2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Season 2, Part 1 | @cmclassicsquads

Greetings beings from planet CM97/98. It’s been a while but the spaceship has returned from the future, and after taking Serie B by storm last season, the CM01/02 Aces are back to mix it with the big boys in Serie A.

To quickly recap for those of you who missed season one… I wanted to see if the legends of CM01/02 could cut it in CM97/98, so with the help of the CM Twitter community, I assembled a squad of 01/02 legends such as Maxim Tsigalko, Tó Madeira, Tonton Zola Moukoko and Cherno Samba, copied their stats, positions, ages etc exactly from the CM01/02 database, and put them in the Italian Serie B, which they won comfortably, so now it’s time to see how they fare in the top flight. This is the squad…

One of the rules of this save is that I’m not allowed to sign any players, apart from a handful whose stats I’ve upgraded to match what they were on CM01/02, but I don’t intend on signing any of those unless some of my players don’t sign new deals and leave, which hopefully won’t happen.

Anyway, two of those players got snapped up over the summer, with Mark van Bommel joining Ajax from arch rivals PSV for just £120k, presumably because his contract was almost up, and Pablo Aimar moving to Arsenal from Valencia for a cool £10.75m.

To the World Cup now, where eight of the Aces were called up by their countries to take part in the greatest show on earth. As well as captaining the Aces to the Serie B last season, Taribo West also skippered Nigeria in all five of their matches as they reached the quarter-finals, with Aghahowa on the bench for all of them but never played. France also reached the quarters, but Sebastien Frey found himself as third-choice keeper behind Barthez and Revault, so he also never featured. Kevin Hofland failed to see any action for the Dutch, who never made it out of their group, and four Aces were called up by Sweden, with Selakovic starting three matches, Bakircioglu starting once and being on the bench three times, Jonas Lunden was a sub once, and Kim Kallstrom didn’t feature at all. Brazil were the eventual winners, beating Portugal 4-1 in the final. Perhaps Portugal should have taken Tó Madeira.

To wrap things up before the game retires and updates the players, I win the Serie B manager of the year award, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of my lads.

The board inject £1m into the club for new players, which I can’t sign so makes no difference anyway.

They then proceed to spend £2.4m on 6003 new seats for the Sports Interactive Stadium, which will help the finances in the long run.

I like to make a note of the players’ values at the start of a season, so I can see how much they’ve risen or fallen at the end of it, so here’s what they’re worth now, and we’ll take another look at the end of the final episode.

This year’s pre-season tour is booked, and because the season starts relatively late compared to most other countries, I’ve arranged four matches this year. I like the boys to play against some of the legends of CM97/98 as I think the experience will do them good and give them an idea of what it takes to make it in this game. It certainly worked last year as we faced Tommy Svindal Larsen’s Stabæk, the boys of Partick Thistle, and Bjørn Heidenstrøm’s Leyton Orient.

So this year we’ll start in Holland with Vitesse Arnhem, who have Belgian legend Marc Emmers in their ranks, then it’s off to Spain to face Real Zaragoza and Real Oviedo, who own Morten Bisgaard and Viktor Onopko respectively, and then we finish in England’s steel city to face Sheffield Wednesday, home of Mr. Versatile himself, Niclas Alexandersson.

It’s not the easiest of starts in the league for us, as we face Juventus, Lazio, Milan and Fiorentina in our first 11 matches. Oh well, at least it should be easy after that…

Just before we set off for Holland, I list Risp, Harbuzi, Nikiforenko and João Paiva for loan as none of them featured much last season and I’d like them to get some regular game time. I then receive the best news ever…

The Scottish midfield maestro that is Mark Kerr returns after over a year out with a broken leg.

There’s one last piece of news before we depart, as another one the players who received an 01/02 stats upgrade, Joos Valgaeren, leaves Celtic to join Atletico Madrid for £4.4m.

Right, so let the match action begin at last. I want to give all my players some match action on this tour, so with a fully fit squad to pick from, I start with my strongest side.

Vitesse are all over us in the early minutes, but we manage to absorb the pressure and begin to fight back. Goals from the strike duo of Tsigalko and Madeira. I may have had a mistake in starting Kerr straight after his return, and he seems to be struggling, so Kallstrom is on for the second half, which sees no more goals, and it’s a good win to kick off the tour.

We fly to Spain the same evening, and after a day of fest, we face Real Zaragoza. Bisgaard starts on the right wing for them, and they also have a top quality striker in Oliver Bierhoff, whom we must be weary of. It’s a completely different sixteen to the one that faced Vitesse.

It’s not a bad first half as performances go, but we lose Robben through injury just after half an hour, and come in 1-0 down at half time through a Gustavo Lopez goal. Our inexperience shows in the second half, as Bierhoff makes it 2-0 just after the restart, and then Lopez gets his second 12 minutes from time to cap an emphatic 3-0 win for the hosts.

Robben is out for a couple of weeks with a thigh strain, and West for about a month with a damaged Achilles’ tendon. This isn’t a huge concern though as almost a month until the season starts.

It suddenly hits me that I have all the CM01/02 background images available from when I made the expansion pack, so I swap the main menu images for those to make my players feel a tad more at home.

Our second and last match in sunny Spain is against Real Oviedo, who have big Vik Onopko at the heart of their defence. There are only four players who haven’t featured so far, so in come Pinheiro, Harbuzi, Nikiforenko and João Paiva.

We’re flying in the first half, and lead through a Selakovic penalty before Borrelli pegs us back. Mike Duff puts us back in front and Selakovic gets his second right on the stoke of half time to give us a 3-1 lead at the interval. The second half is a tepid one and sees little action until the last minute when Thomas Christiansen gets a consolation goal for the hosts. Big Vik only notched up a 6/10, so we must have been good going forward!

As we’re waiting to board our plane to England, I receive a call saying that AC Milan have offered £6.5m for Selakovic, I just laugh and hang up.

So to the final leg of the tour, and it’s Sheffield Wednesday, who we’re fittingly playing on a Wednesday. I look eagerly at their team sheet to see which position they’re playing Alexandersson in, and he’s on the right wing. I shuffle things around once more, and decide to see what Kallstrom is like up front.

Hersi gets us off and running inside 20 minutes, but the lead doesn’t last long as Andy Hinchcliffe equalises for the hosts 8 minutes later, and it stays 1-1 until half time. I bring on Moukoko, Samba and Madeira for Kerr, Kallstrom and Tsigalko on the hour, which seems to add a bit more bite to our attack. Ritchie Humphreys has been a thorn in our side all match, but we’re managing to keep him at bay, but it’s Wednesday’s other striker Dean Windass, who scores, but at the wrong end as he gifts us the win with an own goal from a corner.

So there ends the tour, and I’m pretty pleased with 3 wins out of 4, and we’ve shown that we can beat some reasonably good sides, which is an obvious positive.

We return to Italy to resume pre-season training, and learn that we’ve drawn Castel Di Sangro in the second round of the Coppa Italia. We were in Serie B with them last season, but they were relegated so they are now two divisions below us, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy game.

So there we go, the Aces are back and primed for a season in the Italian big time. Join me next week to see if we can get through the cup match and make a strong start to the league season. Arrivederci!

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