To kick off a new series here at CM9798, I’m inviting various community members to explain to me why they love Championship Manager. Up first is Ash Rose, creator of Alive & Kicking 90s Podcast.
Thanks for joining us Ash. You’re clearly a fan of 90s nostalgia, so much so you have a 90s football podcast. What draws you to that particular era of football?
It’s the era I grew up in, and an era when football really did completely change. Compare the state of the game from 1990 and 1999 and it’s so different, what with Italia 90/Euro 96, The Premier League, Sky and the Champions League the 90s really was the decade that changed football. But it was also a fun a colourful decade, when the industry was still coming to terms with the global phenomenon it was about to become. The loud kits, the random players, the toys, the stickers it was all so very locked into that time. For me nothing too much has dramatically changed from the 2000’s to the 2010’s but the 90s was so different and so enjoyable to look back on.
The Championship Manager series started in 1992, were you a fan straightaway?
I admit I was a little bit later to the party, only because of my age. I would have been nine when the first Champs came out, so I was still in love with my SEGA Mega Drive and games like Sonic and Cool Spot. But when I was a tad older – and before most of my mates, as I was much geekier with football – I really got into management games. Both the Championship Manager series and the early Premier Manager games as well. I loved the idea of creating my own team, and then seeing how they would fare. Little did I know the obsession that was about to begin.
In our opinion, the series peaked in 1997/98 – do you have any memories of this particular version?
This would have probably been one of the versions that I first really got into. The game started to really come into it’s own at this point, and addictions became forming. As a QPR fan, they are always the first game I start (something I repeat to this day) and I think I did ok that season, I seem to remember Ibrahim Bakayoko being very good on that version, and John Curtis at Man Utd. Which is ironic as he later played for QPR in real life, and it was a far cry from the glory he enjoyed in my virtual team during that era. A far, far cry!
As a QPR fan, the 97/98 team was made for you. Were any of them actually any good!? Tricky Trev, Gallen, Slade, Quashie…
In the game or in real life? In the game I seem to recall Sinclair being rather good and Nigel Quashie, but less so for Kevin Gallen and Steve Slade. Gavin Peacock was the best rated player I think on the 97/98 game. As for real life, that team had it’s moments for sure. Sinclair left for West Ham midway through that campaign and was always destined to do great things – he obviously went on to play in a World Cup. Quashie was a decent servant, but the less said of Steve Slade the better really. As for Gallen, he’s a modern day hero at for Loftus Road! Not so much for around that time when form and fitness became an issue, but for his second spell at the club where he captained them to promotion. A QPR legend, and I’m not just saying that as he wrote the foreword to my Rangers book!
Everybody’s got at least one CM story – what’s yours?
I was one of those who got far too into it. I remember a game must have been the 2001 game, and I had taken QPR from League One to the Champions League Final in around six or seven seasons. I was playing Inter Milan and had a severe injury crisis in midfield the week leading up to the game. So in desperation I had to play 38 year old Mark Bircham who was about to retire and had only played twice all season. We went 2-0 down very quickly and I was slumped at my desk fearing the worst, until a spirited comeback saw us take it to extra time. Then who of all people popped-up with the winner? Only Bircham himself! What a way to end your career! I was running round my living room, and singing his praises in my now traditional post-match interview with myself.
Have you ever used CM (or FM in modern day) to check out a player that came to the Premier League in the 90s? I remember being very excited to find Nobby Solano on the 9798 editor and was convinced we’d signed a great centre back…
I’m sure I have, especially before you could just google anyone. I think I used CM when QPR signed George Kulscar and Sammy Koejoe, both of which never really lived up to any of the stats on CM – and they weren’t terribly impressive in the first place. I used to do the opposite too, look our for players that were good on CM and see how they’d get on in real life. The famous one is of course Tonton Zola Moukoko but for me my shining light was always Kennedy Bakircioglu, he was always my first buy whatever game I played, just a shame he never lived-up to my heights in his real career.
Finally, tell us all about your Alive & Kicking 90s podcast – what can listeners expect to hear?
Lots and lots of nostalgia! It’s a full on retro celebration of the 1990s, and every week is a different theme, with different guests to share their 90s memories. So far we’ve covered opening days, League Cup Finals, Kits, Transfers and stickers and the response has been brilliant. We have also chatted to some memorable names from the era, including Brian Deane, Nigel Jemson and Paul Walsh on the phone, and we hope to have a former player on every week. It’s basically four fans sitting in a room talking about 1990s football for 40 minutes or so. What more could you want? You can follow the pod on Twitter @AK90s or myself @AshRoseUK and also at ak90s.co.uk or on iTunes.