our six goals coming from different scorers (the other one being a Billy MacDonald own goal). Flying young Dutch winger Arjen Robben puts in a man of the match performance, and the players seem to have made up a game where you have to get sent off if your last name starts with a “K” as Klompe and Källström see red. “Nine men, we only need nine men”.

The last leg of the tour is at Brisbane Road, where we face Leyton Orient, who have a man at the heart of their midfield who needs no introduction…

I’ve used 22 of my 28 players so far, so the six who haven’t yet played start (the goalkeeper and front five), and are joined by the back four and defensive midfielder who started the Stabæk match. We create plenty of chances, but only manage to put one of them away through Nikiforenko. This is down to a combination inexperience and panicking in front of goal, and also the Leyton Orient keeper (who was man of the match) saving just about everything that comes his way.

I know they were only friendlies, but three wins out of three is a great start, especially considering that these players only landed on this planet 22 days ago. I’m expecting both some enjoyable and some frustrating times ahead with this team (and the formation!), but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless.

Join me next week, as we start the season with a Coppa Italia match against Cesena. Ciao for now!

2 thoughts on “2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Part 1 | @NickRowe85

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