Few things are capable of rousing such strong and varied emotions as Championship Manager. For a game so often compared to a glorified spreadsheet by the uninitiated, it can induce immense satisfaction or deep despair. Generally within the same save, and sometimes only a few games apart.
Winning runs are addictive, and unexplained slumps a source of prolonged torment. When the gloom descends you know you should stop playing, but the desire to persist, and somehow force your team to turn a corner, is irresistible. A few games can soon spiral into a few months, and before you know it one defeat too many pushes you over the edge. Quit game. Delete save. Start again.
Championship Manager: Season 00/01 was my introduction to a world of unparalleled joy and pain. Restlessly weighing up transfer targets, conducting press conferences in my own head, cultivating plans to secure my managerial legacy. In reality it rarely worked like that. I was nine when the game came out and far too impetuous to play properly. It took me a long time to understand the true intricacies of Championship Manager. Some no doubt still elude me.
My friend had a spare copy after it was given away free with one of the newspapers his dad bought. He gave it to me and I’ve been hooked ever since. I found it completely baffling at first, but was soon devoting far too much of my spare time to it. For three years it was the only version I played. Even though I've bought many other iterations since then, Championship Manager 00/01 is still the one I return to most frequently. There's a purity to it that was perhaps lost as more elaborate features were layered on over time.
A whole weekend would sometimes disappear without warning, and not necessarily anything to show for it. It was a terrible drain on my time and attention, but one I willingly submitted to over and over again. Almost 20 years on, I still have that same copy. I’ve loaded it on to multiple different computers and laptops. Just starting it up and hearing the roar of the crowd rise is an intensely nostalgic experience.
I loved so much about Championship Manager 00/01 then that I still do now. If anything, the affection has only grown with time; its simple yet compelling text commentary, which required your imagination to fill in the gaps; the evocative background images; the fact that you could race through a season in a few hours; the lifelong obsession with obscure players, clubs and facts that it helped launch.
I’ve signed Simon Downer, Sharbel Touma and Chucks Nwoko more times than I’d care to mention, and experimented with an array of fanciful formations that never gained traction in the real world. Understandably so in most instances, but if I found one that worked it would never change. Neither has the essence of Championship Manager. For all the uncertainty and flux of modern football, the joy of guiding your players to success through managerial alchemy and a series of simple administrative tasks is a reassuring constant.
Because of Championship Manager 00/01, certain names still carry so much meaning. Martin Palermo. Cherno Samba. Gareth Jelleyman. Florentin Petre. Alex Notman. Kennedy Bakircioglu. Pretty much anyone who played in Sweden that season. Some thrived but others faded from view, only adding to their mystique. They seemed to exist in a parallel world of intoxicating possibility, which was the game’s greatest gift.
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