Greetings to you, and welcome to another edition of Champ Man & Me. As we continue to celebrate 20 years of CM9798, I’ve been finding fans of the game to to tell their Champ Man stories. I’m joined this week by Tom Rostance, who you might know best for guiding you through various sporting events via live text on the BBC Sport website. I caught up with Tom about his history with the series, how he got into live texting and why Rob Page didn’t live up to his CM9798 status.
Thanks for joining me, Tom. Can you remember how you first got gripped by the CM/FM series?
I have an older brother Craig, who is six years older than me. I think he had played Champ before but the first one we got was Champ Man 2. We played that a lot but it was 97/98 which really kicked us off. We would play that religiously both together and separately.
Obviously I’m a big fan of 97/98, do you have a favourite version of the game? What stands out about that version for you?
97/98 for sure. You could finish a season quickly but it also had a big enough database of players etc to make it feel really game-changing. We would spend hours at school talking about our saves, who we wanted to get, whether anyone could sign Florian Maurice, wishing Ibrahima Bakayoko would come to England…
Everybody has at least one save that stands out above the rest – can we hear yours?
The one that stands out the most was later, when I was at university. I think on CM4? Can’t remember but we are talking 2003ish. I started a game in the top flight but got sacked and just took the first job which came up which was AFC Wimbledon in the Conference. When I took over they had no players at all but because of a bizarre bug or maybe my reputation from the Prem I was able to sign Sergei Rebrov and Lomana LuaLua on frees. Rebrov scored something ridiculous like 80 goals in a season. Then in League Two I added Craig Hignett and Steve Finnan. So I had all these greyed out players, made up, with LuaLua and Rebrov up front and Hignett and Finnan. Brilliant.
I got them into the PL and had a statue of myself built outside the ground. And then – the game crashed and I could never get beyond a certain day. Genuinely gutted.
In the real world, you’re a Northampton Town fan. How do you rate their chances this season?
We have made a terrible start! Justin Edinburgh seems set on playing a certain system even though it looks obvious from the outside that we haven’t got the players to play that way. So it depends on the next few games I think. If we get heavily beaten by rivals Peterborough and then Wigan – which both seem likely – then he may be in real trouble. [Note from Dave: The interview answers are from two weeks ago, Edinburgh was sacked last week.] On the whole though we should do better. Got a decent squad on paper and before a ball was kicked I was hoping for top half.
Rob Page is a bit of a CM9798 legend, what do you think went wrong for him at Northampton?
He inherited a team which won the league by 13 points and the club was on the crest of a wave but for whatever reason he basically dismantled the core of the team. Changed too much too soon. We started off OK but once we got into a losing run he didn’t seem to have any idea of how to stop it.
Like Moyes after Sir Alex Ferguson, whoever came in after Chris Wilder was on a bit of a hiding to nothing. But he made a bad job of it.
Have you ever used the game to research players/teams for your job? Even clubs do it now!
Not officially, we have other ways to research players etc but subconsciously yes. There are lots of teams and players who I have come across in the game first.
Your live texts for BBC are of the highest quality; when did you decide that was the type of reporting you wanted to do?
Fell into it by accident to be honest. Before I joined the BBC I was with the Press Association for five years covering 60+ games a season out on the road so I’ve always really been paid to watch football. At the BBC I just did one live early on because somebody was off sick and it stuck from there. It suits me, it’s immediate and is pressured but once it’s done, it’s done. I’d be no good at writing a book etc.
If you could give one tip to anybody trying to get their foot in the reporting door, what would you advise?
With social media and blogging etc in a way it’s never been easier to get work published, but at the same time it’s probably never been harder to get in. There may be more people studying journalism at any one time than there are journalists now. The traditional route has always been local papers but unfortunately they are on the slide.
Stick at it, be persistent and speak to as many people as you can. It’s really all about taking that chance when you get it and making a good impression. Oh, and make the tea!
What’s been your career highlight so far?
I’ve done Olympics, World Cup finals etc but it’s undoubtedly a piece I did with Graham Taylor about the Impossible Job documentary. I love 90s nostalgia and it was a joy to talk to the man for a few hours about his darkest professional moments. How many people would give you their time to do that? Not many.
Live text wise, probably Brazil 1-7 Germany. Incredible drama
If you could live text any match or sporting event in history, what would it be? Or have you already done it through the popular ‘rewinds’ that BBC often do now?!
The rewinds are great fun. Somebody suggested it in a meeting and straight away I could see it working, I knew people would get involved with it and play along as if it was live. Spending a day just watching Des and co is a joy.
One event? I did World Cup 66 in Rewind and the Agueroooo moment for real, so it’s got to be Michael Thomas, Anfield 89 I think. It’s up for grabs nooowwww!!!
I need one name – favourite CM/FM player of all time?
Very tough question. Rebrov in with a shout, Bakayoko up there, Callum Paterson (sp?) who became Hearts’ record goalscorer in a long save of mine but for the sheer amount of times I signed him for the Cobblers it would have to be Bjorn Heidenstrom. Legend
Thanks once again to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions. For more from Tom you can follow him on Twitter @TJRostance or check out the BBC Sport website for a live text. I’ll be back on Sunday with the final tactics blog of the series, for now though I’m off to make the teas. Toodles.