“I would say I was weak for not speaking out” – Cherno Samba on depression, trying to help the next generation and embracing Championship Manager legend status

Whilst not strictly CM9798, every now and again an opportunity comes around and you have to take it. In this scenario it was the opportunity to interview star of Championship Manager 01/02 thanks to our friends at Row Z. My thanks to Harry for setting this up, Derren Touissant for the excellent artwork and Cherno himself for giving up his time to speak to a silly Geordie man. Be sure to check out Cherno’s book, hopefully the interview below entices you to put it on your Christmas list.

To many of us the name Cherno Samba evokes memories of Championship Manager at the turn of the millennium. But behind the stats and flashing goal text is a tragic backstory and a man ready to share his story with the world in his newly released autobiography Cherno Samba: Still in the Game.

Continue reading

Champ Man & Me: Marc Duffy of Sports Interactive

Hello! CM9798 turns 20 tomorrow and that means our celebrations are coming to a close. Or, I suppose you could say our celebrations are just getting started and we’ll see in the big day in style. I’m lucky enough to be joined by Marc Duffy, a member of the Sports Interactive team for 18 years and counting.

Hi Marc, thanks for joining me. For those who aren’t aware, can you give us an explanation of your involvement with the series?

First and foremost, I’m a fan of the game since CM1. I found it mentioned in one of the Amiga magazines (alongside ‘On the Ball’ from Anstoss if I’m not mistaken), since then I’ve been hooked.

I was offered a full time job to join the studio in 1999 and have been fortunate to work, in some capacity, on most of our games since then.

What are your memories of CM9798 in particular? Both from a development point of view and playing the end product?

I wasn’t working officially for SI at this point, so I don’t really have any stories about the development of the game. I think the game itself was a more polished version of CM2 with a small dev resource. It was at the tail end of the dev cycle that SI started to expand (in April 07 Paul Norman, Kevin Turner and Marc Vaughan joined the company and 2 out of the 3 are still there today)

What I remember most about this time was that the community really started to take shape and grow at a fast rate once the game was out. The internet was really starting to pick up and more and more people were making CM sites. There were lots of people playing the game around the world and we used to hold these mega IRC chats with the Collyer brothers.

On that note, do you actually get much time to play the games or is it all work and no play?

I play all our games, I think it’s a really important part of my job. A lot of the time I’m playing to do something specific (like reproducing a bug). When I’m travelling I tend to play my career saves and I’ve putting in some quality hours at the expense of sleep on the long flights!

On CM9798 you’re credited as setting up the CM Fan Club – can you tell us how that came about please?

CM Fan Club

Bit of a long story so bear with me

When I first played the early versions, there was an address in the manual to write to if you had any ideas on how to improve the game. This was pre-email and internet so I put my letter in the post and a few weeks later received a reply from Oliver Collyer, who as everyone knows is one of the two people responsible for us all being here. I used to spend a lot of time mocking up screen ideas to show off some of my ideas and Ov was always nice in his replies, but deep down I think I was just annoying.

In 1995 I started making CM related websites and emailing SI and making online friends with CM fans in IRC chat rooms and it kind of escalated from there.

My site became relatively popular and I don’t exactly remember how it happened but Ov offered me the chance to run an official CM fan club. I guess one of the things I’ll remember fondly about this time was bringing the CM community together via a regularly updated site but crucially via the forums.

We went through ISPs at a high rate, we tried out different software but we had too much demand and had to move around a lot.

Are you still involved in that side of things to this day?

I still take a very keen interest in the community, the forums and I love how it’s evolving with things like Youtube channels and Twitch streams – but we’ve got professionals running these things now. A few months ago I spent about 2 weeks just sitting and watching streamers playing FM and I found it amazing that people would watch. I never would have imagined that FM could do that and it was pleasing to see.

You were heavily involved in FM Live, what did you think of it as a concept? Will it ever return?

I absolutely loved the concept (even though it had a lot of design flaws) and since FML shut down I’ve worked pretty much solidly on FMO, an online football management game, which we’ve been servicing in Korea and China.

FMO

FML game had a real community feel, was loved by the few that played it and I know that many friendships were formed within the gameworlds.

Although FML will never return, I’m hopeful that one day we can bring an online game into Europe that will be popular on a much wider scale

Who do you support in the real world? Are you happy with their season so far?

I have split loyalties. I’m a big Liverpool fan, and have been since I was small. However, one of my kids is mad Watford fan (our hometown) so we get to every home game and the occasional away match and if nothing else, its great to see the different teams and talent in the flesh.

We’ve had some fans on previously who can’t face managing their own side for various reasons, do you like to pitch up somewhere further afield or do you prefer your own team?

I always start with either Watford or Liverpool and I get sacked, a lot! My best ever save though was in FM14, where after getting sacked I landed up in Newcastle. Two seasons later we won the league and Champions League

You’re in the CM01/02 database as a player (along with Marc Vaughan) – did you sneak yourselves in or could you play a bit?!

CM0102

I think everyone in the company back then was in the game in some capacity. I’ve always liked playing the number 10 role (especially as I got older and fatter) but I was always a bit of a luxury player.

FM18 is just around the corner, where do you feel the series can go next?

The game is getting more and more realistic every year and I think that trend will continue. Miles has built up a rather nice black book of football contacts, so he’s using those contacts and his own knowledge to make sure that what you’re seeing in game is a fair reflection of what happens in the real world

Can you tell us something we might not know about CM9798? In 20 years I think I’ve seen everything now…

The game didn’t have any copy protection (not sure of the exact reasons as it was before I officially worked at SI) however there is a strong belief that this meant that the game ended up being played by a lot more people than the sales figures might suggest. CM3 proved to be one of the fastest selling games at the time – there has to be a link…

Obviously CM9798 is our favourite version of the series, do you have a favourite or is it like asking you to pick a favourite child!?

I would say CM01/02 was my favourite. There was a last minute problem with the licensing of the background images in the game, so I was able to drop in about 6 pictures of my Sunday League team in a cup final we’d played in. If you still play CM01/02 and want to know which team wore the CM sponsored Umbro kit, that’ll be the mighty Holywell FC.

Holywell

Final question – who is your ultimate CM or FM player? I need one name please!

Chris Bart-Williams.

Thanks again to Marc for taking time out at this busy time of year to speak to me – Football Manager 18 is released November 10th. You can follow Marc on Twitter @marcduffy10

Back soon…

Champ Man & Me: @FPLHints

What I love about running this blog is that I speak to people who are heavily invested in various topics but it all leads back to one game: Championship Manager. The latest in this line of guests is @FPLHints, or as I call him, Chief. FPL, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid it, is Fantasy Premier League, and I’ve been speaking to the Chief about his love for it, his 90s memorabilia  and of course Championship Manager.

Thanks for joining me, Chief. Tell us all about your website fplhints.blogspot.ie please

I set up my blog in 2011, a year after I became a fully fledged fantasy football addict. It began innocuously when I posted my latest team on a weekly basis, as well as my recommended player for the weekend. My weekly team post became a mainstay and a reoccurring feature for five consecutive seasons. Due to other commitments, I don’t post weekly on my blog anymore and instead divert my attention to social media via Twitter. In addition, over the years, I have also been privileged in having guest writers that have also provided quality content on the blog.

So, presumably you’re quite good at FPL! How is this season going and what’s your best ever finish?

I guess I got remarkably lucky in my first year of blogging when I finished 110th during the 11/12 Fantasy Premier League season. Going into the final Gameweek I was ranked 73rd in the world and had a very good chance for a Top 50 global finish. Unfortunately my transfer, Juan Mata, didn’t play and was rested as Chelsea were due to participate in the Champions’ League final the week after. I was on course for my lowest haul of points for that season until the final minutes when my captain, Sergio Agueroooooooo, scored a famous winner against QPR to seal City’s first ever Premier League title. I managed top most of my mini-leagues and also finished as the No.1 Newcastle United fan for 11/12.

_64900083_aguerooooo

Actual footage of the Chief in 2012

Do you only play the official FPL game? Or do you dabble in the others too?

In terms of fantasy football, I used to solely play FPL. But over the years, I have tried out an assortment of other fantasy football games too. I finished 9th in the world in PlayTogga’s inaugural Perfect XI game and finished 61st in Football Survivor’s first ever public league. More recently, the latest one that I have taken an interest in is MyLittleNuts. This game has a more informal vibe than other fantasy football games and is ideal if you want to play among mates, rather than millions of random managers.

When did you get into the CM games? Do you think CM led you towards FPL?

I got involved with CM when a school friend introduced me to it during the late 90s. Prior to that I had dabbled with Ultimate Soccer Manager and FIFA Manager. They were also good football management games, but I always felt they lacked something in terms of realism. CM 97/98 was the first version of the game that I played. It led to a CM/FM addiction covering three decades that lasted from 1998 through to early 2010.

I noticed you firing CM9798 up recently on Twitter. Is CM9798 your favourite version of the series?

CM9798 always conjures up nostalgia in my mind. It was also the game that made me realise that football was more than a game where you kicked a ball, could get a way with a dodgy haircut and wear flashy boots. I grew up with this game. It’s definitely one of my favourite CM games, even if it lacks in game play, staff recruitment, training and contract negotiations. I must also give an honourable mention to CM01/02 which addressed some of these concerns. But unfortunately, the best thing to happen to CM was when they had the ‘great split’ – FM 2005 remains one of my favourites from the CM/FM series.

Everybody has at least one CM save that took over real life – what’s yours?

I have two CM saves that took over my life. One was with CM01/02, a year before university (ideal timing!). I ended up managing for over 100 years. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep any screenshots but I managed countless teams and clubs, as you would expect. The second time was with FM 2005. This came about after my first every FPL season (07/08) didn’t go according to plan, which meant I decided to rededicate myself back to FM. Again, I ended up managing for over 100 years (just under a year and a half in real life). For this save, I managed to get a few screenshots and later wrote about the experience.

Do you ever get the chance to play the newer FM games?

I recall owning FM 2009 but hardly played it. The final FM game that I probably owned was FM 2012. Fortunately, I documented some of my adventures from that game on my blog as I took ‘Team GB’ to Olympic glory. I haven’t owned a newer version of FM since then. Why, you may ask? Life commitments have taken hold. The same life commitments would frown upon both an FPL and FM addiction – something had to give.

It seems to me that the popularity of FPL has gone through the roof in recent seasons, why do you think that is?

The number of FPL managers has effectively doubled since the 11/12 season. Fantasy football has gone mainstream. The Premier League’s rising popularity around the world has been a massive factor in the influx of FPL managers. Also, office leagues seem to be more competitive with the numbers of prizes at stake. But more importantly, the online ‘FPL community’ has also been a reason for the growth of the game. It’s been the difference (along with various apps) between ‘casual’ managers evolving into ‘addict’ managers. With this in mind, I have no doubt had social media been around in the mid-to-late 90s that CM would have been even bigger and more mainstream than it was.

FPL

Look at that total players figure! Ignore the rest…

I am a little bit sad and I have a motto that changes from season to season for FPL. This year it’s “you can’t have everybody so stick to your guns and it’ll be fine.” Can you suggest a more sensible approach for me to adopt please?!

‘Form is key, class doesn’t matter’. That’s been my FPL motto for the past 6 or so years. FPL in essence is about gauging form and predicting it. If you’re able to nail that and commit to the game from August to May there will be nothing to stop you from securing a top 1% finish.

If you could make one change to the official FPL game, what would it be?

Good question! Plenty has changed in FPL over the years, such as the additional wildcard and ‘chips’. However, I think FPL needs to do more to keep managers engaged with the game throughout the season. The sad fact is that by May, almost 80% of managers become inactive. One way FPL can address this is to have a ‘Mulligan Chip’. If someone has a shocking score during one Gameweek, they should have the option to have it wiped out and instead have the average score for that weekend replace it instead. It may sound simple, but something like this would definitely keep some managers playing the game for a little bit longer rather than packing it all in after one bad weekend.

I heard a rumour you collect 90s football memorabilia. Tell me more…

That’s right! Apart from my ex-FM and current FPL addiction, I am an avid collector of football memorabilia. The bulk of my collection is from the 90s, ranging from albums, stickers, cards, pogs and autographs. I also have some items from the 00s. I like to cultivate my collection. If your readers are interested in buying or selling, I’d be more than welcome in having a chat with them.

Toughest question of all to finish – I need one name. Who is your favourite CM player of all time?

There’s too many! And that’s the truth. But if I am asked to pick one, it would oddly enough be a non-CM player – Fernando Cavenaghi from the FM 2005 era. He was an uncapped Argentinian in this version of the game. It didn’t matter whether I bought him when managing in the top tier of Scotland or England, he always seemed to deliver. I remember one time I managed Reading and got them promoted to the Premier League. Cavenaghi was the first player that I signed. He ended up as the top scorer in the league and secured us a creditable league position. Glad to see him eventually being capped in real life for his national team, just a shame he was unable to get a chance with a top European club. Apart from that, honourable mentions must also go to Freddy Adu and Cherno Samba. And of course, To Madeira if we want a CM legend!

Thanks again to the chief for chatting to me and allowing me to combine two of my favourite things. Make sure you follow the chief on Twitter @FPLHints – I’ll be back on Sunday with the CM9798 Cup semi finals.

Don’t forget we’re giving away France 98 Monopoly tomorrow so you best enter as soon as you can!

 

Champ Man & Me: CM97-98.eu

What’s better than one CM9798 website? TWO CM9798 websites of course! Here at cm9798.co.uk we’re always looking to speak to other fanatics about the game, and the good people of cm97-98.eu agreed to indulge me in conversation about why CM9798 is the greatest of all. The questions below were fielded by Norbert, who you may recall provided us the 4-2-3-1 which made Bernard Diomede a superstar and Ian Wright a goalscoring machine. What’s more, Norbert and his colleagues still maintain the database to this day, with an update for the 2017/18 season due very shortly. Let’s find out more…

Thanks for joining me to discuss CM9798! For those who aren’t aware of your website, can you tell us about cm97-98.eu please? 

The website CM97-98.eu was founded in August 2009. Before that, I made the CM97-98 updates only for myself, and I did not release the updates online. I used the CM97-98 updates from Kev Shackleton, for many CM97-98 players his updates where legendary, as my basis. After Kev stopped releasing updates, I started the website CM97-98.eu, to continue his work and release new updates for the CM97-98 players. After some years I teamed up with Andrea from Italy. We are not only working on the CM97-98 update but we visited Italy multiple times and this year Andrea will visit the Netherlands to spend some holidays together. After Andrea, there were some other team members but they stopped working after some updates. Then we had the pleasure that the CM97-98 update legend Kev Shackleton joined our team. At the moment Kev is enjoying life as a daddy so he is on “short leave”. Our latest member of the team is Gary. He is living in Australia, but is from England. 

What makes CM9798 so special to you that you devote so much time and effort into keeping it updated?  

The main reason for me to keep on updating is that I try to create the perfect update, but in an everyday changing sport, that is very hard to accomplish. If I update a league, I want every piece of information to be correct. That means the right nation, age, contract information and so on.

What I like is that CM97-98 is simple to understand and you could play many seasons in a short time. That is why I still play the game. The things you could change are enough for me. I do not like the new Football Manager Series because it is too complex for me. Too many settings and before you have finished one day in the game, your evening is over.

When did you first play the CM series? 

Almost right from the beginning of the game. Together with a school friend we played the game on one computer together. We launched a new game with England for example and then we used Man Utd and Arsenal to compete against each other. And of course I play the game alone. 

Do you ever have time to play your updated databases or is it all work and no play?

I think it will be 95% updating and 5% playing the game. And If I play the game, it will be short game, just a couple of seasons. What I like the most is to create a team with players with high Potential and to spend as little money as possible.

Everybody has at least one favourite CM story, has there been a particular saved game you can recall that made you fall in love with the series? 

My favourite CM story is the one I made my own custom tactic, see the website for the tactic. I won the World Cup with Germany and the Netherlands, won the Champions League, Euro League and SuperCup with Ajax, won the Champions League with Anderlecht.

What do you think about the way the series has gone since 97/98? Do you ever play the FM games? 

I have never really played the FM games. The games are too complex for me. After CM97-98 I have tried many later CM or FM games but to complex.

How is the database looking for the 2017/18 season? 

The databases for the new 2017/18 season are looking good. We have started the work earlier than ever before. The Dutch First and Second League, the German First League, the Belgium First League, the Turkish First league, the Italian First league and the Spanish First league are already up-to-date for the new 2017/18 season. At the moment we are working on the English Premium league for the next season. We try the release a new Pre-Season update as soon as we have finished a league.

Have you been able to alter the database to expand the Champions League, for example? Or is that side of things unchangeable? 

Changing things to the game is nearly impossible. If you change settings, most of the time the game will crash. So we only change minor things, sadly. There are many things we would love to change but we failed all the time.

It’s 20 years since CM97/98 released, do you have any plans to mark the anniversary? 

It is a good point, it is 20 years since the release of the game. It will be a good reason to celebrate this. We have no plans at the moment, but we have a short time to think about something special.

Thanks again to Norbert for taking the time to speak to me. I’ll be giving the updated database a whirl when it is complete and I’ll be posting about it here and over on the Twitter account. I’ll be back on Sunday with a special announcement. See you then.

EDIT: The update for September 2017 is now available here:

http://cm97-98.eu/mediapool/66/663475/data/SummerU1.zip

Champ Man & Me: Michael Marden from Quickly Kevin Will He Score? Podcast

As we edge closer to the 20th annviersary of the release of CM9798, I’ve got another treat for you in the CM9798.co.uk interview chair. 90s nostalgia is very much in at the moment, and that suits us down to the ground. Today I’m joined by Michael Marden, who you may know as the ‘Director of Podcast’ over on the Quickly Kevin, will he score? podcast. The podcast sees Josh Widdicombe, Chris Scull and Michael join forces with a guest to discuss various aspects of football in the 1990s. I’ll let Michael explain further…

Thank you for joining me, Michael. For anybody uninitiated, please can you explain the concept of Quickly Kevin, Will He Score?

Hi Dave, pleasure to be here – any opportunity to wax lyrical about the greatest invention known to man (the Champ/Football manager series, not the ‘Quickly Kevin…’ podcast!!) is one I’m happy to be a part of.

I guess the best way to describe the podcast is it’s a willfully niche exploration of what is for us, the most important and interesting decade in British football – the 1990’s.

We wanted to take a nostalgic look back at that period and get the answers to questions we were obsessed with during our formative years (and still are if I’m honest) and make it a funny and informative, sideways look at the subject. We didn’t want to hear the same answers to the same questions we’ve all heard before. We wanted to treat it a bit like the old fanzines of that decade and offer up a different take on the period in question from a fans perspective. So if you love 90’s football then hopefully you’ll find something of interest in there for you.

QK image

Source: quicklykevin.com

How did the podcast come about? Have the three of you been planning this for a while?

The genesis of the show came from Chris, who used to co-host a West Ham podcast, and was looking to branch out and explore a broader subject. We’re all friends and on most nights out we’d inevitably end up in the corner talking about some niche aspect of 90’s football. From shirt sponsors, episodes of Football Italia, to what we imagined happened behind the scenes during that time. So whilst on holiday together last year we thought why not try and translate this obsession of ours into a podcast and see if there was an audience for it. Luckily it’s been well received and we’ve been able to pass off our desire to ask Matt Le Tissier about Saints shirt sponsors as some form of legitimate journalism.

For me personally, it was also a way to validate the many years spent ‘wasted’ poring over Panini sticker books, transfer gossip and old VHS recordings of Match of the Day goal of the month competitions. Because lets face it, if you’re not obsessed with finding out if Chris Bart Williams does have tiny feet, if David Batty was really paid in cash? Or if Efan Ekoku did steal a Drifter chocolate bar from a small child on a school trip then frankly, you’ve been wasting your life up until this point.

What is it about 90s football that makes you look back on it so fondly?

Partly it’s to do with age, I was ten years old during Italia 90 and completely fell in love with football during that tournament. I remember watching my ‘Every Goal of Italia 90’ VHS over and over until it wore thin and disintegrated inside the machine because that was literally the only place I could see those matches and goals again and again. Then the gentrification of the game that happened in the coming years with the creation of the Premier League, followed by the influx of foreign players and managers as the success of the league grew and the increase in revenue wasn’t far behind. How exotic and exciting everything seemed when on the back page of the newspaper every day in the summer a club was linked with a player you’d seen at USA 94, Euro 96, or had signed on Champ Man but in reality knew absolutely nothing about.

every goal of italia 90

All of this at a time when the internet was very much in its infancy, so the access to information and instant gratification didn’t exist. All these factors led to this perfect alchemy to create an obsession with the game that was in a state of evolution in a way in which we will never see again. A documentary as brilliant as The Impossible Job, or even something as simple as a clip of Aston Villa players listing their favourite food and drink isn’t something you’d ever have the opportunity to experience in the modern game as everything is so protected and the players and staff are so media savvy and trained. It was the last generation where the clash of cultures like Arsenal’s infamous Tuesday club and Arsene Wenger’s sports science revolution will ever collide.

For many, the game has become too sanitized now, and although the seeds of that were planted in the 90’s, the decade is a fascinating document of how and why football has evolved the way it has. And not just for listeners of a particular age either, we get lots of messages from people of all ages from around the world who didn’t experience it first hand, but are interested retrospectively in the decade. You don’t have to know anything ahead of time about Bobby Gould’s time as Wales manager to enjoy the episode as a fascinating character study and exploration of a period in football that feels so simultaneously near yet paradoxically so far away. 

Series 1 was very well received, what can we expect from series 2?

The usual mix of ex-footballer, broadcaster, and comedian guests old and new taking an irreverent look at any and every topic that peaks our interest. We’ve got Frank Skinner coming on to talk about Fantasy Football League and Three Lions, Darren Anderton talking about his time at Spurs and with England for Euro 96 and France 98. And referee Dermot Gallagher’s thoughts on the garish cream Liverpool FA Final kits and what it was like being in charge during the infamous David Busst leg break. Basically, if Quickly Kevin Series 1 ticked any of your boxes then expect more of the same, but better. We’re hoping to avoid the cliched ‘difficult second album’ syndrome and deliver ‘The Bends’ as opposed to ‘The Second Coming’. And due to mild popular demand there will be the traditional end of series ‘Quickly Kevin 90’s Football Quiz’ complete with trademark factual inaccuracies.

There are also some exciting extra curricular events being announced soon so if you don’t already then follow us on twitter, Facebook, Instagram and join the mailing list to get the latest on those. But basically, series 2 will be more of the same. If you’ve always wanted to know what kind of coin referee’s use during the toss, or how Hoddle broke the news to Gazza and the team about his omission from the France 98 squad then make sure you tune in. The first episode is out on 18th September.

There is an episode about Championship Manager where you spoke to Miles Jacobson – as a fan of the series that must have been pretty exciting?

They say never meet your heroes, and as someone who has played the game in every incarnation under the Collyer brothers and then Miles, it’s safe to say he was up there as this mythical gatekeeper who controlled the Champ / Football Manager world. But he couldn’t have been nicer and that episode was for me, an absolute delight. To get to pull back the curtain and clear up the legend of To Madeira, how the scouting for the game worked back in the early days and what they had planned for future versions was amazing, and Miles was interesting and engaging and a fascinating man to chat to. All I need to do now is convince him to put me in the game as a regen youth player and I can die a happy man. If any of your readers aren’t familiar with the podcast but do have a passion for Champ Man then I’d recommend starting with that episode (before going back and listening to all the others of course!) as it’s a really great insight into the evolution of the game from the man who was there at the forefront.

 

What is your history with the series? Where does CM9798 rank for you in the all-time list?

I first began playing way back in 1993 on the Amiga 500+ on the first release to have real players. So I’m 24+ years deep into the addiction as we speak and I don’t see it fading anytime soon. Life gets busy as you get older, so the entire weekend long sessions are a thing of the past, but I still try and squeeze in a few hours here and there when I can. I’ve done all the classic cliched things over the years – dressed in a suit for a cup final. Did press conferences in the mirror before they were a part of the game. Even had the name of my favourite newgen printed on the back of shirt. I don’t have any kids yet, but I’ll be surprised if the pride of holding my first born child in my arms will ever feel as good as when Callum Cleaver, the prodigious wonderkid I developed through the youth ranks from 15 years old, scored the winning goal in both the Champions League and World Cup final in the same season, dedicating both to me. Unless one of my offspring win an Academy Award for writing and directing a Zombie Western, that moment will be tough to eclipse.

I’d say CM97/98 is in my top three versions of the game. You never forget your first, so the ’93 original with the three bars for Def / Mid / Att and the virtually unobtainable foreign players transfer list is up there. Towards the end of it’s life the floppy disk drive on my Amiga broke which meant I couldn’t save any games. My way round this was to leave the computer on 24 hours a day for close to 2 years and I got about 90 season into that one game. The problem was, the algorithm back then was so simple you could overload the match engine by playing a 1-5-4 formation (or some variation of) so although you’d concede a few goals you’d win almost every match as your midfield and attack were so powerful. I was basically playing a more successful version of Keegan’s Newcastle tactics in the 90’s, but with Nii Lamptey instead of Faustino Asprillia.

What happened on that first version as well though, was once you moved to another team your old club kept the formation you used that made them successful, which with each managerial move made it increasingly more difficult to win the league as you were essentially facing off against ever increasing versions of yourself. All with the same game breaking formations. If you’ve ever wanted to experience a computer simulated version of what pre-war football was like before they tactically inverted the pyramid, then load a copy of Champ Man ’93 and play for close to 100 seasons. And let me know if you ever manage to sign Gazza or David Platt from the foreign players transfer page, I’m still chasing that great white whale…

I’m also always a big advocate of whatever the latest version is (I’m currently 12 seasons deep with Leyton Orient on FM17 and fighting for a European Place with Rashford at the heart of my attack and Rooney as assistant manager) but 97/98 has a special place in my heart. The data editor played a big part, being able to update the game with all the new transfers was a huge deal for me, there was nothing worse than starting a new game and having someone score against you who should have been in your squad at that point. I also loved the ability to be able to play multiple leagues across Europe. Friends and I would draw randomly from a hat which league and then which team we would start a save as, and I still have a love for Real Betis because of a particular save we played. Going so far as to track down their original shirt from that season (a lovely green and white Kappa number) which has pride of place in the vintage football top collection.

Everybody has one save that takes over their life – can you share yours with us please?

Where to begin! There are so many over the decades to choose from, but probably the most ridiculous one actually comes from 97/98 so is an apt choice for here. In the summer of 1998, just after finishing our A-Levels, myself and two other friends had started a three player game. I was Nottingham Forrest, they were Derby and Wolves respectively. The aim being to return these fallen giants to their former glories. So instead of celebrating the end of our school education before heading off to university in the usual manner, we spent that summer side by side in my dimly lit room endlessly playing Champ Man 97/98 until the early hours, living off a diet of Frazzles, Lilt and Wine-gums.

So engrossed were we in the game that once our A-level results came in, the impending disappointment of going our separate ways to different Uni’s and not being able to play the game became too much to bear. We hatched a plan and decided to tell our parents that we weren’t happy with our grades, that we’d fallen short of the UCAS points required to get into our top choice university and rather than end up at some sub par institution our time would be better spent deferring a year and going to college to do another A-Level to fulfill our ambitions. Seduced by the maturity and forethought of our decision, the parents signed off on this mad plan and before we knew it we were attending a single two hour Media Studies A-Level class per week with the rest of the time free to go deep into the Champ Man 97/98 save. It was, I can safely say, one of the happiest year of my life and although we’re no longer regularly in touch, on the rare occasion we do see each other it isn’t long before we’re reminiscing about the glorious three way battles we had for the Premier League and Champions League season after season. One of us attending to their scouting and tactical business as the other two played Goldeneye or Mario Kart on the N64. Switching turns until match-day. Some people take a gap year to see the world, get a regrettable tattoo somewhere in Asia and ‘find themselves’. Grow up. I spent mine making Tommy Svindal Larsen the most decorated midfielder in English history. And I don’t regret a single day.

The series has of course evolved into Football Manager, what do you think of the more modern releases? Do you still play them or the older games?

I’m still a huge fan of the series, I know for some people the game has become too complicated and involved, but I feel the opposite. Despite a few bumps on the way with the odd version, the evolution of the game over the last three decades is one of the things I always look forward to. Although quite rightly they’ve avoided the option to micro manage the minutiae of a football club – like setting the price of pies on match day as you could on the likes of Ultimate Soccer Manager. However, I’m still waiting for the version of the game where you can dictate exactly where your full-back stands when the opposing team has a throw-in on the opposite side of the pitch in their half.

The level of tactical control you can attempt will never be too deep or too involved in my mind.

SWOS

I remember fondly a version of Sensible World of Soccer where the pitch was broken down into a grid system and you could tell your player exactly where to stand for each variation of the balls pitch position and phase of play. I once spent an entire weekend dedicated to just this process alone, without playing a single match, in the hope of developing an unplayable team of perfectly drilled footballing T-100’s, able to crush everything before them with their relentless tactical and positional perfection. I was then sacked before Christmas as my team more closely resembled a group of inept Under 9’s, headleslsy chasing the ball round the pitch regardless of opposition intent or positioning. It was a harsh lesson, but even Guardiola had to start somewhere. So when Football Manager brings that type of detail I’ll be delighted to take a shot at dictatorial tactical redemption.

Who do you support in the real world? What do you think of their chances this season?

I am, for my sins, a Manchester United fan. And no I’m not from Manchester. In fact I’m not sure it’s possible to be born in a hospital in England geographically further from Manchester than where I was born on the Isle of Wight. But in my defence, if one is required, I started supporting them at the end of the Ron Atkinson and start of the Fergie era so were it a glory hunting land grab I’d have pinned my flag to the Anfield mast. Which I openly defied despite the best efforts of my Liverpool based Uncle sensing there was another young and undecided fan ready to be swayed. His twice yearly Xmas and Birthday gifts of Crown Paint sponsored Adidas Liverpool shirt gifts were sadly futile as Clayton Blackmore and Mark Hughes had already won my heart.

liverpool

As for chances this season, I think there will be a genuine title challenge for the first time post Fergie. Which is the minimum you’d expect from the club with Mourinho at the helm and the money spent. I think the squad is a few signings away from being able to challenge on multiple fronts, but the easy group stage should see us comfortably into the knockout stages and then it’s the luck of the draw. We’re not quite back up there again with the elite clubs in Europe (yet!) but I’d expect Jose to build towards that next season and onward if he can get beyond his third season syndrome.

I believe the days of legacy building managerial dynasties will die out with Arsene Wenger, when his sad little bastion of ‘football played the correct way’ fizzles out with a whimper soon. After that, with the money in the Premier League, it will be an endless cycle of elite managers at elite clubs content with, at best, one league title every few years as long as they remain competitive in the Champions League so they can be considered for the inevitable breakaway European Super League within the next decade or so.

One of the regular discussions on QKWHS is strange places people have seen/met footballers. Have you ever had such an encounter?!

Sadly never an encounter with a footballer in a strange place, I did however meet the 1990 Liverpool Squad on my 10th birthday as part of said Uncle’s attempts to turn me to the Mersey-side of the force. I didn’t care about the likes of Barnes, Beardlsey or Daglish – it was Steve Nicol who was a hero of mine and I remember his confusion at me wanting a photo with him over the more popular flair players. I had also, for close to 20 years, been telling people I had a small kick-about with Ian Rush. Much to their disbelief. When I eventually found the photo in my mum’s loft decades later it turned out it wasn’t Ian Rush at all, but similarly moustached striker John Aldridge.

Seeing as we’re celebrating 20 years of CM9798, I need one name from you. Favourite ever CM player?

That is a huge question. Like asking which of your children you prefer. If we’re talking 97/98, then the aforementioned Tommy Svindal Larsen was arguably the first name on my ‘to buy’ list, but if I had to choose only one as my favourite, it would be the inimitable Ibrahima Bakayoko. Playing behind the front two he was devastating for me season after season and I remember once a friend and I getting into an actual fight over who would sign him during a multiplayer save, such was his allure. I felt Walter Smith’s pain when his signing for Everton didn’t work out.

Thanks again to Michael for joining us, series two of Quickly Kevin, Will He Score? begins on the 18th of September and there will be weekly episodes. You can follow the podcast on Twitter @QuicklyKevin or Michael himself @_Michael_Marden. The podcast is available on iTunes or on Acast

Champ Man & Me: Paddy from @90sFootball

The revolving interview door here at CM9798.co.uk has been busier than ever, it seems a lot of people want to come and talk about Championship Manager. This week I’m joined by the man behind @90sfootball – the Twitter account bringing you all the football nostalgia you could ever need from the 1990s.

Thanks for joining me, Paddy. What made you start @90sfootball in the first place?

I used to follow an account on Twitter called @90sFootballers which I enjoyed – but they stopped tweeting regularly which I thought was a huge shame as I could see it had plenty of potential. It was then that I thought I’d give it a go myself! I had to wait a while before I set up the account as someone was using the @90sfootball handle for their personal account – but luckily they changed their handle, I quickly took it and the rest is history…

You have hundreds of thousands of followers now, but was there a particular tweet that got you off the ground?

It’s quite a random one, but it was a tweet about Wolf from Gladiators appearing for Gillingham reserves in 1994! A fact I never expected to find and it just suddenly blew up. It was my first ever tweet to get triple figure retweets!

What is it that draws you towards the 90s era particularly?

It was the era that I first discovered and fell in love with football. From collecting Merlin stickers and Corinthian figures to watching Match of the Day and Football Italia – it was brilliant. I love nostalgia and luckily other people seem to like reminiscing too!

Is there anybody who has interacted with you on Twitter where you’ve had to pinch yourself and thought “this is crazy”?

I think the first time I thought that was when Nuri Sahin followed me. I was just sat there thinking ‘what on earth did I tweet for him to want to follow me?’ I’ve had interactions with some of the greats over the years – and it’s pretty cool knowing the likes of Claudio Marchisio, Hernan Crespo and Alessandro Del Piero are seeing your tweets about them! Probably my favourite interaction was when Engelbert Humperdinck retweetd me. Does it get more random than that? Probably not!

We’ve seen from your Twitter that you’re a fan of the Championship Manager games, where does CM97/98 rank for you?

Champ Manager 97/98 was a brilliant edition – I only wish I had played it more back then! Sadly I was more of a ISS person during the 90s, and I didn’t regularly play ‘management’ games until the early 00s. Since then I’ve lost many an hour to Champ Manager, LMA Manager and more recently Football Manager.

Do you have a particular save that stands out about all others? Everybody has at least one!

I can do better than that – I have a 4 minutes that stand out! It was a long time ago now but I remember being 3-1 going into the 90th minute. I’d given up all hope and left the room – and when I came back big Paolo Di Canio had scored a hat-trick in 4 minutes of extra time! I couldn’t believe it – I had missed the greatest comeback in football history (probably). I also take my dislike for players from video games to real life. For example Kenny Miller – I’ve still never forgiven him for leaving my Norwich side on a bosman ruling on LMA Manager 2007. Fuming!

What do you think about the more modern Football Manager series? Do you ever have chance to play them?

I still play Football Manager on a regular basis, although mainly the tablet version these days as it’s perfect for when travelling! In one of my recent saves a Newgen Liverpool legend retired… what was his name? A Brazilian called Everton. You really couldn’t make it up.

Who do you support in the real world? What do you think this season holds for them?

I was born near Carrow Road so Norwich could be the only team for me! A bit of a yo-yo team of late, I think the jury is still out on how this season is going to pan out… but fingers crossed it’s better than last season!

As well as @90sfootball, you have other Twitter accounts. Can you tell us about them please?

I also run @ClassicGoaIs which I have used a lot more recently – and basically consists of all of the content I can’t post on @90sfootball! I would love to own more and give that account more attention but sadly my free time doesn’t allow it, which is why I concentrate most of my time on creating and sourcing new content for @90sfootball.

 

What are your plans for the future? Can you take @90sfootball beyond a Twitter account?

I’m hoping so, yes! I have recently fully launched a website for @90sfootball (www.90sfootball.com) and have some brilliant writers on board to create quality blogs and quizzes. I’d love to do more merchandise also as the 90s Football mug went down well. Watch this space!

Thanks again to Paddy for taking the time out to answer my questions and for the ongoing support he gives to the CM9798 twitter account. It is incredibly valuable when a well followed accounts spreads your work so I will always be grateful for that.

Remember to follow @90sfootball or you can follow Paddy’s personal twitter @Paddy90s

Champ Man & Me: Tom Rostance of BBC Sport

Greetings to you, and welcome to another edition of Champ Man & Me. As we continue to celebrate 20 years of CM9798, I’ve been finding fans of the game to to tell their Champ Man stories. I’m joined this week by Tom Rostance, who you might know best for guiding you through various sporting events via live text on the BBC Sport website. I caught up with Tom about his history with the series, how he got into live texting and why Rob Page didn’t live up to his CM9798 status.

Thanks for joining me, Tom. Can you remember how you first got gripped by the CM/FM series?

I have an older brother Craig, who is six years older than me. I think he had played Champ before but the first one we got was Champ Man 2. We played that a lot but it was 97/98 which really kicked us off. We would play that religiously both together and separately.

Rostances

Obviously I’m a big fan of 97/98, do you have a favourite version of the game? What stands out about that version for you?

97/98 for sure. You could finish a season quickly but it also had a big enough database of players etc to make it feel really game-changing. We would spend hours at school talking about our saves, who we wanted to get, whether anyone could sign Florian Maurice, wishing Ibrahima Bakayoko would come to England…

Everybody has at least one save that stands out above the rest – can we hear yours?

The one that stands out the most was later, when I was at university. I think on CM4? Can’t remember but we are talking 2003ish. I started a game in the top flight but got sacked and just took the first job which came up which was AFC Wimbledon in the Conference. When I took over they had no players at all but because of a bizarre bug or maybe my reputation from the Prem I was able to sign Sergei Rebrov and Lomana LuaLua on frees. Rebrov scored something ridiculous like 80 goals in a season. Then in League Two I added Craig Hignett and Steve Finnan. So I had all these greyed out players, made up, with LuaLua and Rebrov up front and Hignett and Finnan. Brilliant.
I got them into the PL and had a statue of myself built outside the ground. And then – the game crashed and I could never get beyond a certain day. Genuinely gutted.

In the real world, you’re a Northampton Town fan. How do you rate their chances this season?

We have made a terrible start! Justin Edinburgh seems set on playing a certain system even though it looks obvious from the outside that we haven’t got the players to play that way. So it depends on the next few games I think. If we get heavily beaten by rivals Peterborough and then Wigan – which both seem likely – then he may be in real trouble. [Note from Dave: The interview answers are from two weeks ago, Edinburgh was sacked last week.] On the whole though we should do better. Got a decent squad on paper and before a ball was kicked I was hoping for top half.

Rob Page is a bit of a CM9798 legend, what do you think went wrong for him at Northampton?

He inherited a team which won the league by 13 points and the club was on the crest of a wave but for whatever reason he basically dismantled the core of the team. Changed too much too soon. We started off OK but once we got into a losing run he didn’t seem to have any idea of how to stop it.
Like Moyes after Sir Alex Ferguson, whoever came in after Chris Wilder was on a bit of a hiding to nothing. But he made a bad job of it.

Rob Page

Have you ever used the game to research players/teams for your job? Even clubs do it now!

Not officially, we have other ways to research players etc but subconsciously yes. There are lots of teams and players who I have come across in the game first.

Your live texts for BBC are of the highest quality; when did you decide that was the type of reporting you wanted to do?

Fell into it by accident to be honest. Before I joined the BBC I was with the Press Association for five years covering 60+ games a season out on the road so I’ve always really been paid to watch football. At the BBC I just did one live early on because somebody was off sick and it stuck from there. It suits me, it’s immediate and is pressured but once it’s done, it’s done. I’d be no good at writing a book etc. 

If you could give one tip to anybody trying to get their foot in the reporting door, what would you advise?

With social media and blogging etc in a way it’s never been easier to get work published, but at the same time it’s probably never been harder to get in. There may be more people studying journalism at any one time than there are journalists now. The traditional route has always been local papers but unfortunately they are on the slide.
Stick at it, be persistent and speak to as many people as you can. It’s really all about taking that chance when you get it and making a good impression. Oh, and make the tea!

What’s been your career highlight so far?

I’ve done Olympics, World Cup finals etc but it’s undoubtedly a piece I did with Graham Taylor about the Impossible Job documentary. I love 90s nostalgia and it was a joy to talk to the man for a few hours about his darkest professional moments. How many people would give you their time to do that? Not many.
Live text wise, probably Brazil 1-7 Germany. Incredible drama

If you could live text any match or sporting event in history, what would it be? Or have you already done it through the popular ‘rewinds’ that BBC often do now?!

The rewinds are great fun. Somebody suggested it in a meeting and straight away I could see it working, I knew people would get involved with it and play along as if it was live. Spending a day just watching Des and co is a joy.
One event? I did World Cup 66 in Rewind and the Agueroooo moment for real, so it’s got to be Michael Thomas, Anfield 89 I think. It’s up for grabs nooowwww!!!

I need one name – favourite CM/FM player of all time?

Very tough question. Rebrov in with a shout, Bakayoko up there, Callum Paterson (sp?) who became Hearts’ record goalscorer in a long save of mine but for the sheer amount of times I signed him for the Cobblers it would have to be Bjorn Heidenstrom. Legend

Thanks once again to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions. For more from Tom you can follow him on Twitter @TJRostance or check out the BBC Sport website for a live text. I’ll be back on Sunday with the final tactics blog of the series, for now though I’m off to make the teas. Toodles.