This week, we caught up with Championship Manager 1997/98 blogger, David Black to find out more about his love affair with the retro managerial game.
David blogs regularly about the latest goings-on in his latest career on CM 97/98. You can read more about his work by visiting his website, CM9798.
What was your introduction like to the Championship Manager (CM) series?
My first CM game was CM2 - 1996/97 season. I got it as a Christmas present, I would have been 8 at the time and we'd just got our first computer earlier that year. It was slow and it's fair to say nobody in my family really got it ("it's just text flashing up!") but I was soon hooked, even if I wasn't much of a tactical genius at 8.
You blog about playing the 97/98 edition of the franchise, what is it you like particularly about this one?
There's a few reasons, in recent years it was the pick up and play value of a game that I've spent a lot of time on. I still get Football Manager every year but as I've gotten older I've got less and less time to play it, or certainly to put in the amount of time you need to be any good at it. So I found myself going back to 9798 for a couple of hours and the addiction was back in full force, to the point where I started a blog about it.
I think my fondness of this version stems from when I was a kid though. Where I grew up there was a group of about 10 of us who would play football just about every night and then about 5 of us would pile into my mate Ross' house. His computer wouldn't run any of the newer CM's with any real speed so we stuck with 9798, and we played it to death. Every conceivable scenario; we made our own teams, updated the database ourselves, drafted dream teams...we must have uninstalled and reinstalled so many times to reset the database when we actually wanted a normal game. There'd be about 5 different saves on the go depending on who could make it round that night, it was crazy, but I learned a lot about the game in that time and it certainly contributed towards my addiction.
As fans of the CM titles will know, there are some players on every edition that are ‘diamonds in the rough’ and always perform really well. Would you like to share a few with our readers?
On 97/98 there are a few who will do a job no matter where you are - Graeme Tomlinson and Andrew Mainwaring are two strikers available for £5k for the pair, Bjorn Heidenstrom is a midfielder who can be picked up for £50k from Leyton Orient and Partick Thistle, for some reason, have about 4 very highly rated youngsters available for next to nothing. Then there's the slightly more pricier legends like Richard Rufus, Robert Page, Richard Wright and Kevin Gallen. If you've got money to blow then you'll want Bakayoko, Sibierski & Rio Ferdinand. We actually had people vote on their favourite all time XI which is available here.
What have been your most memorable careers on CM97/98?
The career that caused me the write the blog is one of my favourites. I holidayed for a season and at the end of season 1, a new team is promoted to Division 3 with no real players and very little money. On this save, it was Altrincham. I took them on and took them up to the Premier League, the Champions League...it was a great rise through the ranks. The current blog though is my favourite, which is probably cliche, but it has never stopped giving.
I started at Darlington, in Division 3, and built them up into a Champions League side. Won that a couple of times and then moved onto Real Madrid, which wasn't much of a challenge but I was about to fly to Madrid for a holiday and as I was touring the Bernabeu...it was too good of an opportunity to turn down. So there's pictures of me being unveiled as Real Madrid manager, I think my wife thought I was clinically insane at this point but there we are. From there I moved on to Sevilla & Norwich before finally getting the Newcastle job - they'd fallen right down to Division 2 and it was the perfect rebuilding task. Happily they are now Champions League winners so I'm looking for my next challenge.
It was during this save that I started to do "live texts" that covered important games minute by minute, which I think added a bit of character to the blog. They also formed a large part of the book I was asked to write last year, The World According to CM9798 where I took the England job and tried to right the wrongs of the 98 World Cup.
As seasons progress on the CM titles, they often develop strange scenarios with clubs, players and managers reaching unlikely levels of success and failure. What have been you most peculiar experiences with this?
Going back to the Altrincham game, Joe Kinnear won the Champions League with Arsenal and then moved onto Inter Milan. Former Barnet striker Sean Devine ended up as player-manager at Barcelona. It was around these incdients I decided to set up the blog and share these sorts of incidents with the Twitter world. On my first save on the blog Steven Haslam ended up as the World's best defender, playing for Real Madrid. He was partnered at centre back for England with Notts Forest hero Alan Rogers, who had turned up at Man Utd. That was all a bit unusual. Sadly the save game corrupted around 15 seasons in so I had to start over.
On the current save, Peter Beardsley is still playing and is approaching 60. We're in 2019 so he's had a long old career!
How often do you play CM nowadays?
It's probably only a couple of hours a week now, along with the blog I do some ad-hoc writing for The Higher Tempo Press, which is usually based around some sort of scenario save. I've just finished a 3 season write-up on "Brits Abroad" - I stole Graeme Souness' idea but took it to the extreme and only signed British players for Benfica. It took 3 seasons but we finally won the Portuguese league. Most of the time though it's the blog, I'm a couple of seasons ahead of 'blog pace' just so I always have an update to post every week even if I have been snowed under with real life.
What do you think of the modern football managerial games?
The game has developed an incredible amount, it really is an impressive game and database. I interviewed the Collyer brothers last year and it was fascinating how far the game had come since it's creation and initial development to the monster it is now. The work that goes on in the FM Community too is outstanding, in depth tactical pieces and analysis, it really is a whole new world of information. I'm determined to make use of it all one day but given it took me 3 hours to play 2 league games on an FM16 save I started the other night, it won't be anytime soon!