Championship Manager 93/94: a trip back in time…
The latest version of Football Manager hit stores in the last month. In recent weeks though, the team at 1FITG has been taking a bit of a trip down football management memory lane – to the earlier versions of Championship Manager.
I’ll be honest – it’s been a while since I devoted any time to any football management game. After the split of the Championship Manager brand (which the uber-CM fans will recall saw the name remaining with Eidos and the game code remaining with SI Games), I played some of the subsequent Football Manager series. But as the amount of detail in the game continued to grow with each iteration, I felt the beauty of the original’s simplicity started to be lost.
And so a few weeks ago, I downloaded a version of Championship Manager 93/94, the second instalment of the CM series and proceeded to play out 5 seasons.
There was a brilliantly nostalgic feel to the game play. The classic text commentary during matches provided such timeless classics as ‘he rounds the keeper….and (more often than not) scores!’, and bizarre non sequiturs of ‘Player X injured by Player Y…he was punched…. Player Y spoken to’. You could also employ crafty transfer tactics where you could win contract negotiations against moneybag clubs by putting in artificially low bids till the final round of bids, before gazumping them at the death. It was like an early version of bastardly eBay bidding.
Above all though, it was good because it was bloody easy up till a point. Taking on a Sheffield United team – that in real life was relegated that season – I quickly rejigged the formation to an attacking 4-3-3. Full-backs were ordered to bomb forward and a direct style of play paid immediate dividends. Within two years, that team narrowly beat Leeds team to the title, successfully defending the title in successive seasons by an increasing margin each year. Domestic cups were soon added to the trophy room. And Jostein Flo was a star-performer throughout.
Flo was, perhaps somewhat dubiously, a footballing hero of mine as I was growing up. I always saw him as an underrated unfairly-maligned player. He faced the unenviable task of replacing Brian Deane – a feat he was never going to live up to. Deane, despite the lazy pigeon-holing, was much more than a big target man – whereas Flo was, well, just a big target man, who under Egil Olsen played in an unlikely right-wing aerial role for the Norwegian national team (developing ‘The Olsen pass’). Probably his best career moment occurred after he’d returned to Norway and was brought on to face Brazil at World Cup 98, with the side 1-0 down. Unable to deal with the aerial threat he posed, the Brazil defence was rattled. All of a sudden his brother Tore Andre Flo was getting into the game. After scoring a cracker, Tore Andre was hauled down in the box following Big Jostein’s knock-down – Rekdal converting the penalty to remarkably win the game 2-1.
Back to fantasy. Leading the front 3 alongside the returning Brian Deane and unproven youngster Robbie Fowler, Flo was a revelation. His record over 5 seasons was: 108 goals in 263 games, with an average rating of 8.2. The joy of revisiting old editions of CM is seeing an alternative history play out in the full knowledge of what really happened. On this version for example, Nicky Butt never makes the grade at Man Utd and disappears into non-league whilst hitherto unheralded lower league journeymen enjoy glittering star studded careers.
So here are a few more of the unlikely stars of CM93/94, who hit the heights of European football. Their real careers turned out somewhat differently…
Dominic Iorfa (MA RC)
On the game, he was an immediate signing from Peterborough who propelled the Blades up the table – playing in the middle of the midfield alongside John Gannon and Jonas Wirmola.
In reality, after scoring 9 times in 60 games for Posh and having featured 21 times for Nigeria, he moved to Southend where his career became journeyman-esque. After a move to Falkirk didn’t go well for him, he spent 2 years in China before hitting English non-league football. He only managed a handful of games at the numerous clubs he went to, but still scored 3 in 6 games at Gravesend. While famed for his blistering pace, Posh fans remember him best of all for a stunning 30-yard winner in a relegation battle against Oxford – a battle they ultimately lost.
During his time in non-league came this bizarre moment:
“Coming on as a substitute for Aylesbury against St Albans City, Iorfa was sent-off before actually stepping out onto the field of play – it was reported that the linesman asked for his name four times, as he couldn’t spell it, but Iorfa took offence, swore and was promptly shown a red-card. He didn’t played for Aylesbury again.”
He’s apparently now chairman of Lobi Stars FC in Nigeria. His son, Dominic Jnr, was signed by Wolves last year.
Neil Lewis (DMA L)
On the game, a ridiculously attack-minded left back that I signed from Leicester City and scored for fun.
In reality, it all went wrong for Lewis. After failing to secure a place in the first team at Filbert Street, Lewis headed to Peterborough where he played 34 times before leaving and retiring from the game. Some say it was due to injury, others that drugs & prison led to his exit from the game.
One fan recalls his exit from City following an away game at Leeds:
“It was hammering it down and Lewis went to take a throw-in. The ball went about 20 feet in the air and he landed flat on his face 6 feet away from the line with the ball landing behind him. The whole ground erupted with laughter and Martin O’Neill subbed him about 10 mins later not to be seen again.”
Billy Kenny (M C)
Peter Beardsley described him as the Evertonian Gazza. It took several seasons on the game before he’d agree to a move to Bramall Lane – taking over from the ageing Iorfa in the midfield.
In reality, Kenny barely made it past the 93/94 season. He was sacked from Mike Walker’s Everton side for cocaine use, spent a short spell at Oldham before the addiction caused further problems, and then retired.
A skilful midfielder, he was man-of-the-match in the Premier League’s first Merseyside derby. Such was the promise of Kenny that in another world he could have perhaps been retiring from the game now, aged 39. Instead, he retired aged just 21.
Stuart Munday (DM R)
On the game, Munday was plucked from lower-league Brighton to go straight into the Blades team marching on in Europe. He was an immediate success, famously scoring the winner in a 1-0 win at Porto in the European Cup.
In reality, he had a 6-year career at Brighton before heading to Dover and then Kingstonian in 2001 for two months – before exiting the game. He’s now a sports teacher at Palmer’s College in Essex, coaching their football teams.
At Brighton, he’s best remembered for his ‘howitzer’ away at Leicester in a 2-0 win in the League Cup.
Kent Christiansen (D L)
On the game, he was the first ‘foreign player’ I brought over – an goalscoring left-back, the predecessor to Lewis in the squad. He was a near ever-present in the team for several seasons, through to the European campaigns.
One of the sadder discoveries in examining some of the actual histories of players on the game was the fact that Christiansen died of liver cancer 8 years ago, aged 40. He spent much of his football at Viking Stavangar, initially starting life as a striker.
According to one Norwegian I contacted re: Christiansen, when Viking hired the high profile Swede Benny Lennartson he was switched to full back, a successful change that saw him playing in a team that won the Norwegian championship in 1991 alongside ex- Blade and one-time Spurs defender Roger Nilsen. His inclusion in CM93/94 came towards the end of his career, as he left Viking that same season.
Nii Lamptey (MA RLC)
Quite simply the crown jewel of CM93/94. And almost impossible to sign – even a Blades team in Europe couldn’t tempt him to leave the unnamed foreign club. But I remember signing him back in the day, and he was absolutely superb.
In reality, he did indeed make it to the Premiership as Big Ron signed him for Villa for what was a very brief stay. At that time he had been touted as one of the most exciting African prospects, having impressed for Ghana’s youth team.
In an interview with the Observer 4 years ago, Lamptey goes through what was a rough upbringing, with personal tragedy and unscrupulous agents adding further pain. The frequency of his transfers reminds me of Freddy Adu’s current troubles to match the early promise.
He scored on his debut for Villa, but struggled that season before Big Ron took him to Coventry, where it again didn’t work out. He now runs his own football academy back in Ghana, and even has a regular Coventry City podcast named after him.
Will CM2 provide similarly great nostalgia? Only one way to find out….
Written by @josephclift