This week’s Champ Man & Me is with Chris Darwen, who you might better know as Johnny Cooper or @comeontheoviedo. Chris has recently set up The Higher Tempo Press, a publishing website to help writers get their work out there, either in the form of a book or by hosting blogs. Chris has written two Championship Manager books in the guise of Johnny Cooper, manager of Mansfield Town.
Thanks for joining us Chris. It would be foolish to even ask you if you are a fan of the series, so tell us how you came to writing two books about it?
Well, it was August 2014 and I’d walked away from my career in April of that year. I was taking a little time out from conventional life and started downloading the old Champ Man games, starting with the very first one and was working my way through the series. Then, suddenly, over breakfast the idea of writing a “diary” through the eyes of the manager came to me. I’d started by lunch, finished a week later, had it all typed up a week after that and published it the next day! I hadn’t played CM or FM properly (and by properly I mean addictively) for a decade, so had no idea of the whole community that was out there, and that people had websites charting their saves etc. I just launched it, hoping it would be a bit different and it has become pretty popular, copies still selling as regularly as the first week.
Were you a fan of the series from the outset or did you take some persuading?
I’ll never forget seeing the original game for the first time, it didn’t even have real players. I am sure I must have dabbled in the games that came before Champ Man, there must have been an old Football Manager game for the BBC or Acorn Electron or something. There was something different about the first ever Champ Man, it had me hooked from the moment my mate showed me it on his Amiga. I think that it had Barnet loaded as the “quick game” feature, so I was always Barnet otherwise it would have taken 6 hours to load up a new game. I don’t remember too much about any successes with the first ever game, I think the next version that had real players really hooked me in properly and my word we spent some hours playing that. My best mate as a kid was a guy called Nick Abery, and we used to spend any possible moment playing the game, normally at his place as I was glad to get out of home. Persuading to play it? No. Persuading to do anything else with my life? God, yes.
In our opinion, the series peaked in 1997/98 – do you have any memories of this particular version?
The first one, as I mentioned, with real players will always be in my heart. When I started playing it again last summer it was incredible how it still had me hooked. Reading your piece on The Higher Tempo Press was brilliant, every time I see Andy Townsend pixelated in the back ground it makes me want to boot that game up again. 97/98, I genuinely do not have that many memories of it as I think at this point I was computerless until I got to Uni. Having said that, reading your blog it did bring back some distant memories so I am sure I must have spent a long time on it. I was back in full swing come 99/00, which is my personal favourite as I felt the game made significant progress with that release, and that is the version I used for the first two “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” books – still available on Amazon for anyone who hasn’t read them yet….!!
Everybody’s got at least one CM story – you must have a favourite (that hasn’t been published into a book already)!?
Oh god, I have two really. The first one may well be 97/98 thinking about it, as it must have been after Euro 96 and before World Cup 98. I was looking after my neighbour’s cat whilst they were on a long summer break in France. They had a computer, and we agreed that I could use it whilst they were away. So the game was booted up. My mate, Nick, for some reason must have been without a computer at this point and got wind of this – so he started coming over and we were playing the game like it was 1994 again. I had to go to work one evening, and I left Nick there. Nick had never met my neighbours. My neighbours came back from holiday early to find this random teenager in their house. I was glad I only heard about this second hand… The second was at Uni. Only one lad on the floor had a computer. You have to remember, in the late 90’s and early 00’s having a computer was still a rarity. Rich did like a bit of Champ Man himself, but he barely got a look-in. I was on it all the time, in the end he gave me a key to his room. I actually failed my first year at Uni, and left halfway through my second year (having passed my resits). It could be argued that Champ Man cost me my degree, but hey.
Now you have set up The Higher Tempo Press – can you summarise what that’s all about for us?
Yes, in a nutshell I want to get all the very best Champ Man and Football Manager writing in one place for people. Plus, there must be lots of folk like me who feel they have a sports book in them, in whatever form, and I want to help guide them through the do’s and dont’s of self-publishing. Believe me, I made SO many mistakes when launching the first book, and now other people do not have to. We have already published one since launching, and we have two or three others in the pipeline.
Finally, I have to ask. Can you talk us through this please? How did it come about?
Haha, yes. This was a lot of fun to do. The story itself is true, that is pretty much how I ended up on the board at CD Torrevieja. If any Champ Man players want to get involved in the club, message me. 75% of our socio members have got involved as Football Manager or Championship Manager players, so we are almost owned in whole by players of a computer game! How the video came about – well it came from a mix of the books and my blogging in the FM community. After the Johnny Cooper books I wanted to see what the new games were like, though I am sure I had dabbled on the occasional version since it had became FM, certainly not for long though. I started playing and writing about FM15 this year, mainly (to be honest) to promote the books and sell more copies. I knew a guy at SI and he told me about “We Are The Managers” literally weeks after I had joined CD Torrevieja for the reasons explained in the video. I felt it was fate, they loved my 60 second explanation that I sent to them and before I knew it a whole film crew were out here filming me and the dog, Ronnie, for the day. It was quality, and I hope it attracts more interest in CD Torrevieja. Imagine, if everyone who has watched the video so far donated £1 to the club, we’d be financially stable for the next five years!!
Do you have plans to publish a third CM book or are you just sticking to blogging and publishing budding writers work?
There are definite plans to release the third Johnny Cooper book, hopefully, if I can get my act together, by Christmas. I have started it, but with so many other plates spinning at the moment it is hard to find the time to really crack on with it. There are also rumours, that I cannot confirm or deny, that I might be about to write the first ever spoof autobiography of a CM legend. At the moment it is up in the air as to whether it will be official or unofficial, so we shall see. Plus, I am hoping that you and I will be working on a Champ Man book ourselves, again in time for Christmas. But yes, a lot of time will still be going into blogging, playing the games and, hopefully, helping other budding writers get published!
A big thanks again to Chris for taking the time to join us and tell us his Championship Manager story. You can buy Chris’ books over on Amazon or enjoy the work he is publishing for both himself and others over at The Higher Tempo Press. I hear there is a promisng young writer over there writing about Classic Championship Manager, I would definitely check that out. Thanks for reading!
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